Penny’s Arch is usually a great dive site. It is almost directly across from Rum Point and in a place that does not get high traffic, but is still within the typical “west side” dive operators range.
Penny’s Arch is typical of the dive sites on the north wall around the Rum Point areas. The sites this far to the east tend to have coral reefs that are in good health. Since these sites do not see as much traffic, they have less damage and there tends to be a larger population of marine species.
When the water is clear, which is most of the time, this site can be really great. Almost any place along the north wall by Rum Point is spectacular and at Penny’s Arch you have a great chance to sea Spotted Eagle Rays, turtles, numerous Caribbean fish and various species of sharks.
On my last dive at Penny’s Arch we saw a Tiger Shark on the way out of the North Sound and found a Whitefin Sharksucker on the dive. We were hoping to find the Tiger as I am sure he was quite close by. There are three known tracked Tiger Sharks that visit Grand Cayman named Coco, Luiza and Tina. Perhaps you can get lucky and encounter one of these marvelous creatures.
When diving on the north wall remember it can be fairly rough on the surface and will almost always have 1 to 2 foot swells. This means if you tend to get seasick take your Bonine and/or ginger before the dive.
Penny’s Arch Rating: 3.79 out of 5
- Visibility – Good to very good
- Access – Moderate, boat only and about 40 to 45 minutes from Safe Haven harbor (Note it can be fairly rough on the North Wall and regularly has low swells, take precautions if you tend to get seasick)
- Current – Variable,moderate to strong
- Depth to 100 ft / 30 m
- Reef health Hard / Soft Corals – Good to very good
- Sponges / Plants – Good to very good
- Marine species variety – Good
- Pelagics / Mammals / Turtles / Rays – minimal typically 1 to 3 sightings on a dive
Penny’s Arch Overview
You will start down by the buoy and then make your way down through a cut in the reef and then swim down and out through Penny’s Arch. Do not worry it is very wide. You will then emerge on the wall and swim along the wall for a bit before returning to the top of the wall to explore the coral gardens. Make sure you continue to look into the blue as you will regularly see Spotted Eagle Rays and various species of sharkes. If you are into underwater photography look back and up as you emerge from the arch and you can typically get some very nice wall shots looking up at towards the sun (assuming the sun is shinning). You can get a great sense of the deep trench that surrounds Grand Cayman as you gaze downward into the blue for literally hundreds of feet. The sense is surreal and I love this view.
The coral reef is quite healthy and vibrant on this dive site. It gets plenty of nutrients and is far enough away from the cuts in the reef by the North Sound that you don’t usually have a problem with visibility even after a rain. It can get cloudy like any other site, but the visibility here is usually excellent.
When finishing up your dive at the top of the wall, make sure to look carefully. You can usually find a good number of spiny lobsters, moray eels, quite a variety of fish, as well as a large variety of soft and hard corals. There are many Slimy Sea Plumes, Bent Sea Rods, Common Sea fans, Giant Slit-pore Sea Rods, and much more. If you look closely on the Gorgonian fans, you will usually find the colorful Flamingo Tongue snails, but be careful to leave them alone as the color on the shell is from a membrane that can be extended and retracted. When taken from the water these shells are just basic white with no color at all.
We found several Lionfish on the site, reminding everyone of the need to cull these fish so that they do not cause anymore damage to the local environment.