UNDERWATER :: Diver on Turtle Reef


Chip Bunnell Photography of diver on underwater turtle reef in Grand CaymanWhile the Cayman Islands are known to many for their banking industry above the water, what appeals to me is their fame below the waves – their spectacular reefs! Each of the three islands is literally surrounded by lush reefs loaded “to the gills” with beautiful marine life. Admittedly, we have many of these same features in our local South Florida waters, which is why I moved here many years ago, but there is one big difference…Walls! Yes, underwater “walls” are one of the many treats that makes the journey to the Cayman Islands so rewarding.

Image a tranquil Caribbean reef. The top can be as shallow as 12’ below crystal clear, blue water. As you slowly move, you see the coral and fish life interact. Looking forward, you see the reef appear to almost stop. As you get closer you see it does not stop, but rather drops. As you swim out over the wall you see that it dramatically falls 50’, 70’, 100’ or even over 6,000’ straight down! That is an underwater wall. A combination of uncertainty and exhilaration fills you as you truly feel as though you are flying. Feeling once again calm, you see how the beauty of the reef follows the wall down. As you descend, the normal up and down of our world have little meaning to life that lives on a vertical plane. A multitude of coral species continues to grow in unique directions. Fish view the wall side as their new bottom and swim at a 90 degree angle from what we think is common. The deeper you descend, the light becomes a little more reduced and the marine life changes. Only through the power of underwater lights can the human eye see the true color of life on the reef wall. Diving a wall is truly one of the greatest natural treats to experience.

I made this image on Turtle Reef. Located near the famous turtle farm on Grand Cayman, you can see just a small taste of the numerous soft corals, sea fans and barrel sponges that frequent the wall edge. In fact, the entire wall surface is literally alive with organisms that make up the base of the underwater world. My beautiful bride, who has become quite an accomplished underwater model, adds the human element to the image. The soft ripples of the surface water can be seen above. We eagerly await our return to this aquatic paradise.

Single Frame, processed in LR, PS and Topaz Clarity