A Unique Marine Life Encounter in the Waters of the Cayman Islands
At sites all around the island of Grand Cayman, divers may run into sleek silver tarpon during any time of the year. Growing to lengths of up to six feet, these apex predators are impressive but pose no risk to humans. The same doesn't hold true for the schools of small fish that congregate close to shore during summer migrations. These schools may include several different species of silversides, herrings and anchovies, but the net effect is the same: a swirling, cloud-like formation of life that ebbs and flows as millions of these tiny fish seek collective shelter among the folds and caverns of area reefs.
The arrival of the silversides and their length of stay will vary from year to year, but when they show up, the schools are usually enormous, numbering into the multi-millions. The island's resident populations of hungry grouper, jacks and snapper feast on this seasonal bounty, but it is the tarpon that creates the most dramatic scenes as they dart through the dense schools, scattering them into thousands of individual flashes of silver. Silverside schools may be found at sites all around the island, but it is the areas with the most pronounced tunnels, grottoes and swim-throughs that provide the most consistent viewing action. Here are five premier dive sites to witness the silver maelstrom.
Eden Rock and Devil’s Grotto — Just South of the George Town Harbor, a maze of shallow, meandering underwater canyons and tunnels make for an interesting shore dive at any time of year, as there's always a chance of running into a tarpon. Come summer, these grottoes become prime sites for silverside, which is guaranteed to bring the big fish in.
Bob Soto's Reef — An easy shore dive located near downtown George Town. At night, tarpon gathers to feed on small fish attracted by shore side lights, and can also be found cruising among the coral formations during daylight hours.
Tarpon Alley — Offshore of Grand Cayman's famous Stingray City, this site offers deep, narrow swim throughs that open onto a precipitous wall. Schooling tarpon and silversides are a big attraction, but there's also a good chance of seeing passing eagle rays and turtles.
Snapper Hole — One of the most popular sites on Grand Cayman's East End provides a near-guaranteed chance for tarpon encounters in tunnels and caverns. When the silversides arrive each summer, the tarpon goes into hunt mode by lunging attacks that scatter the tiny fish into swirling silver clouds.
Grouper Grotto — Though named for its resident grouper, this East End site is taken over by roving tarpon when the summer schools of silversides arrive. The little fish gather in canyons and swim-throughs in great numbers, and it can be quite dramatic when a fast-moving tarpon punches a hole through one of these cloud-like formations.
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