Trip to Grand Cayman Island

In July, I’ll be taking a trip to Grand Cayman Island. I’ll be spending a lot of time outdoors, and hopefully get the chance to snorkel, walk the beaches and also explore some inland areas. I’m excited to check out some prime snorkeling spots, shallow reefs, hiking trails, wetlands and preserves. I’m focused on just about any wildlife - birds, mammals, marine life, fungi, reptiles, amphibians, and especially insects.

Anyone have any recommendations for books / guides to the wildlife? If you’ve been to Grand Cayman, any spots or hidden gems to visit would be much appreciated - I’m staying on the western side of the island.

Additionally, I’m looking for advice on buying a somewhat cheap underwater camera for beginners (I’ve looked into the Olympus TG Tough lineup).



You can check the recent topics about underwater, other than Olympus people recommend certain go pros that look really fine and cost much less.


I don’t think these are in print anymore, but for any Caribbean adventures, I refer to three main field guides:

Birds of the West Indies, by James Bond
Butterflies of the West Indies, by Norman Riley
Coral Reef Fishes of the Caribbean, by Joseph Stokes

Some out-of-print books can be found on e.g. eBay for reasonable prices, especially if they are discarded library books.

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An excellent resource, although pricy, is the Humann & DeLoach books on fish and critter ID. I have the hardcopy Caribbean set and carry them with me, although you can now buy them as eBooks. I have the Pacific ID set as eBooks. Much lighter to carry, but harder to use. You can find them here:

You can buy used copies online. Make sure you get one that’s not too far out of date: they’ve been published for years and each books has multiple editions. Check out this place’s prices (though I’ve never bought from them):

If you’re new to snorkeling (and even if you’re not), it’s fun to take a guided snorkel. They’ll point out things you wouldn’t see on your own and explain how the ecosystem works together. Try to find one that takes you places other than Stingray City, so you’ll see wildlife doing its normal thing.

If you’re staying at a place with a scuba/snorkel operation, they usually have ID book you can look at between outings to ID all the things you saw. I especially recommend asking the dive guides, other divers and snorkelers, and any naturalists to help identify (and there’s always that one fellow tourist who lives to help others ID, like me). After a dive or guided snorkel, the guides will look up things you saw with them in an ID book to help you remember and write down names.

My underwater point and shoot is a little Sony that’s a few years old. It’s good for snorkeling in sunlight and has a zoom to bring the fish a little closer for a good ID. It’s also fun for pool parties, taking pictures while you kayak (above and below water). Many of my underwater photos in iNaturalist were taken with this camera. I’m not sure whether they still make it–I couldn’t find its current model on their web site tonight.

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Since you plant to walk beaches, I would encourage you to photograph the seashells that wash up there. I should be able to identify every shell you find.

Also, if you really want to go cheap for underwater photos, you can buy a waterproof case for your phone. They seem to be surprisingly reliable.

Like this one:


I bought a TG6 a couple years ago - specifically for iNat! - and I have loved it for macro shots of insects. Sadly, I haven’t yet had the chance to try it out in the water, but I’ve seen other iNatters who take good underwater shots with the same model.

I’ve had the pleasure to visit Grand Cayman twice, and the snorkeling is superb! Although you’re staying on the west end, be sure to visit some of the beaches on the east side of the island, which is considerably less developed and a bit “wilder.” Some of the beaches have a strong rip current, but that can be dealt with by snorkeling from one pier and letting the current take you down the beach a ways to another pier; then just get out, walk up the beach in the opposite direction, and do it again. My husband and I did this for a whole afternoon and saw ctenophores, beautiful squid “stationing” in a line near some fan coral, and of course a plethora of tropical fish.


No resources or guides really but I’ll mirror what somebody has already said about how the west really isn’t as “wild” as the east, and give my personal opinion (not that it was asked for). There’s stuff at the west side that I could certainly recommend (Cayman Turtle Centre, Stingray City, National Gallery of the Cayman Islands) but if you’re looking for more “wild” spots to just go around, there’s not as much on the west side… That being said, I can still recommend some spots that might be more of what you’re looking for (or maybe not): Pig Sty Bay (Maritime Heritage Trail), Barker’s National Park and Hell! Hell is really cool. I don’t think people talk about it enough.


Might I mention that I’m pretty good with Caribbean beach plants. “@” me for those if you wish.

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Thanks I will if I need help.

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