Cayman Island: The Tunnels of Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto

Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto are a “must-do” dives for any scuba visitor to Cayman Island— and Cayman Island is a “must-do” for any diver.

If you are a certified diver you have almost certainly heard of Cayman Island south of Cuba in the Caribbean Sea. It is a Mecca for divers worldwide because of its excellent and readily available dive services and fantastically clear warm waters over incredible coral reefs, many of which drop vertically to the deep dark blue. Then there is Sting Ray City … and I could go on and on.

While there are several good beach dives around Cayman, the island is generally not noted for its shore dives. Perhaps the most well known, most visited and best of these beach dives is the location known as Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto. While these sites are right next door to each other, and both can be visited in one dive, it is recommended you take one dive for each to get the full scope of the complexity of this reef system.

Number one feature of these two dive sites is the tunnels and caverns. They are everywhere. Being relatively shallow and short and in clear water, you are never far from an easily visible exit. There are very few dead ends and only an occasional narrow passage.

Number two feature of these sites is the marine life in and around the labyrinth of passages. Personal favorite of many is the huge tarpon that hang around the seaward side of the tunnel entrances. Four to five feet long these prehistoric beasts look like floating chrome bumpers from a ’57 Chevy but they slither through the water with great ease. Photographically, they are fantastic but challenging subjects. Highly reflective, it is easy to overexpose their bodies with your strobe. Shoot a lot from many angles and you will come away with the a photo you’ll prize.

Inside the caverns the photo ops get even better but equally challenging. Many superb photo studies have been created by simply working on the sunlight streaming through the holes in the tunnel ceilings. Rays of light penetrate and dance. Within the caverns you will find tiny silverside fish and glassy sweepers. With the right lighting angle, these also provide good photo opportunities.

While there is generally a fair amount of light within the tunnels, bring a dive light as there are many dark corners to explore. You will find grouper, lobster, and crabs.

Currents are generally weak and usually not a concern. Access is easy at Eden Rock Dive Center. There you can rent tanks, weights, and light and get air fills. They also have a map on display (available for purchase) to orient yourself to the lay of the reef. The dive store provides picnic tables and lockers for rent. A few easy steps lead into waters that are almost always calm. It is only a short swim out to the reef that are well marked by buoys. The buoys give shore divers a good reference point and warn boaters to slow and proceed with caution over the heavily dived area. As you head out, simply follow the sand channel out and veer to the left for Eden Rock, right for Devil’s Grotto. Follow the outer edge of the reef at about 40 feet down and the tunnels will open up before you. Most of the tunnels end on the shallow side of the reef in about 20 feet of water. While you can access the tunnels from the shallow side, they are a bit harder to find here and you may miss the tarpon.

The tops of the reef are as shallow as 15 feet but generally in the 20 foot range. It is a good place for non-diving family members to snorkel above you while you dive, but frankly there are better places on the island to snorkel. Unfortunately, because this one of the most heavily visited reefs on the island the coral is a bit worse for wear. Don’t contribute to the problem—don’t touch the reef, watch your fin contact and in the tunnels be careful to not bang your tank against the ceiling and walls.

While these dives are in overhead environments, they are safe enough for the average diver with some experience and do not require cave diving techniques. Silt out and low visibility is not a problem but watch your air consumption carefully.

On your visit to Cayman Island, make this just one of your underwater visits. Cayman Island has many “must-do” dives—Sting Ray City, the North Wall, Bonnie’ Arch, Orange Canyon and more. While most are boat dives, take a little time to visit one of Cayman Island’s classic dives—the tunnels and caverns at Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto reefs.

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