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Posts from the ‘Cayman Islands’ Category

Go Home Lionfish

The lionfish were first found in the Cayman waters in 2008.  It is not known how they arrived in this region as their natural territory is the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  One theory is that private aquariums were damaged in recent Florida hurricanes and lionfish were released into the sea.  Although beautiful, they are a menace and creating a serious problem in the Cayman Islands.

Lionfish Facts:

  • They are predators known for eating juvenile fish & crustaceans in large quantities.
  • Have no natural predators.
  • They have venomous spines to ward off predators and cause very painful wounds to humans. Other symptoms of the sting to humans may include swelling, redness, bleeding, nausea, numbness, joint pain, anxiety, headache, disorientation, dizziness, nausea, paralysis, and convulsions.
  • Lionfish produce approximately 30,000 eggs each month which makes it extremely impossible to eliminate them.

Divers must be alert especially in a wreck, cave or swim—through,  as lionfish are able to rest, upside down, on the ceilings of these features. Divers have been stung by lionfish they were not aware of.

The intestation has become so intense that the  Cayman Islands, Department of Environment now offers lionfish culling courses and license the use of Hawaiian slings to assist in capture and killing these fish.

On the positive side, they are great tasting and considered a delicacy and many local resturants now offer lionfish on their menus.

Chilling At Cayman Coves

Our tropical paradise is at Cayman Coves in Grand Cayman and was totally renovated under the watchful eye of Winsome in 2008 after the death of Lionel’s Uncle, Peter Harty, in 2007. It is one of only twelve units and the complex has its now pool and two private swimming coves on the ocean. It is peaceful as it is away from the hustle & bustle of Seven Mile Beach.

Winsome Takes the Plunge Into the Chilly Waters of Grand Cayman!

I had no problem adapting to being local as only the tourists swim at this time of year.  It took me twelve days to gain enough courage to embrace the ocean and venture in up to my chest.

Stingray City – Grand Cayman


Olympus Pen – E-PL2 Lesson & Dive

The arrival of a new camera is always a bitter-sweet event for me. I look forward to playing with my new camera but fear having to learn the advanced operational features of the new equipment. The Fuji X100 I bought at the TDSI charity auction is a good example. It’s a classic retro looking rangefinder type camera that looks like the film street cameras that photojournalists used before the advent of digital. When I finally cracked the box I went through the manual with camera in hand but then purchase an e-book on the advanced features of the book. I am still learning how to use it!

With the Olympus given to me by my colleagues; I decided I had better go back to school. Not only do I have to learn the features of the new camera, but I have to learn about the features of the waterproof  housing, the strobe and the massive adjustable arm that connects to the camera. The guy that built the Canada Arm for the space shuttle may have used that as the prototype before designing the strobe arm.  The most important part of the process is the care of the underwater housing and strobe to ensure that the o-rings are absolutely spotless and are properly greased to ensure a watertight seal. If these fail underwater you can kiss your expensive equipment goodbye.

Much of this was explained when I picked up the equipment but I decided that a more formal lesson including a dive to take pictures and then evaluate them was needed.  The lesson included a refresher on the care of the housing during which I had to inspect and clean the housing, grease and inspect the o-rings with a magnifying glass, assemble everything and then place everything in a fresh water tank to ensure there are no leaks. A colleague in the USA has an expression, always use the 5Ps – proper preparation prevents piss poor performance!

Next came the theory for under-water photography and lighting. I know a fair bit about photography but I quickly realized there was a lot to learn. Thankfully, my wonderful instructor Adeline (Addy) is very patient and knowledgeable about the Pen E-PL2.  The main message is get close to your subject and then get closer. Shoot, evaluate the picture, modify the camera settings, change your position relative to the subject and the position of  the strobe as needed and shoot again. Repeat previous steps until you get the results you desire. Luckily we are in the digital age and get instant gratification after we press the shutter and get as many do-overs as we wish. Film photographers had it much, much harder . They would normally be limited to 36 pictures which then had to be taken to the lab which could take hours or days to see the results.

The underwater session was incredible. After donning our equipment it was time to jump in and do a few test shots. This is Eddie my instructor. 

I had imagined that we would shoot everything that moved to test out the camera. However that was not to be. Eddy armed with an underwater slate picked out about four subjects for me to concentrate on. After each shot I would get new written instructions, change F- stop, change shutter speed, get closer, go lower, get closer. Upon reflection, there is no better way to learn about underwater photography and the capabilities of the new equipment.

After the dive it was back to the classroom to review and critique the pictures I has taken. I had taken about 75 pictures and luckily got a few that were deemed ok. It was very educational to see the effect that various camera settings and strobe placement had on the pictures. It’s now up to me to keep playing with the camera before I go for another lesson.

For anyone visiting Grand Cayman and interested in learning about underwater photography, I highly recommended Cathy Church’s Photo centre. Cathy is the queen of underwater photography and has won awards to numerous too mention. Her team is great and can provide exceptional hands on experience. You can even rent high-end photo equipment.

If you visit the store be sure to say hi to Sparky, the African Grey parrot owned by Cathy & her husband.

Stingray City

A visit to Grand Cayman’s Stingray City is a must see for anyone visiting Grand Cayman. Stingray City is located in the shallow waters off the northwest corner of Grand Cayman’s North Sound. It is just inside a natural channel that passes through the reef and consists of a string of sandbars crossing the North Sound from Morgan Harbour to Rum Point.

The stingrays found at Stingray City are the southern stingray that can grow to a disc width of 6.5 ft and weigh up to 300 lb. Their diet is made up of  crabs, clams, shrimp, marine worms, and small fish. They have few natural predators other than the occasional hammerhead shark.

Winsome & I along with her brother Nigel and financee Renee went to Stingray City aboard one of  Captain Marvin’s boats. We have used them before and they provide an exceptional service. It’s about a twenty five minute boat ride from the dock to the sand bar.

At Stingray City you get close and personal with the stingrays. After a short briefing on how to interact with the stingrays you get off the boat on a sand bar in crystal clear water a bit deeper than your waist. Almost immediately, you are greeted by stingrays wanting to get fed.  They are velvet smooth and glide by you with grace and elegance. The mates on the boat will catch one and the passengers can take turns holding and kissing the stingrays. You may also feed the stingrays with squid that is provided on the boat.

Tebowing – Cayman Style

What is Tebowing? (vb) to get down on a knee and start praying, even if everyone else around you is doing something completely different.

What is buoyancy? When you get into the ocean, your body displaces a volume of water (the “hole” in the water that your body fits into). As long as the water your body displaces weighs more than you do, you float. This is basically Archimedes’ Law. This very law means than Tebowing under water can be challenging!

Here I am Tebowing at Stingray city before giving the great creatures a kiss.