Wreck of the Cali Snorkeling in Grand Cayman

snorkeling
Fisherman’s market in George Town | Wreck of the Cali is 40 yards off shore from here

The wreck of the Cali is in the George Town harbor, near the cruise ship port and right off from the fisherman’s market. The ship wreck is located about 40 yards off shore of central Georgetown and you can swim to it from Rackham’s dock. The water is 15 to 20 feet deep, therefore you can easily see the wreckage while snorkeling and you do not need to dive to see the ship. The sea tends to be calm in George Town harbor, therefore making this snorkel suitable for intermediate snorkelers. This snorkel is not recommended for first time snorkelers because you need to swim out to see the wreck and it is relatively far from shore. Also, there is quite a bit of boat traffic in this location compared to other snorkel locations described in our website, making it slightly more dangerous for novice snorkelers.

Video Of Snorkel Location

However, for people who have snorkeled a few times before or for those who are competent swimmers, this snorkel is doable. If you are nervous about the distance, bringing a flotation device like a noodle or a life jacket is always a good idea. Some people prefer to take a boat to see the wreck, however that is not necessary and it is possible to snorkel the Wreck of the Cali on your own. This is sometimes preferable because it means that you can swim there at your own leisurely pace and enjoy seeing the coral in your own time without feeling rushed by a tour company.

where is it
Map showing location of Wreck of the Cali

The Cali was a large freighter built in 1900 and in the 1920s a diesel engine was installed on the ship, to make it more powerful. In the 1940s the ship was carrying a large load of around 30,000 bags of rice. However, suddenly the hull of the Cali sprung a leak, which caused all the rice to expand when it absorbed the water and this resulted in the Hull fracturing because it could not withstand the pressure created from the expanded rice. The Cali eventually sunk off George Town Harbor and now the wreckage is what you can see left of the ship today.

It is one of Grand Cayman’s hidden gems. It is not every day where you can say you snorkeled a real-life ship wreck. The sensation of snorkeling at a ship wreck is like being part of a movie because it is so surreal and something you tend only to read about, let alone actually do yourself! As you snorkel out to the wreck, you can see parts of the wreckage scattered across the ocean floor. There are coral heads scattered around too but it is mainly quite sandy before you reach the ship wreck. The sand in Grand Cayman is predominantly very white with bits of pink shells, making it very beautiful and the sunlight is reflected from the clear crystal blue water. If you look carefully it is sometimes possible to see flounders, which are flat fish, camouflaged against the white sand. Very often, stingrays can be spotted too and if you see them buried under the sand, it means that they are sleeping and they bury themselves to protect themselves through camouflaging. It is great having a look out for the flounders and the stingrays because you can sometimes see their cute little eyes peeping out from beneath the sand.

Once you have finally swum out to the ship wreck, it is really an exhilarating experience. There is not much sea weed or algae so it is easy to see everything. Many people only dream of seeing a real ship wreck which was not artificially sunk for tourists, therefore it is so fascinating to see the wreck of the Cali and learning about the history of how it sunk. This is a real wreck where the ship sunk without human intention, therefore it is truly unique. The wreck has been well preserved and it is possible to see parts of the diesel engine which is also interesting to see from a historical perspective.

One of the most amazing things to see is how the tropical fish have made this wreck their home. The coral has begun to grow on top of the wreckage and many fish live within the wreck. So if you look carefully, you can see how they are hidden within the holes and crevices of the ship. The bright red squirrel fish and snappers can be seen here and sometimes you may be able to spot a turtle. It is a very surreal experience to swim at this wreck because it is really like getting a glimpse of history because you can see how the old ships were made and contemplate how maybe the design was not as effective, this being why it sunk and could not withstand the pressure from all the rice, once the rice got wet. The design of freight ships has since been advanced, for those who have an interest in design and engineering, or just generally enjoy seeing new things, should not miss the chance to snorkel this risk.