Little Cayman coral reefs are one of the most popular scuba diving locations in the Carribean. Part of the Cayman archipelago, Little Cayman is the smallest of the three islands, 16 km long and 2 km wide, with an elevation below 12 m, and has a permanent population that does not exceed 170 people. With no industry and little human activity (and, virtually, no pollution and no overfishing), this undeveloped island features some of the most pristine ecosystems in the entire region. Protected areas cover more than half of the island and the surrounding marine area. For more than 20 years, the reefs have been protected by the local government. Marine habitats in this region are very diverse, just as the life forms they host: from shallow lagoons, to the outer reefs. With around 50 exceptional dive websites, a diver can perform a degree of expertise which is difficult to locate elsewhere.
37 coral species are present, forming the physical basis of the whole ecosystem. Among them, a wide variety of mollusks (including beautiful conch and octopuses), crustaceans (shrimps, crabs, lobsters) and more than 350 fish species populate Little Cayman coral reefs. These include sharks, eagle rays, groupers, tarpons, silversides, flounder, eels and garden eels and goby fish. Big tube sponges, tunicates, brittle stars and colorful nudibranchs are other important attractions in these reefs. Likewise are hawksbill turtles, green turtles and dolphins.A coral reef nearby the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean showcases a number of the tremendous diversity within the coral world. Mind coral, finger coral, sea fans, and sponges give contour as well as colour to the reef. One coral wall holds more phyla than a whole continent.
During the past decades, there were serious concerns regarding the worsening state of Little Cayman reefs, attributed to global warming. However, there are several years now, since the reefs starter to recover, pointing to an impressive resilience of these ecosystems. This prolific natural environment and the minimal human impact have attracted two main categories of visitors. First of all, there are tourists and nature lovers, interested in scuba diving and wildlife watching. With a huge biodiversity at accessible depths, Little Cayman is perfect for such activities. Then, obviously, Little Cayman coral reefs attract many scientists, as well.