The experience of witnessing the parade of big marine life finning along the edge of a reef wall tends to be limited to certified scuba divers. Off the island of Little Cayman, the Bloody Bay Wall starts at a snorkeler-friendly depth of 18 feet, then plummets like the side of a skyscraper to 6,000 feet. Even at 18 feet, you’ll encounter eagle rays, sea turtles and Nassau grouper, a 17-inch species beloved by dive guides for its Labrador-Retriever-like personality.
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The best snorkel reefs start shallow, and few are shallower than Glovers Reef Atoll. At low tide, coral heads pop from the sea, visible to beachgoers at the private-island Off the Wall Dive Center and Resort. Don a mask and jump in to witness the rainbow of reds, yellows and purples of the hard and soft corals, and thriving marine life. You don’t need to cover much ground to encounter diversity. Here, the best tactic is to hover above a patch of reef and check out the hundreds of species, from blenny fish, each only 3 inches long, to toadfish, a pancake-flat, whiskered bottom-dweller that betrays its hiding spots when emitting a loud croak.
I couldn’t tell whether other visitors were drawn to T.I. for the same reasons I was, namely that winter sucks and a tropical air hanger seemed like the strangest way to deal with it. But while there, it occurred to me that T.I. also offers an alternative for people priced out of international travel. And for families with small kids, the heated dome offers a level of logistical ease that’s hard to beat. T.I. may be an approximation of a tropical vacation, but it’s one without long flights or passport stress, where no child could ever claim to be bored and nothing is more than a two minute walk away.
Amed is fantastic–it’s a small and sleepy village. There is snorkeling from the beach right into the water, and friendly people as usual. We even rented a boat from a local who took us out on the water for a couple of hours. I was a solo traveler and made friends in Caangu, from there we traveled to and stayed in Ubud and then Amed together. The three of us found fantastic accommodation in both places which was ridiculously inexpensive to share for the quality. It certainly pays to travel with others, and book stays as you go. In Amed, we luckily found a place high on the hill with an infinity pool overlooking the ocean. A bit of a hike to the room, but the view was worth it.
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