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Dive Photo Guide


Destination Portfolio: Andrew McLachlan, Grand Cayman
By Andrew Mclachlan, April 3, 2024 @ 12:00 PM (EST)

A common octopus hunts the sun-dappled shallows, shadowed by a bar jack hoping to snap up whatever escapes the octopus’ tentacles

Grand Cayman is situated in the Caribbean Sea and offers a captivating world of marine diversity and stunning natural beauty with crystal-clear waters that can offer visibility of 100 feet or more in optimal conditions. Limestone formations and volcanic activity have shaped the underwater topography, which has created a diverse underwater landscape attracting divers and snorkelers from around the globe. The marine life encountered here is a testament to the wonders of the natural world and the intricate interconnectedness of life in the ocean. From the marine invertebrates to bony and cartilaginous fish to sea turtles, there is breathtaking diversity within this marine ecosystem for underwater photography.

Grand Cayman is particularly famous for its encounters with southern stingrays at sites like Stingray City and green turtles at Spotts Beach. Dramatic walls, swim-throughs, and several artificial reef sites created by intentionally sunken ships create environments that attract a diverse range of marine life. Whether snorkeling in the shallows, shore diving, or going out to sea with one of the many dive boats, it is not uncommon to see smaller reef fish such as parrotfish, butterflyfish, damsels, and chromis. Larger species such as barracudas, tarpon, eagle rays, and nurse sharks are also commonly seen. A kaleidoscope of coral species provides homes for many small reef fish and invertebrates. A photographer armed with a fisheye or macro lens can capture a multitude of stunning imagery just about anywhere around the island.

A recent and violent nor’wester has transformed some of the underwater topography by pulling away sand and revealing small narrow gorges on the ocean floor around the island’s west end. Sadly, this nor’wester has also had an impact on soft corals and sponges within the shallower areas of the island that were already hit hard by the coral bleaching event of 2023. However, deep dive sites such as the Northwest Point Drop seem to be flourishing and there is always hope and optimism that the shallower ecosystems can recover.

A diminutive sailfin blenny resting in its burrow

Grand Cayman’s most famous residents, southern stingrays winging over the shallow sandy flats of world-renowned Stingray City

The beautifully patterned chain moray is a shallow water denizen that uses its blunt teeth to crush crustaceans and mollusks

Ubiquitous throughout the Caribbean, the aptly named Christmas tree worm adorns the top of a small coral head

A curious green turtle eyeballs the camera in between bites of tasty seagrass

An up-close look at individual coral polyps

A healthy brain coral stands sentinel, bathed in beautiful Caribbean sunrays

A small boat rests on the sand. Already the ocean has begun to take over the hull and turn human refuse into a thriving underwater community

Fans of Silfra Fissure in Iceland might think they recognize this spot, but it is actually a reef cut near shore to Grand Cayman

An unlikely duo, a goldspotted eel has made itself quite at home in the burrow of this banded jawfish. The jawfish also happens to be mouthbrooding a clutch of ready to hatch eggs

While it isn’t known for them, Grand Cayman does have sharks! One of the more common ones is the nurse shark, often found under ledges and overhangs

A common octopus, a largely diurnal species throughout much of the Caribbean, searching a rocky reef for prey

One of these rocks is not like the others: A venomous spotted scorpionfish blends in beautifully to its rocky surroundings

The downright adorable smile of a southern stingray as it comes up to inspect the photographer

A pair of Caribbean reef squid engaged in a mating dance

Healthy sponge growth adorns a deeper wall

Grand Cayman’s less iconic stingray species, the smaller (and arguably prettier when it isn’t covered in sand), yellow stingray

To see more of Andrew’s beautiful work from around Grand Cayman, please give him a follow on Instagram and visit his website, www.andrewmclachlan.ca.


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