Little Cayman, Pirates Point Resort
Grand Lido Braco, Runaway Bay, Jamaica
June, 1999

Author: Scott Roberts

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We won a trip to Jamaica, so we thought we would extend it to Little Cayman for 5 days while we were in the area.  This trip report is split up into three main parts.  The parts are in order below as follows: Montego Bay, Little Cayman, and Runaway Bay, Jamaica.

Montego Bay (No Diving)

We couldn't get the flights to work out, so we had to stay one night in Montego Bay, Jamaica.  Our flight from Seattle was roughly 11 hours.  We arrived in Montego Bay at about 2:30 pm and caught a $7 taxi to the Quality Inn.  The Quality Inn ($100/night) is in a good location on Gloucester Avenue about 4 minutes from the airport.  Gloucester is the main strip in Montego Bay where a lot of the hotels are located.  The strip is pretty safe day and night, and there are several restaurants and bars all along Gloucester Ave.  We checked in, unpacked, changed clothes, and went exploring. 

It took about 10 seconds before people were hassling us to buy drugs, get our hair braided, see a craft shop, take a taxi ride, etc.  The Montego Bay Resort Patrol sends out officers in groups of three.  People left us alone when they were around, but it was very irritating when they weren't.  We were expecting this, so we were able to joke around with them a bit and move along.

We strolled all the way down into downtown Montego Bay.  Montego Bay was very unimpressive.  It was very dirty, and walls blocked most of the beach access.  We went to a craft market at the South end of Gloucester.   It consisted of about 40 booths run by different people.  Once in the market, everyone hounded you to go to his or her shops.  There were some OK woodcarvings of Rastafarians, fish and whatnot, but that's about it.  We stopped at Margueritaville on the way back.  It's right on the water, and has a water slide and a water trampoline.  It looked pretty fun, but we were a bit tired from the flight.  We had a drink and then cruised back to the hotel for a swim.

After showers, we went to PJ's Jerk Pit for dinner.  It was basically a fenced in yard with a thatched roof bar and a kitchen.  The jerk was pretty good.  It came with rice and veggies.  We ordered Guinness with dinner.  It was very cold and hit the spot.  There was a DJ playing some pretty good (very loud) reggae tunes.  There weren't many people there.  It was two female tourists, about 10 locals, and us.  After a while, a live reggae band took over.  They were OK.  They played Bob Marley cover tunes for the most part.  We were offered weed, braids, and a self-portrait while we were listening, but they were not pushy like the people on the street.  We listened for a while and then decided to call it a night.  PJ's was a good place to go for some authentic Jamaican food, entertainment, and atmosphere.   The meal and 7 beers cost about $35 total.  Montego Bay as a whole is very disappointing.  If you’re looking to party it's probably fun, but it's not tropical paradise.  Go to Negril, Jamaica if you are looking for tropical paradise in Jamaica.

Little Cayman

We caught an Air Jamaica flight to Grand Cayman at 12:05 pm ($220/ea).  Our Island Air flight to Little Cayman ($154) at 2:30 was on the "big" plane.  It held 17 passengers, and was full.  Island air is very strict on their baggage limits.  They only guarantee that 55lbs/ea will get to Little Cayman on your flight.  The rest is guaranteed in 24hrs. So if you plan on diving that day or the next morning, make sure your dive gear gets on your flight.  They charge $.50/lb over the 55lb limit and that includes carry-ons.

The flight was great.  It was clear and smooth, and we were able to get some good views of Grand Cayman and Little Cayman.  The runway at Little Cayman is dirt and grass.  The airport consists of 3 30'x30' rooms.  These rooms are divided between the fire department, the airport, and the post office.

Gladys, the owner of Pirates Point Resort, picked us up in an air-conditioned mini van.  The resort is about 1 minute from the airport.  She drove us right to our room.

That afternoon Gladys told us that there was going to be a wine and cheese party at the neighbor’s gazebo down the beach.  She said we could walk or she would give us a ride.  We walked for a while but decided to take her up on the ride offer after taking a look at the beach.  The beach is very rocky and not extremely walker friendly.  There are spots where you can walk in the sand, but it’s not a great swimming/snorkeling beach.  It is very natural and beautiful though.  We jumped in the back of Gladys’ bench lined pick-up and cruised down the road.

Charlie and Heidi Beaumont (International Ventures Ltd) own the gazebo.  They are long time guests at Pirate’s Point, so they decided to build their own place.  It is a great little place right on the beach.  The gazebo is right down by the water, and is enclosed by screens to keep the mosquitoes away.  Several of the guests showed up, and we had plenty of wine, beer and cheese.  After about 15 minutes it started to rain sideways.  I guess gravity makes the rain go sideways at the equator.  We were all ready soaking wet so we decided to drink more.   It didn’t help dry us out.  We all got to know each other while partying in the gazebo.   It was a good way to start the stay at Pirate’s Point.  The rain stopped and we headed back to the resort for dinner.  Gladys is a horrible driver.  She forgot how to turn on the lights, and she swerves quite a bit.  It makes riding in the back of the pick up quite entertaining.  Then it was dinner, a nightcap, and back to the room for the night.

There isn’t much to do on Little Cayman but dive.  There are about 50-100 people who live on the island.  There are about 4 small dive resorts, one larger one, and one restaurant.  We used the resort bikes to ride around the entire island one afternoon.  There is a large booby pond, which is a bird sanctuary.  The birds aren't too exciting, but I’m not real big on birds.  On a scale from one to ten where 10 is an eagle snatching up a 30 lb salmon, and 1 is a crow eating a fry at Dick’s drive-in, I give the booby pond a solid 6.  We did see a huge iguana.  They are very common on Little Cayman.  We stopped at the only restaurant to check it out, and also looked at the other resorts.  Below are pitures from our bike tour of Little Cayman.

Hungry Iguana restaurant

Hi Beach

Rooms:
They are very simple, roomy, and clean.  The water pressure and temperature was great.  The bed was comfortable and the air conditioning worked well.  All of the rooms have ceiling fans, and the oceanfront rooms don’t have air conditioning.  There are no TVs, clocks, or phones.


Resort Facilities:

The resort has a summer camp feel to it.  There are several small cabins consisting of 2 or 3 rooms.   There are 10 rooms total.  The main house contains a dining room, office, kitchen, and a bar.  The bar has no air conditioning and gets a bit hot.  There are trees everywhere, and the ground is sand covered with leaves.  The workers are constantly working to keep things neat and clean.  The resort has a very simple and rugged feel to it.  Cans of bug spray are all over the resort, so you can leave that at home.  There is a pool and a hot tub, which are fairly nice.  They provide lounge chairs and floatation devices for the pool area.  There are many bikes, which you can borrow to explore the island.  There are two sand-bottom gazebos that provide hammocks for guest to lounge in.   The resort, in particular the bar, is decorated with artistic donations from the guests.  Pirate’s Point runs a contest every year.  The best creation made from items found on site wins a free week at the resort.   We unpacked, and went to the bar for a drink and a late lunch.

The Way the Resort Works

If you are on the diver package, you get 3 meals, two boat dives (including tanks and weights), and unlimited drinks (booze too) every day.   It’s all included, and a 15% tip is worked into your bill.  The bar is self-serve, and is stalked with soda, juices, Red Stripes, Stingrays (Cayman beer: a decent microbrew style ale, a little sweet), red and white wine, and a bunch of different booze.   Night shore dives are available at a cost of $65/ea if 3 divers are interested.  The ringing of the bell outside the main house signals breakfast, lunch, dinner, and diving.  The bench-lined pickup is loaded with you and your equipment at about 9:30.  A short ride brings you to a dock where the dive boat picks you up.

The daily routine was as follows: 
Get up for breakfast at about 8:30 am
Leave for diving at 9:30 am
First dive at about 10am
Surface interval for one hour
Second dive at about 12 pm
Return to the resort for lunch at about 2:30 pm
Do what you like from 3 pm to 7:30 pm
Night dives were at 6:30 pm if at least 3 people are interested

View from the dock

Food

The food is very good, and you are welcome to as many helpings as you want.  You won’t go hungry at Pirate’s Point.  Breakfast is served in the main dining room buffet style and consists of things like waffles, blueberry pancakes, fruit, bagels, muffins, ham, eggs, eggs benedict, cereals, juice, and coffee.  Lunch is served outside, after dinner, at about 2:30 pm.  Lunch was made from the previous night’s leftovers (quesadillas, jambalaya, etc.).   There was usually a couple of different salads, fruit, and a desert cookie as well.  It was always very good.  It’s amazing how resourceful they are with their leftovers.  They served key lime bars one day.  They were great.  Dinner is served in the main dining room.  Dinners were great and were accompanied by wine.  The food was served buffet style with the workers clearing plates, serving drinks, and desserts.  She prepared things like a great rice/sausage/prawn dish, roast beef, fajitas, enchiladas, various potato and veggie dishes, Yorkshire pudding, Mahi Mahi, homemade ice creams, crème brule, and strawberry shortcake.

Weather

The weather in Little Cayman was overcast with sun breaks for the most part.  There were a few days of sun, but every day was very comfortable.  We were thankful that we chose an air conditioned room.

Staff

Each of the staff members does a little bit of everything.  They are the cooks, the dive guides, the boat captains, etc.  They are all very laid back, and will go out of their way to help you with anything.  You do as little or as much as you want when staying at Pirates Point.

Dive Boat

The Yellow Rose III is an unbelievable dive boat.   It’s 42’ long and 16’ wide.   It’s designed for diving.  The back end of the boat runs right into the water, so all you have to do is walk off the back.  There are two fin ladders, which make re-entry as easy as can be.  It is half sheltered, and half open which makes it easy to get away from the sun or the rain.  Fiberglass benches are built into the side of the boat.  There are tank holders along each side, with bungee straps to hold the tanks in place.  There are compartments below the benches to store equipment as well.  There were never more than 12 people on the boat.  I’ve never had more room to maneuver on a dive boat.  The staff brings plenty of snacks for between dives.  There are plenty of chips, fruit, juice, pop, etc.

 

Diving

We dove 5 times, including one night dive during our short stay.  Visibility was 80-150’, and the water temperature was a comfortable 85 degrees.

Night Dives

Night dives are guided shore dives, and they cost $65/ea.  The dive master will drive you out to the site completely suited up.  You have to act fast when you get there because the mosquitoes are brutal on the North side of the island at night.  We did a 100 yard surface swim, out to a mooring and descended from there.   Just because it’s a shore dive doesn’t mean it’s any less exciting.  It was one of our favorite dives.

Bus Stop, Jackson Bay

The dive starts at a sandy bottom at 60 ft.  There we entered a swim through that exits on to a sheer wall at 110’.  It’s a great sensation to exit through a swim through into blue open water.  The wall was covered with typical Little Cayman coral.  There were a ton of fans and chimney sponges.  We continued along the wall for a while gradually ascending to 45’ were we turned back towards the boat and continued to dive along the top of the wall.  There were more fish on the plateau than there were on the wall.  We saw several huge grouper, triggers, puffers, cowfish, angels, tangs, parrotfish etc.  As with all of the dives, the reef is very pristine, and the fish are very used to people hanging around.

Shear Reef, Bloody Bay

This dive is about as simple as it gets.  It’s a shear wall (hence the name).  We dove down to about 70’, followed the wall for a while, gradually ascending to the plateau at about 40’ and continued the dive back to the boat along the plateau.  The coral was great, and we saw many of the typical Little Cayman fish.  A special treat was a grouper stopped at a cleaning station along the wall.   We sat there and snapped about 5 pictures.   At the end of the dive we saw a large nurse shark swimming along the plateau.

Mike’s Mount

This was one of my favorite dives.  The wall was more interesting than the others.  There were a lot of nooks and crannies to look into.  The other walls were a little more shear.  I like the variety of terrain that was available on this dive.    The usual coral and fish life was present.  We also saw a very large turtle cruising the wall, and a stingray in the sandy shallows.  There is a swim through that will take you from the Sandy plateau to the wall.  It’s a little small, but not a problem.

Awesome Wall

This dive is another shear wall.  We dove down to 61’, followed the wall for a while, gradually ascending to the plateau at about 40’ and continued the dive back to the boat along the plateau.  The coral was great, and we saw many of the typical Little Cayman fish.  I promptly used my entire roll of film when things started getting even better.  There was a gigantic red parrotfish looking for food along the plateau.  It must have weighed about 50lbs.    We followed it around for a while, and then we ran across two turtles.   One was eating something on the bottom.   We watched it for a couple of minutes.   Another one was just sitting on the bottom.  We watched it for a while and then continued along the plateau.  I guess the turtle decided it wanted to stay with us because we were swimming along, and the turtle started swimming between us.  We were no more than 3 feet away from it.  We watched it as it ascended to the surface for a breath of air.  It was an amazing experience.

Cumber’s Caves (Night Dive)

Due to the high probability of sea wasps, I decided to leave the camera on shore for this dive.  Bad mistake: we saw some really amazing stuff on this dive.  Loc was our guide for this dive, and we followed him through a maze of reefs.  I had no idea where I was by the end of the dive.  We swam out to a buoy approximately 100 yards off shore.  We descended at twilight.  We immediately spotted an Eagle Ray cruising the sand bottom.  Twilight turned into darkness as we followed Loc through the water.  We saw 3 gigantic lobsters.  One was scurrying across the sand bottom between the reefs.  We also spotted several eel, a turtle, squid, and firefly tubeworms.  The reef is incredible at night.  We swam back to shore very quickly to avoid sea wasps.  There were several squid along the way that shimmered in our dive lights.  We also encountered a pair of mating octopus J, but as Loc instructed, we did not stop swimming until we reached the shore.

Little Cayman
Underwater Photo Gallery

We had a great time at Pirates Point.  It’s a bit spendy, but the food is great, the rooms are clean and comfortable, the dive operation is the best I’ve seen, the diving is very good, and the staff creates a friendly laid back atmosphere.  We probably won’t go back again soon, just because it’s so far away and there are a ton of places we haven’t seen yet.  If I were ever on Little Cayman again, I would probably stay at Pirates Point again.  It sounds like Southern Cross Club is the only operation that is close to Pirates Point in terms of providing a quality, personalized dive vacation.

One of the staff members picked us up at our room for the 10:30am flight to Montego Bay for the free portion of our trip.   More on that when I find the time.

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