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Tropical Fun: Snorkeling and Shopping in Grand Cayman

Tropical Fun: Snorkeling and Shopping in Grand Cayman | CosmosMariners.com

I never have to be tempted to head somewhere warm and tropical. So, when we were planning our 5th anniversary trip last year (we're big into giving trips and experiences instead of exchanging gifts), my husband and I knew we'd probably end up somewhere in the Caribbean.

As a part of the Western Caribbean cruise that we chose, we spent a day in Georgetown, Grand Cayman, the largest of the Cayman Islands and a British territory. Since we'd done a lot on our other stops, including exploring Green Grotto Caves and climbing Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica, we decided to take it easy while in port in Grand Cayman.

Tropical Fun: Snorkeling and Shopping in Grand Cayman | CosmosMariners.com

The day started out grey and gross, and our notions of cavorting in the sunshine for a day on a tropical island were dashed. We had a snorkeling tour for later that day, and, while the rain doesn't really affect anything there (you're already wet in the water, after all), having a bright, sunny day makes for a much clearer viewing experience below water.

We hoped that the weather would improve, so we decided to make the best of it until it did. We slogged through the (often torrential) rain to do a little souvenir shopping. We'd kind of put off getting anything for anyone back home until this, our last port, so it was probably a good thing that we were forced indoors. N.B.: Has anyone every forgotten to buy souvenirs until it was too late? I did that on our trip to Germany and came home completely empty handed other than my pictures.

After some retail therapy, the weather looked marginally better and the threat of thunder and lighting was over, so we knew that we'd at least get to do our snorkeling tour in the early afternoon.

Tropical Fun: Snorkeling and Shopping in Grand Cayman | CosmosMariners.com

We didn't go far on the snorkeling boat--we were well within sight of both the cruise ship and the main shopping area at the port.

Tropical Fun: Snorkeling and Shopping in Grand Cayman | CosmosMariners.com

On the 10 minute ride out to the snorkeling site, I entertained myself with the glass bottom boat. We saw all sorts of coral, fish, and even a few small sharks. I don't know how the boat managed to navigate in such shallow waters without hitting anything!

Tropical Fun: Snorkeling and Shopping in Grand Cayman | CosmosMariners.com

Yet, even as close as were were to shore, we were able to see the wreck of the Cali, an incredible sunken ship on our snorkeling expedition. The water is really shallow (probably only 25 or 30 feet at the deepest), so it was very easy to see the sunken ship. There are some parts of the ship that are only a few feet below you as you swim around. I usually prefer scuba diving to snorkeling since diving allows me to get so much closer whatever I'm trying to see, but this was one case where snorkeling allowed me to see an incredible amount without constantly having to dive under the water.

Tropical Fun: Snorkeling and Shopping in Grand Cayman | CosmosMariners.com
Close enough to touch!
{photo via flickr | creative commons}
Unlike some of the other wrecks in the Grand Cayman waters (including the USS Kittiwake, which is now an artificial reef), the wreck of the Cali was not purposefully put there, but rather went down the old-fashioned way. Built in the early 1900s as a freighter, the Cali was upfitted in the '20s with a diesel engine, a decision that was to be the poor Cali's undoing. The ship wasn't built to deal with the vibrations caused by the massive diesel engine, and in the 40s, the Cali gave up the ghost in Grand Cayman Harbor, dramatically bursting its hull, blowing into multiple pieces, and scattering its load of 300,000 bags of rice.

The Cali's loss in now a snorkeler's gain, since the wreck is so easily accessible--you get to spend that precious port time in the water instead of getting to and from the site. It's a super easy swim to see the different areas of the ship, so this would be an excellent choice for not-so-confident swimmers or families with eager kids. Because the area is so shallow, we were easily able to see some incredible wildlife including this gross-but-I-can't-look-away 6 foot eel hiding in the debris.

Although we didn't spend much time in Grand Cayman, I got enough of a taste to want to go back, though hopefully with better weather next time. The shopping was much less pressured than any of the other places that we visited--no one was hollering at us like in Cozumel or chasing us down like in Haiti--which made for a more relaxing experience. The snorkeling was easy and had a great pay-off, and overall, I can't think of a better way to spend a day on this beautiful tropical island.

What parts of the Caribbean have you visited? Would you rather go snorkeling or scuba diving?

Tropical Fun: Snorkeling and Shopping in Grand Cayman | CosmosMariners.com

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