Cayman Brac Trip Report
Our group arrived on Cayman Brac early Christmas Evening with visions of roast turkey in our heads! We weren't disappointed. Dinner was fabulous, as usual, at the Divi, and we were happy to leave the cold, snowy Michigan weather behind for a week of fun and sun and good diving.
Unfortunately, Mother Nature wasn't too cooperative as far as the diving weather was concerned. Our first dive was on the North Side of Cayman Brac and everyone enjoyed the 79 degree water and 100-foot visibility and then the wind kicked up and so did the seas. The remainder of our week was spent trying to find the calmest water on the South Side we could. Our dive guys, Gary & Gavin, worked their tails off trying to find dive sites suitable for our mostly experienced divers and a few newbies so they weren't blown off the dive sites! Visibility remained good all week but currents were strong along the walls on the South and the shallower dive sites were surgey. There was no hope of getting over to Bloody Bay Wall on Little Cayman or even over to the North Side until later in the week. On Thursday we finally made it over to the "Wreck" and had excellent visibility and a good dive, but getting back on the boat in 5-8 foot seas taxed our poor guys terribly.
Dive Tiara's protocol is to have each diver sit at the back of the boat and help them on with their BCD, check their gauges and assist them off the dive platform. At the end of each dive, fins are handed up to the dive guys and after climbing up the ladder, to sit back down while your BCD is removed and tanks are swapped out for the next dive. With the tag line floating behind the boat, your choice was either to hang at the surgey safety stop while the divers ahead of you climbed aboard or to bounce around in the chop on the tag line waiting your turn for the ladder. Finally one afternoon the Resort cancelled the afternoon boats because of safety concerns. A good call on their part as the winds seemed to pick up significantly as the day progressed. The staff was impressive with their cheerful, helpful attitudes but overall concerns about diver safety. We had a fun group and a fun crew and everyone enjoyed themselves immensely in spite of Mother Nature!
The Resort is looking better every time I take a group there. The new bar is larger with a much greater seating capacity. The Sunday Night Managers Cocktail Party is held between the bar and the dining room with a slide show featuring the best of the Brac both above and below the water. The Week in Review show was held on Thursday night this week because of the planned New Year's Eve festivities scheduled for Friday evening. All of the divers from the week were featured both above and below the water. One group diving on Christmas Day had a Santa under water with them and photos were taken of all the rest of the divers sitting on his lap with beautiful corals, turtles and sponges as background! Only one E-6 entry was submitted for the Weekly Photo Contest so it claimed First Place automatically. It seems the underwater photo world has joined the digital revolution and there were lots of qualified entries into the digital category. The winner of each category is awarded either a T-shirt or a hat as a prize and also entered into the Yearly Photo Contest which will reward the winner with a week's stay back at Divi Tiara.
The exterior of the resort has had a complete repainting and all the buildings are painted soft, tropical shades of pink, blue, yellow, turquoise and lavender. The pool has been totally re-tiled and looks FABULOUS. Some of the room interiors have been refurbished and the rest are on the "waiting list". Max, the GM, has had his hands full since Hurricane Ivan demolished the whole dock & gear storage areas. The new dock looks great; and when we arrived only one boat could pull up to load divers at a time. The old dock accommodated 4 boats at once, so it made for organized scheduling of boat departure times. During the course of the week they completed the decking on another section of dock and can now park two boats at once. The pilings are in place for the remainder of the dock and the lumber is now on site to complete the decking so they should be back in full swing on the docks any time now. Their new Newton 46' boat, Brac Fever, is beautiful and was full all week as were their other four boats.
The timeshare units have been closed for refurbishment and since the lumber slated for that project was used to replace the dock, re-opening of the timeshares has been postponed indefinitely. Only because those materials were on site were they able to accomplish the dock replacement for the upcoming High Season. Getting building materials into the Cayman Islands right now, especially to replace docking, would be difficult because there is so much need for materials for housing repairs.
This was a unique week for the Divi since so many folks/families were displaced from their planned holidays in Grand Cayman. Some one asked Max if he'd ever seen so many children at the Divi and he had to admit he hadn't, but all the families and children appeared to be having a great time in the pool and playing on the beautiful beach. I think they had to borrow a high chair or two to accommodate some of the babies! It was unique for those of us divers used to "dedicated dive resorts" because typically you don't see that many families with small children.
Our week ended on a high note with a great New Years Eve party hosted by Max and the rest of the Divi staff. Dinner was awesome with Lobster Wellington, Coquille St. Jacques, marinated shrimp salad, Prime Rib, Coconut Shrimp, Baked Cayman-style fish and a fancy chicken dish, salads, veggies & potatoes, with traditional bread pudding & yummy Chocolate Chambord Cake and a sinful creation of caramel, pecans, & Granny Smith apples inside a pie crust for dessert! A steel band was brought in for entertainment, champagne was poured for everyone & the start of the New Year was celebrated with a fabulous fireworks display!
I can certainly state that the Resort and Dive operation there are back in full swing after "Ivan" the Terrible and anyone considering the Cayman Islands for an upcoming trip should certainly consider the Divi on Cayman Brac. The food is always great, the staff helpful and friendly and with Mother Nature on your side, the diving fantastic! Everyone was so apologetic about the weather and the less than "optimal" diving conditions....heck, we were glad to be in a warm sunny place celebrating the Holiday Season!