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Home > Destinations > Cayman Islands > Trip Reports > Trip Report

Cayman Islands - Trip Reports

Brac Reef Resort & Diving (Reef Divers), Cayman Brac

I just got back from a 9-day trip (7 days of diving) at Cayman Brac. I thought I'd share some info. We stayed at Brac Reef Resort and dove with Reef Divers. I'll discuss several aspects of the trip by category headings below. Bottom line: We had a very good time and I imagine I'll go back to the Brac in a few years.

Brac Reef Resort Operation


The rooms were basic and just adequate. The rooms had two double beds, a small table with two chairs, TV, A/C, and a small open closet area for hanging clothes. The bed mattresses were worn out and really needed to be replaced. Towels were somewhat small and low quality, but adequate. You had to ask for extra towels (they didn't set up rooms with more than two sets), but the resort staff was very quick to respond. The bathrooms were clean and okay, but overall, these rooms are on par with rooms in a clean national chain budget motel. The bathrooms really needed a new sink/counter area remodeling job. Our room had a balcony which we used for drying out some gear and personal items. We did have a few guest ants visiting, but nothing major. We were there for diving, not for fancy rooms, which made it okay.

Rooms rate a C


The dining area included an indoor air-conditioned room with buffet service as well as an adjacent screened-in fresh air area. Food was very, very good--by far, the best I have found at any type of meal plan. There was always considerable choice and very good quality items. I would say that the food plan was a terrific value. The food operation and dining area was exceptionally CLEAN--cleaner than most restaurants in the states and the tables and settings were very nice. The desserts at dinner were sometimes deadly (in a great tasting, but not so good for your weight management needs kind of way). There was always a large salad bowl at dinner with varying vegetable accompaniments. The blue cheese dressing was to die for (that means really great). Breakfast was always great. We didn't do the lunch plan.

The food operation rates an A+.

General Facility and Atmosphere

The overall resort is very nice with a lot of little places to hang out. It is well kept and generally very clean. The manager, Steve, was very nice and made a strenuous effort to make guests feel happy and make sure that there were fun things to do during non-dive hours. There were several manager parties and contests and during the afternoons, and tasty snacks were also provided in the outside bar area. The bar is adequate and the bar staff were nice. Seating around the bar area was nice with shaded areas available. The conference center (used for meetings, photo presentations, etc) includes a massage therapy suite. Get a therapeutic massage--it's really great. There is a nice grove of trees with places to hang out away from others as well as hammocks and scattered tables and chairs around the place. There is also a central "social dock" that includes a two-story open-air structure where you can sit on a nice swinging bench--really nice before dinner close to sunset with very pleasant sea breezes coming in. At night, tarpon come into the dock area (with some lights pointing at the water) and can be seen going after small fish. Very interesting to watch. The resort has bikes you can use if you want to visit nearby island places. These are 1950's type bicycles that leave alot to be desired (take water with you!)

The general facility rates a B+

Reef Divers Operation

Boats and Equipment

Reef divers uses 46' and 42' Newton boats that are adapted for dive operations. The boats were well maintained. One boat did have recent damage to a window caused by a customer--replacement parts had been ordered. Also, on one dive, the hose on the extra air line (hung overboard at 15' for safety stop air needs) broke one day, but was replaced the next day (not a major concern since on every dive, there were always a few divers in nearby to help if necessary and because all responsible divers make sure they never get into a situation where they run out of air at the safety stop).

The benches had space underneath for gearbags and there were three entry stations at the rear of the boat for giant stride entry. There was a fresh water rinse hose and the reservoir was depleted on one day out of 7 (some people used excessive amounts of fresh water that day--so it's not really surprising). There were two ladders for entry. Also, the boats had a safe area in front for dry items, an area for camera storage, and a marine head (for an emergency). Life vests and emergency safety gear was clearly visible in the front hatch area and were neatly hung so as to be easily accessible in an emergency. There was NO fresh water camera bucket -- something they really should add (folks used the fresh water hose on their cameras and then stored them in a protected shelf area). The boats also had first aid equipment, DAN oxygen kits, and (I forget the technical name) full body boards for use strapping an injured person for immobilization purposes. The rental gear that a few folks used appeared to be in good condition and I observed no problems associated with that. The dive shop had a typical collection of items and pleasant, helpful staff. Bottom line: The boats and associated equipment were good and the operation was highly safety oriented and very well prepared to deal with emergency conditions.

Boats and Equipment rate an A-


The staff was very expert--among the best I have ever seen. They were also very friendly. Divers new to the boats went through a 10-minute safety briefing on the dock prior to getting on the boat the first time. Staff was very supportive and flexible. They would take care of virtually everything if you wanted (washing gear each night, putting your gear on the boat, setting it up, bringing tank and BC to you at giant stride entry station, removing gear from your back at reentry, and changing your gear for the next dive. More importantly (to me and a few others) they were also very flexible, letting more independent divers set up and change their own gear and also put on and remove gear on the bench (versus at the back of boat) if the diver was more comfortable that way. Every dive was preceded by a concise, informative dive briefing and staff were always open to questions. DIvers always had the option of accompanying staff on a dive or doing their own thing.

Dive Staff rates an A


Morning dives were 2-tank and afternoon dives were 1-tank. Night dives were scheduled a couple times per week, depending on interest. Divers were assigned to boats, but could easily switch, depending on destinations for the day. This was done in part, because of groups who chose to stay together and needed to be scheduled on a boat together. I still prefer the alternate approach (used in Provo, Bonaire, and other places) of writing your own name on a daily dive planning board that lists the intended dive destination for the day (Which, of course, can change at the last minute due to local conditions). Surface intervals were often taken on the dock (not for Little Cayman and other further away sites) because many of the dive dive sites were only 5- to 10-minutes from the dock. This was actually pretty nice, since you could go back to your room between dives or just lay in a hammock for 20 minutes or so. Also, it made bathroom needs a lot more convenient to deal with. There were places near the dock (indoors and outside) to hang wetsuits or bodyskins for drying. I would have preferred an arrangement like that at Habitat Curacao where there are ventilated lockers that divers can use for storing their gear if they choose to wash it themselves.

Organization rates an A-

The Dive Sites

For the most part, the dive sites were nice. However, the lushness of the coral was not quite as good as Bonaire, overall. I felt a little let down because of all of the talk in recent years about the "pristine" condition of the coral in the Brac. I'm sorry, but I found that not to be the case. At many dive sites, there was significant evidence of both thermal shock and possible storm damage to coral. There were only a few locations that could reasonably be considered as having "lush" coral and none that could be considered "pristine." Generally, I felt that the coral around the Brac is on par with Provo, which also is a somewhat mixed bag. My perspective is based on diving Bonaire a few times, Curacao, Provo, Grand Cayman many years ago a few times, the southern Grenadines, and the Keys many times.

The best sites we dove were at Little Cayman in the Bloody Bay Wall area, Black Tip Tunnel, Mixing Bowl, Anchor Wall, and a great wall dive called Inside Out. Overall, the coral was nice and there was good diversity of fishlife. The Russian frigate dive was nice, but wrecks aren't my thing, so I just can't get too excited over it. I list 14 dives below (some of the names are variable and may be known under other names) and rate each on a scale of 1 to 5 (1= low quality; 2= okay; 3=nice; 4= very nice; 5= superb) along with comments. Of course, others might rate these sites differently--just my experience listed here. I would be interested in seeing other divers' ratings of these dive sites.

Visibility was generally in the 50'-100' range. A few dives had lower visibility. Vis was generally adequate, but nothing great. Since I was interested in seeing coral and fish that were generally within 5'-20' of me, vis was a non-issue.

1. Sea Feather Wall: 3 (Generally a nice wall)
2. Sergeant Major: 2 (Finger formation; turtles; good fish diversity)
3. Black Tip Tunnel: 4 (Turtles; generally very pretty stuff)
4. Jackson Wall/Bloody Bay Wall: 4 (Very interesting crevices and hollows)
5. Inside Out: 5 (Great wall)
6. Charlie's Reef: 3 (nice finger formation; found octopus in crevice)
7. Keith Tibbetts Russian Frigate: 3 (Stingrays on sand near frigate; nice coral patch nearby)
8. Tarpon Reef: 3 (Lots of Tarpon--imagine that)
9. Eastern Chute: 4 (Very nice wall; interesting coral; strong current when we dove) 10. Butterfly Reef: 2 (just okay)
11. Mixing Bowl: 4 (Turtles, huge grouper; very nice coral)
12. Nancy's Cup of Tea: 3 (Turtles)
13. Anchor Wall: 4 (Some really nice sections of coral on wall)
14. AngelFish Reef: 2 (Saw nurse shark; nice variety of fish; coral nothing special)

Dive sites overall (quality coral, diversity of fishlife, vis, etc.) rate a B+

Other Island Stuff

If you like to look at caves, there are several interesting caves (take water and flashlight). You can also rent a car (do it in advance--there are a limited number) if you want to tour the island. Peter's Cave is interesting and the Parrot Preserve makes a nice hike (real hiking boots preferred)--take alot of water--yes, take alot of water, as well as good head protection from the sun. You probably won't see any parrots, but it is still a nice, interesting walk. The bluff area near the lighthouse is also very interesting to see.

Overall Evaluation

Cayman Brac makes a very nice diving vacation. The package offered by the Brac Reef Resort represents an excellent overall value (factoring in diving, accommodations, food, etc.). You can spend a lot more money and probably have a better overall experience somewhere else, but if you are a mere mortal financially with a teacher's salary (in my case), you need to find a way to have fun diving within a realistic budget. In this context, Brac Reef is a really good deal.

Thanks to Matthew for this trip report ...
August 2001

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