Saturday, January 15, 2011


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Typical Giant Boulder Coral at Rum PointTypical giant Lobed Star Boulder Corals, Rum Point Coral Garden, Grand Cayman

This is the spot I am most intimate with and the reason I fell in love with Grand Cayman.  Our little Cayman abode is located on the beach at the point and I try to snorkel it at least once a day when we are there.  It is amazing to witness the transitions of the marine life during the different tides, coupled with the dramatic effect the angles of sunlight have as they shift throughout the day.  My favorite time to visit is about an hour before sunset.  It is then that I find the lighting most serene and the abundance and activity of marine life at its peak.

LOCATION INFO:  1st major coral bed is approximately 225 yds of the actual ‘point’ at Rum Point (19°22'22.56"N 81°16'16.62"W), by the Retreat Condominiums.  The 2nd major coral bed is located 25 yds across the sand channel that begins at the far end of the 1st bed (You can usually see some rays and conch hanging out on the bottom).

(This location is not the "Coral Gardens" frequented as part of many Sting Ray City tours.  That location is part of the barrier reef, close to Sting Ray City Sand Bar).

This site is definitely seeing an increase in visits by the various Wave Runner tours; as evidenced by the multiple excursions stopping by, even on light cruise ship days.  There is now only one marker buoy anchored at the site making it a bit harder to spot from shore.  While not usually an issue, snorkelers should be aware of any Jet Skis and boat traffic, especially on the weekends.  Having a diving/snorkel flag or other identification device is not a bad idea.

My best advice for locating the prime coral beds is to refer to the satellite images below and then orientate yourself standing at the ‘point’ of Rum Point.  Look for the two large Marine Zone buoys closer to shore on your right.  Look out and to the right of the far buoy to locate the smaller mooring buoy of the site.  If water conditions are favorable, you should also see the dark patches of the corals about 225 yds slight off to the left from the point and about 10 yards to the left of the small mooring buoy.

Link to a larger interactive map of Rum Point
Snorkel Guide
Overhead view to get orientated. (Click images for larger version)

View of coral bed location from sign at the point.  Boat is moored on marker buoy.  Notice larger marine zone buoy on the right.

Coral Garden location with Waverunners moored at marker buoy.

WATER ENTRY: I usually enter the water from a small opening in the iron-shore, about 30 feet to the right of the Marine Zone sign post.  There is a sandy-ish bottom and pieces of iron-shore on each side that make for good, albeit sharp, flipper rests or hand holds.  You can also head-off from the beach area if the iron-shore is too intimidating.

WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT:  Depending on the weather and water conditions, there can be a slight to moderate current here, especially in the winter months.  On the snorkel out, you will pass some small corals directly off the point and then begin to enter a zone with little coral and few fish.  The depth approaches 20-25 feet at this point.  As you head out, off to the left you should see a ridge rising from the sea floor.  I use this geographic feature as a reference to keep my bearing. Approaching the main garden, you will begin to see some soft corals interspersed with a few hard corals on the floor below; continuing onward, they will start to become larger and healthier.  The water here is still about 20 ft deep.  This is not the main garden.  

Depending on visibility you may be able to see dark shapes off in the distance, ahead and closer ones to the right.  Off to the right are isolated large coral formations.  They will be surrounded by a sandy floor.  These are located closest to the farther Marine Buoy on the above image (tapering dark patches to the left) .  You may not see them if you are closer to the ridge.  I usually skip these, but they may be worth a look. The water level will begin to become shallower, the corals will start to jump in size and more fish (usually Damselfish, Grouper and Dog Snapper) can be seen below around the corals.  Try to keep close to the sandy bottom on the right and continue on.  Yes, it does seem longer than 225 yds out, but trudge on; you are getting close to the good stuff.  Ahead, about 25 yds, you should now see some large boulder corals.  Head there and begin exploring, this is the entrance to the garden.  A Moray Eel sometimes hangs out here.  

The area along the right with the sandy bottom is where the largest and most dense concentrations of corals and fish will be.  Water depth is between 15-20 ft.  Among the many species of fish darting around and about the corals, large schools of snapper and grunts frequent this area closer to the bottom.  Rays can be found hidden in the sand and barracuda will sometimes shadow you.  

As you explore the area to the left (away from the sandy bottom), the water level will become shallower, as you float above the ridge incline.  This area is predominantly covered with soft corals, sponge and sea fans.  If you continue out towards the reef, the coral garden will end and you will reach a sand bottom channel.  Swim across the channel to reach the second coral garden.  Large outcroppings and clusters of boulder coral begin in about 30 yds.  Float over them and explore right to left.  The water at this garden is a bit shallower making some of the corals and sea fans appear more vibrant.  Grunts and Snapper abound here as well.  The occasional Trumpetfish can also be seen.

CONDITIONS THIS VISIT: The winds were blowing northeasterly for most of the week, which made visibility on the North Side of the island suboptimal (all the crud that pools in the North Sound gets blown back out towards sea, but ends up trapped by the barrier reef).  You will see many of the images (especially from the Sting City Dive Site) have greenish hues or castes to them; this is as a result of the higher than usual concentrations of algae.

I was thrilled NOT to find any Lion Fish around my regular floating grounds this trip.  There was an abundance of the usually fish: various species of Grunts, Snapper, Damselfish, Tilefish, Squirrelfish, Wrasses, Large Parrotfish and Spiny Lobsters.  There was a noticeable increase in: Triggerfish, Trunkfish, smaller barracuda and predatory Bar Jacks.  There was a noticeable decrease in Larger Snapper, Large barracuda, Grouper, Rays and Conch.  I did see one Green Turtle and snapped a few shots before he bolted.  In my experience, the turtles in the Rum Point area and Grand Cayman in general, tend to spook easily.

The beautiful, but invasive Lionfish

Resting Nurse Shark

Green Turtle making a quick exit
Southern Sting Ray resting in the sand
Typical boulder coral field

School of Grunts amid the coral
Sunlight dapples the coral masses

Moray Eel makes its presence known
Just like an aquarium

A Jolthead Porgy tries out its camouflage technique
French Grunts and Bluehead Wrasse (initial phase)

Juvenile Parrotfish find protection from predators by shadowing the biggest fish around (me)

Juvenile Parrotfish cascade over a Giant Lobed Star Coral

Large school of juvenile Parrotfish
Serene twilight sceneFrench GruntsFrench GruntsSouthern Sting Ray, Stoplight Parrotfish and Tiger Grouper in the twilightBarrel SpongesSpiny Lobster guards his turf
A Grasby protecting its territory

Finally, a friendly Hawksbill Turtle becomes a snorkel buddy

A large Spotted Eagle Ray glides byCatching up with the Spotted Eagle Ray

Images from this trip can be found here

Images from previous visits (with more emphasis on coral formations can be found here)

 © 2010 Testudo Enterises, LLC


  1. snorkled here for the first time thanks to the great write up by this blog. It was our favorite spot on Cayman. It is a bit of a swim but the current was negligible so we had a great time. The corals are not very deep so we got some great pictures.

  2. Glad the guides helped you visit and expereince one of my favorite snorkel spots.


  3. Hi Testudo! We will be staying at the Retreat for 4 nights this summer (early July) and I am looking forwards to exploring this area properly - we were last there November 2017. My main concern at that time (aside from the choppy water) was the boat traffic. It worried me enough that I turned back before getting to the good bits. My husband persevered, but at one point he was just feet from a boat propeller (we have the footage to prove it!!) I really want to explore and enjoy this area - what are your opinions on the boat traffic? Is it worse at some times than at others, and does wearing a sign help? Thank you so much! :)

  4. I'd avoid Sundays at all costs and get a proper snorkel/dive flag float (Red Sail at Rum Point will loan them out). I tote along a white Boogie Board with with a red flag to make sure I'm seen. I also stop and raise my head out of the water if I hear propellers or the whine of jet skis and wave my arm to signal the craft of my presence.

  5. Hi Testudo,

    This is the second time I am referring to your guide as we are making a return trip to Grand Cayman next week May 13-May 20. It has been absolutely invaluable.

    My wife loves to join me for snorkeling, but she isn't comfortable going out to locations that are a decent swim off shore. A good reference for what she is willing to do is Cemetery Beach. Do you have any idea for others that are a similar distance and worth the trip?

    Also, I would love to snorkel Rum Point and the Staghorn gardens, but being that it is too far for my wife, I would have to swim it alone- which no matter how safe it is, I don't like the idea of. Do you know if there are any groups/ locals, etc that I might be able to meet up with?



    1. Hi Aaron,

      The Rum Point Drift snorkel is not too far from shore and riding the current, makes for an easy time of it. Not nearly as dramatic as the barrier reef or boulder garden, but usually plenty of marine life to see. Try visiting Spotts beach to see the turtles, shallow and unless stormy, usually fairly calm.

      As for groups, you can try asking on a place like TripAdvisor for a meet-up or hang out around the shore access to the barrier reef and ask if any folks are headed out that way.

      Good luck and happy snorkeling!

    2. Thanks! I appreciate the quick reply and we are really looking forward to checking out some of the East/ North areas, as we will have a car this time.

      I appreciate the advice for checking TripAdvisor I will see if I can find anyone interested and if all else fails, just sit by the entry point for a while and see if I can hitchhike with someone else who is heading that way.

      Thanks Again,


  6. Other close in sites are: Wonderland, Queens Monument and Barefoot Beach.