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  • Writer's pictureDrew McArthur

Back with a Vengeance!

The Cayman Islands have been quite the celebrity magnet over the past year or so. Nicholas Cage, Ron Perlman, Harvey Keitel are just a few of the big names that have recently set foot on our shores. Just when we were getting used to rubbing shoulders with these kinds of stars in our local bars, the stakes got raised as a person of even greater status came to visit us. Who is the latest sensation to join us on this little rock you may well ask, well, it’s none other than the legendary John Smith!

What do you mean you’ve never heard of him? Well if you’re reading this from overseas, perhaps I can sympathize because after all John isn’t a world famous movie star, singer or sports personality. To be fair, I guess John would pass by unnoticed pretty much anywhere else in the world apart from Grand Cayman, but here, John is a superstar.

So how has he achieved such distinguished notoriety? John Smith is none other than the first real life genuine bona fide tourists that we have had since March 2020.

OK OK, sure, I’m allowing myself to flirt with a touch of drama on this but in honesty there has been a genuine buzz here surrounding the first wave of tourists to return to the Cayman Islands since government removed the mandatory quarantine period on November 20th. Even the media are making a big deal out of it which led to John being interviewed and photographed for the front page of the local newspaper, the Cayman Compass.

Before getting too far into this, I just want to point out that I have given John an alias for no other reason than it seems like the appropriate thing to do. As he is catapulted in to the world of fame and stardom, I feel a little mystique can’t hurt.

The day after the restrictions were relaxed here, John began a nine day stint diving with Divetech on our morning boats thus sparking the longest running flurry of consecutive charters that we have had in the year and eight months that the Cayman Islands have been closed to the outside world.

While I’m sure he would have very much enjoyed having the boat to himself and his buddy, the numbers were bolstered each day by some of our regular resident and semi resident divers who have been supporting us through our days without tourism.

So how did John’s trip go? It was awesome! The diving days were made up of the classic Cayman format which is a dive on the deep wall first followed by a shallow reef later in the morning. Aside a little wind, the conditions were stupendous and everyone on the boat enjoyed themselves immensely, in that regard, it was just like old times.

We had all the favorites in the water like nurse sharks, moray eels tons of fish and of course more turtles than could be counted. We made it to the stunning sites with the finest topography like Trinity Caves, Big Tunnels and Orange Canyon. In order to add some diversity to the mix we also managed to dive the wrecks of the Kittiwake, Doc Polson and the Oro Verde.

The boat running with a sense of regularity also enabled us to bring our interns along to start training them in how to deliver the first class hospitality that these islands are famous for. Our two local Caymanians that Divetech are bringing up through the ranks had a great time out on the boat getting a feel for what it is really like to be a divemaster.

I personally loved the opportunity to dive some sites I haven’t seen in almost two years and when I was underwater trying to find cool things to show the divers, it was like coronavirus had never existed. Topside however, the real reminder that we are not yet back to where we were is the lack of other dive boats on the water with us. During a period like American Thanksgiving you would expect every boat on the island that is capable of carrying divers to be out running. Dive boats would be jostling to get on and off West Bay dock as quickly as possible to snatch the premiere dive sites on northwest point before they all disappeared. In the afternoons, all five of the Kittiwake moorings would be occupied and often boats would be floating in the water waiting for the first opportunity to tie off on the popular wreck.

In contrast to that, when we pulled our boat off the otherwise empty dock, each day we looked towards the sites on the main wall, all were completely wide open and ready for the taking. Throughout the week there was the odd one or two other boats here and there but nothing like it used to be. That will of course change as time goes by and I look forward to the inevitable day when I find myself at the helm of our boat, cursing under my breath because I can’t get on a dock or a dive site because of other dive boats in action.

Following an awesome week of diving and making new friends, John has packed up his gear and returned home safely. He had a fantastic time here and we all thoroughly enjoyed hosting him. He leaves behind a tangible buzz of excitement and since his arrival, almost daily we are booking more divers onto our schedule moving forward. Of course John was just one diver (though we have since had a few others) and that’s not enough to recoup the losses from the previous twenty months but more importantly, what John really is, is a symbol of progress, improvement and hope. This latest development, and the people it has allowed to come and visit us is a warm light at the end of the tunnel that doesn’t come with the suspicious feeling that it may turn out to be a train heading straight for us!

As Cayman’s tourism industry begins to awaken after almost two years of covid induced hibernation, there are still some conditions of visiting here. For the likes of John, accepting those conditions paid off because he shared the boat with very few other divers, had the pick of the dive sites, a nice easy time maneuvering through the dock as well as enjoying a generally less populated island. So if you’d like to hear an insider’s tip, Cayman tourism will recover and no doubt eventually exceed previous levels. If you want to have the opportunity to visit Cayman before the masses then be like John, book your flights and come dive with us soon.

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