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Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

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Denver, Colorado
posts: 10
Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

Hello, never made a post here before but looking for some more information. I have been searching the forums for a while now, reading almost every thread in the first 5+ pages in addition to searching. My gf and I (late 20's) will be staying at London House from May 11-19, and I have a few questions. I apologize as this may be a fairly long post.

1. Staying at the London House, so we will be on the north end of SMB. Being there for 8 nights, we are planning to do a sort of "off day, on day, off day" type schedule, where on the off days we lay around on the beach, snorkel off shore, etc. We are planning to do our excursions on the "on days", which also coincide with days where there will be cruise ships in port (based on the schedule I found online). Is that a good idea so as to stay away from the crowds, or a bad idea as some shops/restaurants may not be open if no cruise ships are in port?

2a. As far as snorkeling, I have been reading Testudo's blog to get a better idea of where to go (very informative, great site). I have snorkeled before but with a tour (Pennekamp Park in Florida Keys), so I'm not as familiar with the shore snorkeling. Some of Testudo's guides say that the reef / snorkel areas are 200+ yards off shore - is that pretty far? I guess what I am asking is how long would it take to swim out those 200 yards + snorkel time + swim back?

2b: Snorkeling gear: we will have masks and snorkels, but no fins. Should we buy these and bring them, or will somewhere rent these to us for multiple days? Reason I ask is because staying at London House, I want to snorkel right off of the beach (and at Cemetery Beach and near the turtle farm) and most rental places look to be in George Town, of which we don't want to have to drive multiple times to rental shops.

2c: Currents / under toe: I haven't seen a lot of info on this, other than a few references in Testudo's blog about drift-snorkeling at Rum Point, and the potential current at Turtle Nest Inn. How big of a danger is this? Going back to the distance thing, I wouldn't want to be 200+ yards out and get caught in a drift, if there are any. Most research points to calm waters, but if there are specific areas to watch out for, I'd be grateful.

3. When driving to some of these other places on the island (Bodden Town, Barefoot Beach, Rum Point), what do you do with everything you bring (towels, car keys, etc.)? I've read about the waterproof bags to keep small belongings on you while you snorkel, but should we just leave the rest of our stuff in the car? Should we not bring our DSLR as we would need to leave it in the car while we are out in the water?

4. Cameras: GoPro3 vs. Sony NEX-5N. I have a GoPro3 Black edition that I will be taking snorkeling with us (as well as any other adventures). We also have a DSLR (wanna-be) Sony NEX-5N. I have seen waterproof bag-cases (DiCAPac on eBay) for the NEX-5N. Do you think I should bother with one of those, or just stick with the GoPro? GoPro will be mounted on a 2' pole and will be set to shoot video continuously, while also taking a still shot every x-seconds (5, 10, 30 seconds) to grab some still photos.

4. Best places to eat. We obviously are interested in a lot of seafood, any spots that are a "must" that we should hit? Looking to eat one day at Rum Point somewhere, also would like to grab some "jerk" style, and it seems Bodden Town is the best area for that.

5. Car rental. We are planning on renting the cheapest option, as it will only be my gf and I. Any potential issues with that? Will make sure to get a car with AC. Is parking readily available almost anywhere on the island (some of Testudo's site say to park on the side of the street, is that acceptable)?

6. Fishing. We plan to do a tour one of the days to include Fishing, Snorkeling somewhere, and Sting Ray City. I've read that you can't really go wrong with any of the outfits, but are any in particular better to cater to a couple? Definitely don't want to charter a private boat as that would be super expensive, but also don't want to be stuck with a cruise ship crowd of 50+ people. What snorkeling site do most of these "tours" take you to (I think I read on Testudo's that a lot of them go to the Rum Point Coral Boulder area).

So with all that said, looking for any helpful info. I apologize for the long post but hoping to get some beneficial info that future vacationers can search and find this thread. Thanks.

Grand Cayman...
Destination Expert
for Cayman Islands
posts: 430
reviews: 6
1. Re: Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

"1. ... We are planning to do our excursions on the "on days", which also coincide with days where there will be cruise ships in port (based on the schedule I found online). Is that a good idea so as to stay away from the crowds, or a bad idea as some shops/restaurants may not be open if no cruise ships are in port?" Did you mean days where there will be NO cruise ships in port? Anyway, if restaurant/shops are open for the days cruise ships are in, they are open the days they are not in. Except Sundays when shops are closed.

"2b: Snorkeling gear: we will have masks and snorkels, but no fins. Should we buy these and bring them, or will somewhere rent these to us for multiple days?" As far as I know the outfits rent mask+snorkel+fins as a package. But if you're going to buy fins, do so in Cayman as there are dive outfitters with a very good selection of fins and you really need to get fins that feel comfortable. If you're going to be doing snorkeling in many different places, consider the type of fins that you wear with booties (you'll need to buy booties too) so that if you have to walk over rocks, turtle grass etc. to get to your snorkel spot, you'll have protection for your feet.

Kansas
posts: 409
reviews: 30
2. Re: Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

I am not an expert, but happy to share our experience:

1. Unless I misread your explanation, I suggest you switch that around. Keeping in mind that when the cruise ships are IN port, you will have more people sharing those excursions, restaurants, shops, etc. with you.

2a. Distance: It is a way out there but the water is calm and you can stop and float a while if you wish. I seem to recall there are some areas that are sandy where you could stand. Testudo is the expert on that though. It is not difficult swimming, especially since you have such neat stuff to look at as you move along. At least for a good portion of the way. Swim out together. When renting gear, you could also possibly rent those snorkel vests if you wish.

2b. Gear: Have you checked with London House to determine if they have gear in the condo? The place where we stay has a tub of assorted gear that we use so we don't have to buy it. (Not a lot of good snorkeling in Kansas). I do prefer to put my fins on as I enter the water. My son stepped on a small ray just a few feet from shore our first trip to GCM. No deleterious effects, but you never know what might be lying just under the sand, grass, etc. Although if I owned personal gear, I would take it along to ensure quality gear. Anyway, London House may have loaner fins in the condo?

2c.Currents: The only current I have really noticed is when I am trying to get a close shot of a cool fish and I float the opposite direction! You will know which way the current is flowing but it is not disturbing or tiring. If you are snorkeling out near the reef you will notice if the wind is up and it is a bit rougher than usual. You will be amazed at how fabulous the water is in GCM!

4. When snorkeling around the Rum Point area, it is difficult to pull ourselves away from the beautiful sites underwater. But, it is EASY to stop in at the Wreck Bar & Grill at Rum Point. They have wait service at the picnic tables that are under a shade canopy. They serve a nice Rum Sunset ($10 KI) and many like their mudslides. Our family enjoys a quick Fish & Chips at that location. They also have a good catch of the day. They do get busy when cruise ships are in town usually like 11 - 2 or so? Kaibo Beach Bar is just a mile down the road.

5. Rental car: Ensure you reserve a vehicle large enough to accommodate your luggage to and from the airport. There is a company called McCurley's who will pick you up at the airport and deliver you and your luggage to your lodging where your rental car will be parked. This negates the need to rent a larger vehicle to accommodate luggage. Just do a search to inquire on rental rates for your vehicle choice on the dates you are on the island. Check with your auto insurer and your credit card company. I only needed the 3rd party liability insurance. Also, I prefer the right hand drive vehicle that I requested. You may definitely trust whatever advice Testudo provides. I'll attach a link to a recent thread about cars:

tripadvisor.com/…48317365

6. Sting Ray City or Sandbar? Two different options. We went to the sandbar where our kids could stand. The 8-10 ? boats were in a large circle and we were all inside that circle near our particular boat. Each boat had maybe 10-25 people onboard. It was 'busy, but you still see the stingrays very well and can interact with them if you so choose. I believe the early morning trip would be better as far as crowds go. As part of the excursion, we were then taken near a reef and allowed to snorkel that area - briefly. I believe you would be snorkeling the entire time at CITY. So you may be able to do both with one excursion, just consider what you are hoping to accomplish. There are so many wonderful snorkeling areas that you may reach from the shore on GCM. As far as the areas Testudo has listed in his guide, that is not the same Coral Garden as the excursions visit. I have seen 6 or fewer ski-doos moored or an individual boat but never 50+ people. You will see an occasional couple snorkel off from Rum Point Club beach toward that area but it is not crowded by any means.

I know you will have a great time!

Annapolis, Maryland
Destination Expert
for Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
posts: 4,245
reviews: 16
3. Re: Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

" There is a company called McCurley's who will pick you up at the airport and deliver you and your luggage to your lodging where your rental car will be parked"

This will not be an option for the OP since he is staying in northern Seven Mile Beach, not East End or North Side.

Massachusetts
Destination Expert
for East End, Grand Cayman
posts: 758
reviews: 11
4. Re: Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

2.a - A steady 200 yard swim at a fairly leisurely pace with little or no current against you will take 5 or fewer pleasant minutes. 200 yards at a leisurely pace with a 30-knot wind in your face into 4-6 foot whitecaps will take you 10 or more grueling minutes! Then again, I'm probably the only idiot who actually snorkels in such conditions.

2.c - there are currents to contend with at various spots on the island, generally not dangerous or of the undertow variety but enough to govern where one enters and exits the water. Given the typical trade winds coming out of the east, on the East End the flow runs south to north and on the North Side it runs east to west and one should plan entry and exit accordingly to make the experience more enjoyable. Poor swimmers should always make sure they are snorkeling with a stronger swimmer, and should not swim themselves into situations where they have to swim anything more than a short distance against a current strong enough to make the return to shore a struggle.

Also, if you have a car you should broaden your snorkeling horizons and try Eden Rock, and also some East End and North Side snorkel sites. Rum Point Boulder Coral Gardens is bar none the best snorkel site on the island, a truly amazing cathedral of the seas.

Edited: 9:06 am, May 01, 2013
Colorado
Destination Expert
for Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Crested Butte, Gunnison
posts: 2,986
reviews: 88
5. Re: Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

1) Great condo choice! It will be quiet and uncrowded.

2) Read Testudo's snorkeling guide, buy some fins at any dive shop in Cayman and, unless there's a real storm front, there's really not much to worry about when it comes to under-toe and currents. The snorkeling is wonderful. If you're concerned, start at places where there's a dive op on site such as at Cracked Conch, Eden Rock, Cobalt Coast, Sunset House...

3) Bring as little as possible and leave nothing of value in your car when snorkeling, particularly in isolated locations. If you're going to use your camera while snorkeling then take it. Otherwise, leave it in the condo.

4) There are several places for good Jerk in West Bay on a Friday night. For good fresh fish try Morgan's Harbour or better yet buy some yourself at the fish market in GT and cook it at the condo.

5) I always rent the smallest junkiest car I can find. They sip gas, squeeze/park anywhere and attract little attention.

6) Any charter operation that runs smaller groups on smaller boats will be great. I often send friends and family to Bayside Watersports in Morgan's Harbour but there are many others.

Tennessee
posts: 539
reviews: 21
6. Re: Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

Not a fan of a 2' pole for GoPro while underwater, I think a two arm tray stabilizes it alot better. But at snorkeling depths, the video will be very very impressive, especially if its a very sunny day. Do you use Protune?

Massachusetts
Destination Expert
for East End, Grand Cayman
posts: 758
reviews: 11
7. Re: Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

"3) Bring as little as possible and leave nothing of value in your car when snorkeling, particularly in isolated locations. If you're going to use your camera while snorkeling then take it. Otherwise, leave it in the condo."

+1. When parking in unsecured or rural areas I actually leave the car unlocked and the windows down when parking. That way I avoid having a thief break a window to see if there's anything worth grabbing.

I also leave my wallet in the room and bring only enough cash with me for my immediate needs, which I tuck under a rock on the beach along with my cell phone and room key card. Grand Cayman is a very safe island, but there are thieves everywhere on earth and these are simple enough precautions to avoid earning victim status.

Denver, Colorado
posts: 10
8. Re: Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

Thanks for the replies so far. Those questioning my #1 are correct, I meant that we would head out (away from London House) on the days that there are no cruise ships. The days the ships are in port, we will probably just relax at LH.

Regarding fins - a few of you mentioned buying them there, are they going to be at a premium price on the island? Should I buy them here in the states, to reduce cost (as long as they fit in my luggage)?

GoPro - I have a 2' pole that I used for snowboarding here in CO, so I will be bringing that. I've never seen a 2 arm try though, for a GoPro. I figure the pole will at least allow me to gain an extra 2' of perspective when I dive down. Protune - nope, never even heard of it.

Charter - what is an average price for one of these 3-stop trips? I contacted Reelesea Charters and for a 1/2 day reef fishing excursion with a snorkeling stop and sting ray (didn't clarify if the sand bar or not, which I what we want to do - shallow water with the rays) for $600. $800 if we wanted to do the deep sea fishing instead of the reef fishing. Are these reasonable rates? I also emailed Captain Marvins and one other charter through their site (forgot the name, haven't gotten a response back yet).

What do the fisherman on this board prefer, deep sea (tuna, wahoo, etc.) or reef fishing (grouper, snapper, etc.)?

Thanks again for all of the help so far.

Colorado
Destination Expert
for Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman, Crested Butte, Gunnison
posts: 2,986
reviews: 88
9. Re: Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

As a fellow Coloradan, the selection of gear at the diver supply shops on Grand Cayman are going to be much better than in Colorado. You could buy online but then you won't get to try it on. You'll probably wind up pay a little bit more for fins but, in my opinion, you'll likely wind up with better gear and you'll be assured that it fits. Those charter rates sound about right and, if I'm shelling out cash for a fishing charter, I'm going after wahoo and tuna. So tasty!

Tennessee
posts: 539
reviews: 21
10. Re: Upcoming Trip to Grand Cayman - Snorkeling, Driving, Eating

OK, if you've never heard of Protune, then dont worry about it. Protune is already on your Hero 3, it has to do with editing the video, but if you have never heard of it, you probably don't do alot of post-processing. Diving with a GoPro leads to lots of post-processing.

The 2 arm tray, one is made by SRP, but there are tons of others. Just google SRP gopro. The pole might get you 2 feet closer but your video will be shaky and with alot of movement. Fine if you want a video that lasts only a second, but if you want like 5-10 seconds of video, say swimming up over a coral head, and watching all the fish swim around you as you move, or swimming behind a stingray, etc then you'll need something a little more stable. It also works as an underwater tripod. Amazing what you can get when you leave your camera in one spot for 10 minutes and swim away.