Meet the Reef Chief of the Cayman Islands

Rod McDowall of the Cayman Islands
Rod McDowallZach Stovall

Rod McDowall works in an office. He has to. “If I didn’t work,” McDowall says, “I probably wouldn’t get much done.” It’s not that McDowall isn’t focused – he’s the operations manager of Red Sail Sports, Grand Cayman’s only full service dive and watersports operator with retail and hotel locations from East End to Seven Mile Beach. It’s that, for a life-long diver, the water is quite the temptress. (“It’s good for the soul,” says McDowall.) While the native Australian has overseen tens of thousands of dive excursions across Cayman’s spectacular seascape, “the Caymanian people are really the face of our business.”

I came to the Cayman Islands from Australia to scuba dive. I planned to spend a year here. That was 32 years ago.

Red Sail offers all kinds of excursions. A favorite is the Kittiwake wreck dive and snorkel excursion. It comes about 12 feet up to the surface – perfect for snorkeling. We also take people over to Rum Point on catamarans for beach barbecues.

I've been to Stingray City about 60 times. It's one of those interactions with animals you never tire of. I compare it to the safari I did recently. Seeing a lion in the wild doesn't get old.

The water is clear and warm year-round. We think it's cold when it gets down to 78.

Back when I was a poor divemaster, I would hitchhike back and forth from my home in West Bay. The taxi driver would stop and say, "Are you here for a fare or a ride?" Of course, I was there for a ride. [Laughs.] So he'd pick me up and give me a ride. That exemplifies the Caymankind warmth of the Caymanian people.

The mix of nationalities throughout the Cayman Islands is one of the things I appreciate most. My children grew up with kids of every shade and nationality. They've grown up being comfortable with all sorts of people. Plus they grew up in T-shirts and shorts. How great is that?

The people here – whether Caymanian or expatriot – are very welcoming. They go out of their way for you. There must be something in the water. Of course I would say that. The water is my life.