Saturday, January 15, 2011

SNORKEL GUIDE: RUM POINT SHORE "DRIFT" ROUTE





Map is interactive


Queen Triggerfish
The regal Queen Triggerfish, attended by a Surgeonfish and Harlequin Bass escort


LOCATION INFO: This reef is located to the east of the 'point' at Rum Point and starts about 30-40 yds off shore.  The typical current in the area usually runs east to west, so I will usually walk about a half-mile down the beach from Rum Point to the Sea Lodges complex for my entry.  


You can park your vehicle at the Rum Point Club (19°22'16.70"N 81°16'15.60"W) and walk the half-mile.  This is a good idea since the beach area is a natural exit and endpoint to your snorkel, plus there are concessions and restrooms.  


Another good parking spot, closer to the start of the route, is the Cayman Kai Public Beach parking lot which has a simple restroom (19°22'8.80"N  81°15'59.62"W) (1/10 mile west of the Sea Lodges).  It is easy to miss, so when coming from the east, look for the small sign and parking lot on the right-hand side, about 7 or 8 lots past the Sea Lodges (this is also a good entry for the Barrier Reef route).



Parking lot for the Cyaman Kai Public beach


ENTRY: The water entry along this section of the North Side beach ranges from little pockets of sand that quickly give way to turtle grass or a combination of iron-shore and rubble which continue out to the ridge system.  


The route map below provides some idea of the better entry points I have found for accessing the snorkel grounds.  Survey the area and find what looks to be the best entry point. The non-sand or grass bottom areas consist of rock and broken coral bits that for the most part are not sharp on bare feet.  Tread lightly when you enter to get your fins on and you should be fine; no urchins or other hidden nasties around.



Link to a larger interactive map of Rum Point
Rum Point Shore Snorkel Route
(Click on image for printable version)


WHAT CONDITIONS YOU CAN EXPECT: Depending on where you enter the water, there will be a mixture of grassy area interspersed with sandy bowls and shallow water for about 20-30 yards. The area will then open and the depth will increase to around 4 to 8 feet as you approach the ridges.  On the sea side of the ridges you will see a sandy expanse that continues out until the Barrier Reef.  


There is usually a steady east to west current the will help push you along towards Rum Point. Visibility is usually good, but being a shallow snorkel site it can get stirred up easily with stronger winds or currents.  This is a typical drift snorkel, so take your time and explore all the nooks and crannies.


WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO SEE: The corals here are much smaller than at the Rum Point Coral Gardens; the majority consisting of soft corals, fans and sea whips with some nice Brain Coral specimens here and there.  The area is usually loaded with smaller fish that congregate around the corals.  The largest fish tend to be Rainbow Parrotfish; you'll know you are getting close to some when you hear their coral crunching getting louder.  Snapper, Butterflyfish, Squirrelfish, Triggerfish, Grunts and Triggerfish are usually prevalent; Lobsters can sometimes be seen in crevasses, keep on the lookout for their antennea.


As you move toward the west, the ridge-line will begin to split into a wider ridge closer to shore with a narrower one toward the sandy sea floor zone.  I usually choose to initially follow the ridge farther from shore as the schools of fish and corals are more interesting here.  Then as this ridge-line begins to breakdown, I will head back to the wider section closer in.  The corals begin to become more spread out and less healthy as you approach Rum Point.  There will be large areas of dead corals with little to see other than the occasion Sting Ray or Sand Tilefish or other bottom dwellers.  


Once you reach the last house along the beach before the Retreat Condos you can either 


1) Head closer to shore and search the grassy areas for resting Sting Rays or the occasional Eagle Ray fly-by 


or 


2) Continue over the dead zone and eventually come upon the small reef directly off the rocky point.  The nooks and ledges immediately along the iron-shore are a great spot to get up and personal with smaller fish.  The water is very shallow and the Wrasses and other small fish are accustomed to being studied.  You can exit on the beach around the point or continue to swim towards the pier and look for the resident Barracuda.


WHAT I SAW THIS TRIP: I met up with the resident school of Rainbow Parrotfish, some of the mature ones approach 4 ft, was greeted by the always shyly inquisitive school of Blue Tang, more Queen Triggerfish than usual, and some comical little Wrasse and juvenile fishes.  This is definitely a good snorkel for seeing fish and being able to observe their behaviors; without having to go far from shore or expend to much energy swimming.



Soft Corals on a ridge

             

Local School of Blue Tang                                  Pair of Spotfin Butterflyfish
           
Tiny Goldline Blenny in its diggs                         Rainbow Parrotfish 

Typical seascape with soft corals, sea whips and some Wrasse

Typical seascape with Rainbow Parrotfish and Wrasse




DOWNLOAD SNORKEL GUIDE FROM GOOGLE DOCUMENTS HERE:


More images from this area can be found here (labeled as Rum Point Shore Route):


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