The Cayman Islands present a variety of adventure opportunities, no matter what your fitness or activity level. Most adventures in the Cayman Islands revolve around the water, whether that means scuba diving or snorkeling, sailing or deep-sea fishing, or just plain beachwalking and sunworshipping, although activities on land are available as well.
Walking & Hiking
Because of the Cayman Islands' flat grade, walking is a popular activity on all three islands. There's plenty to see and, except along West Bay Road (parallel to Seven Mile Beach) and in George Town, there's very little traffic to contend with. Walking is a good way to meet local residents; it's traditional to greet others with "Good morning," or "Good afternoon," and a smile.
Hikers will also find marked trails. The Mastic Trail on the east end of Grand Cayman features several eco-areas and guided walks. Another excellent hike, this one self-guided, is found at the Queen Elizabeth 11 Botanic Park; for more information about these trails and hikes, see the Grand Cayman chapter, page 129. Cayman Brac also has many marked trails of special interest to birders. More about these are found in the Cayman Brac chapter, page 243.
Midday heat can be intense, especially once you enter the interior of the island away from the cooling trade winds. Always carry water with you and be aware of the symptoms of heat exhaustion and sunstroke.
If you have an interest in caving, set aside time on Cayman Brac, at least for a day-trip. The caves here don't require any special gear other than a flashlight, and most can be reached easily using ladders or steps at the site. Some caves are home to bats, and most are composed of only a few rooms; see page 249 in the Cayman Brac chapter for details.
There are several courses on Grand Cayman. In the Seven Mile Beach area, golfers can choose either the par 71 course at The Links at SafeHaven or the Britannia course at the Hyatt Regency. Guests at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman can play the new nine-hole Blue Tip course. Also on Grand Cayman is the Sunrise Family Golf Centre in East End. See pages 195 and 169 for details.
Hash House Harriers (running club), Box 525 GT, Grand Cayman, Roger Davies, [telephone] 345-949-2001. The club meets every Monday at 5:30, at a variety of locations.
On Grand Cayman, most of the larger resorts have tennis facilities. You'll find courts at Grand Caymanian, Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman, Royal Reef Resort, and Westin Casuarina.
Among condominium properties, courts are found at The Anchorage, Aqua Bay Club, The Avalon, Britannia Villas, Casa Caribe, Christopher Columbus, Coralstone Club, Plantation Village Beach Resort, Sea Island, Seven mile Beach Resort and Club, Silver Sands Condominiums, Tamarind Bay Condominiums, Treasure Island Condominiums, Turtle Beach Villas, and Victoria House.
Villa properties with tennis courts are found at Barefoot Kai, The Bridge House, Kai Ku, Rum Run Villa, Thatch Hill, Villa Zara, Finger Tip, Gardens of the Kai, Island Houses, Kaiboose, Pools of the Kai, Tara Flora, Tara Sand, and We'll Sea.
On Cayman Brac, tennis courts are found at Brac Reef Beach Resort. On Little Cayman, tennis facilities are available at Little Cayman Beach Resort and the Southern Cross Club.
See the Where to Stay section in each chapter for a full description of the facilities. For information on special events, call the Tennis Club, Box 1813 GT, Grand Cayman, Scott Smith, [telephone] 345-949-9464.
In the Water
The Cayman Islands are universally recognized as a top dive destination. Since 1957, with the founding of the Caribbean's first dive operation on Grand Cayman, these islands have caught the attention of the diving world. Bob Soto established that first operation and today over 40 such establishments provide service on the three islands.
The Cayman Islands Watersports Operators Association (CIWOA) estimates that about a third of all overnight visitors are scuba divers and about 80% enjoy some form of watersports during their stay (plus, about a fourth of the cruise ship passengers enjoy watersports). The popularity of these activities continues to grow but, because of the large number of dive sites in these islands, visitors can still enjoy a feeling of discovery. Strict marine laws protect the beautiful reefs and ensure pristine dive sites.
DIVING THE CAYMAN ISLANDS
* Dive sites start close to shore in shallow water (25 to 60 feet).
* A variety of dive experiences is available, for beginners as well as advanced divers.
* Quality dive operations are found throughout the islands.
* Instruction is readily available through any of the certification agencies (PADI, NAUI, SSI, NASDS, and YMCA).
* Green sea turtles are often sighted on dives.
* Scuba instruction is available in many languages.
* Much of the marine life is approachable, such as the rays at Stingray City.
* Visibility is excellent year-round.
* Calm water is assured on the leeward side of each island (dive operations are so confident of this that many guarantee diving 365 days a year).
* Strict conservation laws protect the reefs.
* The Caribbean's oldest underwater photography school, Cathy Church's, is located here.
* A hyperbaric recompression chamber is available 24 hours a day.
ECO ALERT: Every year, members of CIWOA organize and participate in reef and ocean floor clean-up projects. The organization also works to encourage young Caymanians to consider a career in the dive industry by offering free PADI certification courses and snorkeling lessons for local schoolchildren and scout groups during special programs. Call the CIWOA at [telephone] 345-949-8522 for more information.
Over 200 sites lure divers of all abilities, from beginners looking for shore excursions and shallow reef dives to advanced divers seeking wreck and cave explorations. You'll find professional assistance from dive operators on each of the three islands. These include resort courses, where you can sample diving after a one-day course; full certification courses, which will award you a "C" card; and advanced courses to teach you the use of scuba computers, the skills of drift diving, and even underwater photography.
Incredible visibility, measured at 100 to 150 feet, helps make these islands such spectacular dive destinations. With year-round water temperatures of 77[degrees] to 83[degrees], visitors can dive comfortably and enjoy an underwater playground that's filled with marine life.
Grand Cayman offers approximately 130 dive spots, many less than half a mile from shore. The island is surrounded by approximately 60 miles of drop-offs. One of the most popular shallow dive sites is Stingray City on the North Sound. This 12-foot dive is memorable for presence of many southern Atlantic stingrays that divers and snorkelers can feed by hand.
Cayman Brac also offers drop-offs as well as coral gardens and caves. Little Cayman is especially noted for Bloody Bay Wall, a drop-off that begins at just 18 feet below the surface and plunges to over 1,000 feet. Visibility here often ranges to 200 feet.
The appeal of these dive sites has been maintained even in the face of rising tourism and an increasing number of divers. Strict marine conservation laws ensure the safety of the reefs and the marine life (see Marine Conservation, pages 35). Dive sites are protected with permanent moorings (over 200 in the islands) so boats can moor rather than anchor and risk damage to the fragile reefs.
To protect both the safety of the reefs and the divers who come to this island, Cayman Islands watersports operators adhere to strict regulations. The CIWOA was founded in 1981 to ensure the safety of the divers and the reefs. Members emphasize good neutral buoyancy techniques to prevent damage to the reefs resulting from improper positioning in the water. Also, CIWOA dive boats visit only those sites with moorings installed by the Department of the Environment's Protection and Conservation unit.
Divers who want to advance their skills will also find technical instruction on Grand Cayman. Divetech Ltd. (345-946-5658, www.divetech.com) offers technical diving instruction, including certification in the use of Nitrox/EANx.
ENRICHED AIR DIVING
Nitrox is a combination of nitrogen and oxygen that has long been used by military and technical divers and has been approved for use by the CIWOA. Typical air has 79% nitrogen and 21% oxygen. Combinations with a greater percentage of oxygen are called Enriched Air Nitrox (EANx). The EANx mixture has 36% oxygen and is often used for cave and wreck diving.
This mixture increases the safety factor, making the nitrogen accumulation on a deep dive the same as for a dive in waters 10 to 20 feet shallower. It reduces the possibility of both decompression sickness and fatigue following a dive. Also, divers can enjoy more bottom time with no decompression or a shorter decompression time beyond those limits. These factors make it desirable for divers not in peak physical condition and for older divers.
To use EANx, you must be a certified advanced open-water diver with a minimum of 10 open-water dives logged. The course for EANx use runs about US$200-225, including four hours of classroom instruction and two EANx dives.
Several companies, including Ocean Frontiers, Sunset Divers, and Reef Divers, offer rebreather certification. Rebreathers offer divers a silent dive with no bubbles or noise and are available for rent to divers certified in their use.
To share the company of other divers, contact the British Sub Aqua Club (Cayman Islands Divers, Branch #360 BSAC, PO Box 1515 GT, Grand Cayman, [telephone] 345-949-0685). Visiting divers are welcome to join activities.
The "Diver Down" red and white flag is required throughout the Cayman Islands for both divers and snorkelers in the water outside an identified swimming area.
Diving in the Cayman Islands is taken seriously as a business and the operators here are excellent, upholding the highest safety standards. Two local organizations, Cayman Islands Watersports Operators Association and Cayman National Watersports Association, help maintain the excellent professional level.
In this section we've listed the many dive operators on Grand Cayman. Because of the island's small size, many operators offer complimentary shuttles to pick divers up at their hotels and bring them to their departure sites. Cayman Brac and Little Cayman dive operators are listed in the Adventures--In the Water sections of those chapters. For more on scuba diving and dive operators, don't miss the tourism board's official dive Web site at www.divecayman.ky.
UNDERWATER ADVENTURE COSTS
(These represent average prices in US$)
Snorkel trip $30-$63
Stingray City snorkel trip $30-$45
Snorkel equipment rental $5-$10
Stingray City dive $45-$50
One-tank dive $40-$61
Two-tank dive $65-$85
Three-tank dive $100-$125
Scuba tanks (per tank) $5-$9
Wet suit rental $10-$16
Night dive $39-$55
Resort course $75-$100
Scuba certification course $350-$450
Nitrox certification course $150-$200Abanks' Diving, 96 South Church Street, George Town, [telephone] 345-945-1444, www abanksdivers.com.ky. This NAUI- and PADI-affiliated operator offers two dives daily. Along with certification courses, they also offer snorkel rentals.
Ambassador Divers, George Town, [telephone] 345-949-8839, www.ambassadordivers.com. This PADI-affiliated operation specializes in computer diving. They offer two daily dives on a 12-person boat.
Aqua Adventures, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-949-1616. This company takes up to a maximum of eight divers, with five dives daily.
Aquanauts Ltd., Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 888-SUN-NUTS or 345-945-1990, www.aquanautsdiving.com. With PADI, NAUI, and SSI affiliations, this operator offers four daily dives on a 16-person boat. Instruction and customized dive packages available.
Cayman Diving School, George Town, [telephone] 345-949-4729, www.caymandivingschool.com. Specializing in instruction, this school caters to all skill levels, from resort to dive master. The PADI-, SSI-, and YMCA-affiliated operation has been in business for 21 years and offers instruction in several languages.
MULTILINGUAL DIVE INSTRUCTION
Cayman Diving School offers dive instruction in English, German, French, Italian, and Spanish. International visitors will also find multiple languages on their Web site, www.caymandivingschool.com.
Divetech/Turtle Reef Divers, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 888-945-5656 or 345-946-5658, www divetech.com. Specialty and technical training (including Nitrox) are available at this operation, now in its fifth year in business. Certification, resort course, and night dives offered. PADI and NAUI affiliated.
Divers Down, Coconut Place, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-916-3751, www.diversdown.net. This operation now in its fourth year is PADI affiliated and runs two dives daily.
Divers Supply, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-949-7621, firstname.lastname@example.org. This PADI operation has certification and resort courses, as well as Stingray City and night dives. In operation for 12 years.
Don Foster's Dive Cayman Ltd., George Town, [telephone] 800-83-DIVER or 345-945-5132, www.donfoster.com. This operator is PADI, NAUI and SSI affiliated and offers three dives daily. Their boat has space for 20 divers.
Eden Rock Diving Center Ltd., George Town, [telephone] 345-949-7243, www.edenrockdive.com. With its proximity to the cruise ship terminal, this is a popular operation that's been in business 15 years. Unlimited shore diving available to some of George Town's best sites. PADI, NAUI, and SSI affiliated.
Fisheye of Cayman, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 800-887-8569 or 345-945-4209. This operator has three custom-built boats and operates a complete underwater photography operation with rentals, processing, and repairs. PADI, NAUI, and YMCA affiliated.
Ocean Frontiers, East End, [telephone] 800-348-6096 or 345-947-0000, www.oceanfrontiers.com. This company offers free shuttle service to its East End location. Four or five dives daily. PADI affiliated.
Ollen Miller's Sun Divers, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-947-6606, email@example.com. Groups of up to eight divers are accommodated by this PADI-affiliated shop that offers three dives daily.
Peter Milburn's Dive Cayman, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-945-5770, www.petermilburndivecayman.com. For 29 years, this operator has run dives for many skill levels. Three dives daily. PADI, NAUI and SSI affiliated.
Red Sail Sports, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 800-255-6425 or 345-945-5965, www.redsail.com. With a main location adjacent to the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman and other locations at Westin Casuarina Resort and Marriott Grand Cayman, this operator has three dives daily with a boat capacity of 24. Complete dive packages available. PADI, NAUI, SSI, and NASDS affiliated.
Seasports, West Bay, [telephone] 345-949-3965, seasport@ wetstarty com. For 28 years, Seasports has catered to small groups, taking only two to eight divers per boat. Pickup by boat from hotels and condos along Seven Mile Beach. PADI and NAUI affiliated.
Sunset Divers, George Town, [telephone] 800-854-4767 or 345-949-7111, www.sunsethouse.com. At Sunset House. This 35-year operation has at least five daily dives as well as offshore diving at Sunset Reef. PADI, NAUI, SSI, YMCA, and NASDS affiliated.
Tortuga Divers Ltd., East End, [telephone] 345-947-2097, tortuga@ tortugadivers.com, www.tortugadivers.com. Located at Morritt's Tortuga Club, this operator is PADI affiliated.
ADVENTURE TALKS: SUNSET DIVERS
Ken Thompson of Sunset House and Sunset Divers talked with us about the world of Cayman diving. He can be reached at [telephone] 800-854-4767.
* How would you classify the diving in the Cayman Islands?
Diving in the Cayman Islands would not necessarily be classified as typically "adventurous," although it would probably be argued by some that it is. When I think of adventurous diving, isolated dive sites that are difficult to get to, or dangerous to attempt, come to mind. Neither of those qualities applies to diving in Grand Cayman.
We do have some of the best diving in the Caribbean, and there is growing interest in the niche area of technical diving. But rather than divers attempting to go deep, or seeking caves to explore, these divers are looking for the next logical step up from recreational diving, which will introduce them to new areas of interest. I'm referring to the use of nitrox and to rebreathers.
Both of these areas are readily available to the average diver and do not require incredible stamina, huge investments of time to learn, or a massive number of dives to master. Sunset Divers has invested in the qualified instructors and the necessary equipment in order to offer these programs. We stay ahead of most of the dive operations on the island.
* What can you tell us about your dives?
Our dive boat, Manta, offers all-day, three-tank dive trips to the more distant dive sites on the northeast and east end of Grand Cayman. These sites are not regularly dived by operations on the west side of the island as the distance is too far. But the Manta, the largest day boat on the island, regularly travels to these spots to do extended computer diving. For those who do not want to be out all day, we still offer computer diving on our regular dive boats so guests can maximize their bottom time, without spending additional money.
* What sets your operation apart from others on the island?
One feature that sets us apart from almost every other hotel on the island is that our boats leave from the hotel dock, and exciting shore diving is available right in front of the hotel. So when people read in our literature that shore diving is included in their dive package, they know they can step out of their hotel room and be in the water in minutes. It's so convenient.
What else do we offer? Towels on all our boats, drinking water, fresh fruit between dives to freshen the palate, and some of the most experienced dive instructors on the island. Sunset Divers' staff are qualified to teach open-water certifications, advanced or specialty ratings, as well as those divers wanting their instructor rating. We can teach recreational instructors to become technical instructors.
We understand what divers want, and give it to them. We have 48 secure lockers so guests can store tanks and gear near the dive area, and not have to carry it back and forth to their rooms. Our outdoor bar and patio are set up to allow divers to dress in casual attire (read bathing suits), to have lunch without having to worry about dressing up or drying off; and they don't get cold as they would in an air-conditioned restaurant. But if they want more formal dining, we have the full-service Sea Harvest Restaurant on the property.
For those divers who want to eat, sleep, and drink diving, the live-aboard is a good choice. You'll be with others who share your interest, and you won't waste time reaching dive sites; what seems like your personal yacht just whisks you there.
Cayman Aggressor IV, [telephone] 800-348-2628 or 345-949-5551, www.agressor.com. This George Town-based live-aboard has five professional staff members and a maximum of 18 guests. In operation for 23 years, it is PADI, NAUI and SSI affiliated and offers still- and video camera rentals. Divers enjoy sites off all three islands.
The Cayman Islands Department of Tourism's dive Web site, www.divecayman.ky, offers a free scuba diving newsletter via e-mail. The monthly newsletter includes dive packages and news of interest to divers. To sign up, visit their Web site.
Want to give scuba diving a try without the expense and time of a certification course? Try a resort course. This quick class gives basic instruction, practice in a swimming pool, and a shallow open-water dive with plenty of help from your divemaster. Your course is only good for that day's dive, but it is a good way to get a feel for the sport. Resort courses start about US$60.
For those curious about the undersea world but not ready to take the plunge for a full certification course, a tethered scuba experience (also called SASY) to depths of 20 feet is offered even to children (see pages 124 and 139 for more information).
If scuba diving is not for you, consider snorkeling. Many of Cayman's scenic reefs can be enjoyed in water just a few feet deep with equipment as limited as a mask and a snorkel. Snorkeling is an excellent introduction to the underwater beauty and rich marine life found in the Cayman waters. Just yards from shore, you can enjoy a look at colorful corals, graceful fans, and fish that include friendly sergeant majors, butterfly fish, and shy damselfish.
And don't feel that wreck diving is just for scuba divers. In Grand Cayman snorkelers can also view a wreck just a short swim from George Town's shores. The wreck of the Cali sits in shallow water and is an easy snorkel trip (see page 139). Most resorts offer snorkel equipment at little or no charge.
To prevent your mask from fogging, rub saliva on the inside of the lens. Dishwashing liquid and special alcohol-based non-fogging formulas may also be used.
Snorkel trips are offered by most dive operators, the most popular being the excursion to Stingray City (see page 175). Typically, these trips include drinks and often lunch following the snorkeling adventure. Complimentary shuttle services are sometimes offered.
For underwater fun, Atlantis Submarines, Nautilus, and Seaworld Explorer provide a peek at the marine world (see the George Town section, page 142). Atlantis plunges to a depth of 100 feet below the surface; Seaworld Explorer and Nautilus are semi-submersibles similar to a glass-bottom boat.
Another unique operation is Bubble Sub, a miniature sub which takes two people 50 feet below the surface for a bubble-like, 360-degree view. You'll be accompanied by a scuba diver who serves as your pilot, from the outside of the vessel! For more information, call a 345-916-DIVE or visit www.bubblesub.com.
Grand Cayman has long been the home of the Atlantis submarine, and it is now home base for the Nautilus as well. This 80-foot semi-submersible vessel takes groups on a one-hour tour to view the rich marine life of the bay. The sub goes out about three-fourths of a mile offshore, offering visitors a chance to view two shipwrecks and to watch a diver feed a variety of tropical fish. Good for families with children.
Both one-hour tours and a combination tour and snorkel excursion are offered. Both Tours visit Cheeseburger Reef, an area filled with colorful marine life. Call [telephone] 345-945-1355 or visit www.nautilus.ky.
As home of the Caribbean's oldest underwater photography school (Cathy Church's), Grand Cayman draws beginning and advanced underwater photographers. Stop in at any of these shops to rent underwater camera equipment, take lessons, or to have your shots developed. dive shops also offer camera rentals.
Cathy Church's Underwater Photo Centre, Sunset House Hotel, South Church Street and Coconut Place on West Bay Road, [telephone] 345-949-7415, fax 345-949-9770, www.cathychurch.com. One of the Caribbean's best known underwater photographers, Cathy Church, operates Cathy Church's Underwater Photo Centre at Sunset House Resort in George Town. Classes, rentals, and processing services are available.
Divers Supply, West Shore Centre on West Bay Road, [telephone] 345-949-4373, fax 345-949-0294.
Don Foster's Ocean Photo, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-945-5132; www.donfosters.com.
Fisheye Photographic Services, Cayman Falls on West Bay Road, [telephone] 345-945-4209, fax 345-945-4208.
Brac Aquatics Dive and Photo Centre, Brac Caribbean Beach Village, West End, [telephone] 800-544-2722 or 345-948-1429.
Reef Photo Video Center, Brac Reef Beach Resort, [telephone] 345-948-1340.
Reef Photo & Video Centre, Little Cayman Beach Resort, [telephone] 345-948-1033, fax 345-948-1040.
If you're not ready to gear up with the full underwater photography outfit, at least buy a disposable underwater camera. These generally work to a depth of 15 feet and are perfect for capturing memories of snorkel trips, Stingray City, and the underwater beauty of the Cayman Islands.
Video Camera Rentals
Along with the photo centers listed above, many dive shops (see page 93) offer video camera rental. Check with your dive shop of choice for availability.
On the Water
If swimming's your thing, call the Stingray Swim Club of Cayman ([telephone] 345-949-8105, www.caymanswimming.com). The club hosts several competitions and visitors are welcome to participate in local events.
Swimming along Seven Mile Beach is usually easy, with little current. However, keep an eye out for watersports activity--it's a popular spot for windsurfers, Jet Skis, and kayaks, too.
All beaches in the Cayman Islands are public. This doesn't mean that you can enter any beach, however; land access to some beaches is private.
Fishing is more than just a popular activity, it's a national obsession. Tournaments draw locals and visitors alike for a chance at prize dollars and the opportunity to show off trophy fish. Catch-and-release is encouraged by local captains and applies to all catch that will not be eaten and all billfish that aren't record contenders. Fly-fishing continues to grow in popularity.
Regardless of your experience level, you can go on a fishing jaunt. There are half- and full-day excursions; most include services of a captain and crew as well as tackle and bait. Most of the fishing trips average four to six passengers.
Be sure to book your charter at least 24 hours in advance and plan to put down a hefty deposit (about 50%). In making arrangements and paying your deposit, make sure you are working directly with the captain or crew members themselves. Also, see what items you'll be expected to provide, such as food and drinks. Charter operators on Grand Cayman are listed below; those on Cayman Brac and Little Cayman are listed in the Adventures sections of those chapters.
If you take a charter, it's traditional to tip the captain and crew. Tips average 10-15% of the charter fee.
FISHING CHARTER COSTS
Taking out a charter boat is not an inexpensive proposition, but for many visitors it's the highlight of their trip. The cost of a half-day charter begins at about US$600 and may run as high as $1,000-$1,500 for a full-day excursion with state-of-the art equipment and tackle. Prices vary with the operator, and some charge an additional fee for more than four anglers, but here's an idea of what this outdoor adventure will run:
Deep-sea charters, full day $900-$1,500
Deep-sea charters, half-day $600-$700
Bone/tarpon/reef fishing, full day $800-$900
Bone/tarpon/reef fishing, half day $500Charters seek gamefish, including blue marlin, yellowfin tuna, wahoo, dolphin (dorado) and barracuda, all caught year-round (the blue marlin is the most prized catch). Strikes occur as close as a quarter-mile from land at the point where the turquoise waters drop into inky darkness and deep water begins.
BLUE MARLIN: This top gamefish is often caught on light tackle while trolling the deep water around the islands. It is a fighter, a favorite with deep-sea fishermen, and can be caught both on artificial lures and with whole bait fish. Blue marlin here don't reach the proportions of those found off some islands (they average 200 pounds or less in the Cayman Islands), but they are caught year-round.
The government of the Cayman Islands encourages the catch and release of the blue marlin to help maintain numbers in these waters. It also offers free citations to anglers who release their marlin; a request form can be obtained from the boat's captain or the charter boat booking office. Also, captains can point anglers to local taxidermists that make trophy mounts for released fish based on their estimated size.
DOLPHIN: Not the mammal. This gamefish is noted for its heavy "forehead" and high speed. At 10 to 15 pounds each, the bright blue-and-yellow dolphin are found near floating debris or patches of seaweed. Drawn to feathers and spoons, the fish also like bait such as flying fish (its favorite diet), squid, and mullet. Summer is the best time for landing dolphin.
YELLOWFIN TUNA: Summer months especially bring this fighting fish to Cayman anglers. Averaging 30 to 40 pounds, the yellowfin is a powerful swimmer. It is usually caught on heavy line (its size can run much larger than average). The yellowfin is highly sought after and is commonly voted the best tuna for eating. Yellowfin tuna usually are caught during the spring.
BLACKFIN TUNA: This tuna is often caught by drift fishermen and is an excellent fighter. Weighing six to eight pounds, the blackfin is a good eating fish.
SKIPJACK TUNA: This tuna is sometimes caught by fishermen trolling for larger tuna. It averages 12 to 15 pounds.
WAHOO: Considered one of the best gamefish because of its fighting ability, the wahoo can obtain a speed of up to 50 mph. This deepwater fish is good for eating, and is a member of the mackerel family. Fish for wahoo from November through March. The following booking agencies and independent Caymanian captains can arrange charter excursions and fishing off the Cayman coasts.
Fly-fishermen should bring all their equipment, as guides and charters do not supply saltwater fly rods.
Bayside Watersports, Morgan's harbour Marina, West Bay, [telephone] 345-949-3200. This operator has 10 boats ranging from a 20-foot Seacraft to a 53-foot sport-fisherman (max. of eight persons). Deep-sea, bone, tarpon, and reef fishing available.
Black Princess Charters, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-949-0400 or 345-916-6319, www.fishgrandcayman.com. These 17-to 54-foot boats offer deep-sea fishing (full- or half-day) or a half-day of bone, tarpon and reef fishing.
Burton's Tourist Information and Activity Services, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-949-6598. This company can arrange any type of fishing charter.
Captain Asley's Watersports, George Town, [telephone] 345-949-3054. Both deep-sea and reef fishing are offered by this company, which has three boats ranging from 25 to 41 feet for 10-35 persons.
Captain Ronald Ebanks, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-947-3146, www.flyfishgrandcayman.com. If you're interested in fly fishing, call this operator who has a 17-foot and a 24-foot boat.
Island Girl Charters, George Town, [telephone] 345-947-3029, firstname.lastname@example.org. Island Girl specializes in deep-sea fishing and live-bait, drift fishing for yellowfin tuna and marlin. Also offers night fishing for snapper and shark. Charters for up to four participants are offered on a 28-foot boat.
Just Fish'n, Hyatt Canal, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-916-0113.
Peacemaker Charters, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-947-8548, email@example.com. Up to eight persons may be accommodated on this 48-foot boat for deep-sea and reef fishing.
Sea Star Charters, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-949-1016. This operator has three vessels and offers bonefishing as well as deep-sea fishing for up to five or six anglers.
BONEFISH: These three- to eight-pound fish are found in shallow flats and afford any angler a good fight. On Grand Cayman, good bonefishing can be found in the North Sound, South Sound, and Frank Sound areas as well as the coastal flats of South Hole Sound Lagoon. Another hot spot is off Little Cayman and on the southwest coast of Cayman Brac in the shallows. These fish can often be seen mudding in the shallow areas.
Bonefish can be caught at any time of day, although your success rate depends on many factors, such as weather and tides. Bonefish are caught on the catch-and-release system.
TARPON: Tarpon up to eight pounds (and up to 15 pounds on Little Cayman), are found on Grand Cayman's North Sound and in Tarpon Pond, a landlocked, mangrove-shaded 15-acre pond on Little Cayman. Tarpon are also caught above the mosquito-control dikes on Grand Cayman. These fish average three to four pounds. To locate the canals, ask a local resident (and bring along insect repellent--they don't call these mosquito-control dikes for nothing!). Light tackle and saltwater fly rods are preferred for catching these fighting fish. Tarpon are caught on a catch-and-release system.
PERMIT: Weighing up to 35 pounds, permit are caught on light tackle in shallow waters. A good fighter, the permit is a cousin of the common pompano. The permit has a jack-shaped body and is found over sandy bottoms.
COMMON POMPANO: Much smaller than the permit, the common pompano averages about eight pounds and is found in schools along Seven Mile Beach as well as on the North Sound side of Barkers. They are caught with bait or artificial lures.
BARRACUDA: This toothy species strikes spoons and can also be caught by fly-fishermen. A good fighter with a strong runs and frequent jumps, the fish is usually found just below the surface.
Barracuda should not be eaten, due to the risk of contracting ciguatera, or tropical fish poisoning. Barracuda consume fish that have dined on algae containing microorganisms that produce toxic substances. The toxin remains in the barracuda and can be deadly.
The many miles of reefs that surround these islands provide a playground for fishermen in search of light tackle action. After chumming to attract the fish, a variety of species can be sought, usually with live bait, such as squid and conch.
GROUPER: The grouper is the largest family of saltwater fish and makes an excellent meal. The Nassau grouper, with mottled coloring, is the most popular in these waters and is usually under three feet in size.
JACK CREVALLE: A tireless fighter, this jack averages five to eight pounds and is often found in large schools.
MUTTON SNAPPER: Another good dining choice, the mutton snapper is brightly colored and has a black spot on each side of its body Running five to 10 hounds, this fish is often caught with bucktails and plug
YELLOWTAIL SNAPPER: This snapper is sought for its tireless fighting, as well as for its tasty flesh. Usually weighing one to 11h pounds, the fish is often taken while drift fishing near the reef after chumming.
Fishing tournaments are major events in these islands. One of the largest is the Cayman Islands International Fishing Tournament in May. This event attracts anglers from around the world who come to test their skills. See Festivals & Events, page 49, for details on prizes and contacts.
The Cayman Islands Angling Club and the Rotary Club also sponsor local fishing tournaments for both residents and visitors. The CI Angling Club holds tournaments in February, March, May, at the end of August and in November. If you'd like to meet other anglers, call about attending one of their meetings ([telephone] 345-949-7099, firstname.lastname@example.org); they welcome visitors. Another good way to "talk fish" is to stop in at the Flying Bridge Bar at the Indies Suites ([telephone] 345-945-5025). Tournament fishermen Ronnie and Bunnie Foster hear plenty of tall tales here. The Rotary Club hosts its tournament in September; for details, [telephone] 345-949-8206.
Sailing & Boating
Sailing excursions are another popular way to enjoy the islands. Charters, sunset cruises, booze cruises, rollicking "pirate" cruises, and more are offered to entertain vacationers, especially on Grand Cayman. Do-it-yourselfers will find plenty of smaller watercraft: ocean kayaks, Sunfish, Hobie Cats, WaveRunners, and more. Sailors can contact the Grand Cayman Sailing Club (Box 30513 SMB, Grand Cayman, BWI, [telephone] 345-945-4383 or 947-7913) for information on sailing programs.
Rental prices vary, but expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $125 an hour, depending on the type of craft. These listings are on Grand Cayman.
Cayman Islands Sailing Club [telephone] 345-947-7913
Cayman Windsurfing [telephone] 345-947-7492
Red Sail Sports [telephone] 877-RED-SAIL or 345-945-5965
Unlike other Caribbean islands, such as St. Martin, Antigua, and the Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands do not offer bareboat charters or crewed yachts. In fact, the islands have only limited yachting facilities. The Cayman Islands Yacht Club (PO Box 30985 SMB, Grand Cayman, BWI, [telephone] 345-945-4322, fax 345-4432, email@example.com) has 152 slips. It offers berthing facilities, fuel, electricity, and water hook-ups for craft up to 70 feet. No laundry, store, restaurant, or other amenities are available at this North Sound marina.
The Harbour House Boatyard and Marina (PO Box 10550 AP, Grand Cayman, BWI, [telephone] 345-947-1307, fax 947-6093, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.harbourhousemarina.com) provides dockage, a small boat slipway, small and large boat storage, and more. This is a working dockyard. The marina is located on Marina Drive at Prospect Park.
Sailors can contact the Grand Cayman Sailing Club (PO Box 30513 SMB, Grand Cayman, BWI, [telephone] 345-945-4383 or 947-7913) for more information on sailing programs.
WATERSPORTS ADVENTURE COSTS
(The following represent average prices in US$)
Windsurfing rentals, per hour $40
WaveRunner rentals, per half-hour $50-$65
Ocean kayak rentals, per hour $15-$22
Catamaran rentals, per hour $40
Banana boat rentals, per hour $35
Glass-bottom boat ride, per trip $19-$35
Dinner cruises $45-$68
Snorkel equipment $5-$15
Day-sail $40-$65Water Toys
You'll find plenty of water fun in the islands as well, especially at the major resort centers. WaveRunners, aqua trikes, viewboards, Sunsearcher floats, banana boat rides, paddle cats, paddleboats, and toys for kids of all ages are available to rent. Look for this fun along Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman, and, to a much more limited extent, at Brac Reef Beach Resort on Cayman Brac, and Little Cayman Beach Resort on Little Cayman.
Windsurfing operators are found on Seven Mile Beach and in East End, the top choice for serious windsurfing aficionados. There are two dedicated windsurfing operators in Grand Cayman. Cayman Windsurf ([telephone] 345-947-7492), on the east end at Morritt's Tortuga Club and on Seven Mile Beach at SafeHaven, is a BiC Center; beginners are welcome. The east end is a top windsurfing area because of its stronger winds. Trade winds of 15 to 25 knots blow during the winter months, dropping to 10 to 15 knots in the summer.
Fortunately, you don't have to do all the work on your vacation. Let someone else man the helm and just relax for awhile aboard a sunset cruise. It's a great chance to watch for the "green flash," that peculiar meteorological phenomenon that occurs when the sun falls from a cloudless sky into a calm sea. Watch the horizon as soon as the sun begins to touch the sea and continue to watch for a momentary green flash, one that's often sought but rarely seen.
SUNSET & DINNER CRUISE OPERATORS
Bayside Watersports [telephone] 345-949-1750
Black Princess Charters [telephone] 345-949-0400
Cayman Delight Cruises [telephone] 345-949-6738
Crosby Ebanks C & G Watersports [telephone] 345-945-4049
Jolly Roger [telephone] 345-945-SAIL
Kirk Sea Tours, Ltd. [telephone] 345-949-7278
Peacemaker Charters [telephone] 345-916-2478
Red Sail Sports [telephone] 345-947-2097 or 345-946-5484In the Air
Private pilots may contact the Cayman Islands Flying Club, Carl McCoy, President, PO Box 1725 GT, Grand Cayman, [telephone] 345-949-2891, fax 345-949-6821.
If you are a pilot, don't miss Cayman Caravan, held each June. The event features a fly-in from the US across Cuba; up to 150 planes have taken part in recent years. The event also includes an air show over Seven Mile Beach, displays, safety seminars, and live air-sea rescue demonstrations. For information, call 843-342-4439 or visit www cayman-caravan.com.
When you're ready to see a more secluded side of the Cayman Islands, consider a day-trip to Little Cayman. The sister islands are excellent destinations for serious fishermen and divers and a good way to sample the islands (and perhaps consider them for your next trip).
Flights depart Grand Cayman for Little Cayman for a day of scuba diving and exploration. The trip departs Grand Cayman at 7:30 am and returns at 5 pm. The day trip includes a two-tank dive on Bloody Bay Wall, lunch, and an optional island tour. For more information, call [telephone] 345-949-5252 or visit www.islandair.ky. (Island Air also offers day trips from Grand Cayman to Havana, Cuba for a day of sightseeing and Montego Bay, Jamaica for a day of golf.)
You can also opt for charter service to Cayman Brac. For more information call the charter division at [telephone] 345-949-0241, fax 345-949-7044 or visit www.islandair.info.
Helicopter tours of Grand Cayman are another option. Check with Grand Cayman Helicopters for a 45-minute tour of the entire island, a 20-minute look at Stingray City from the air, or a 10-minute view of Seven Mile Beach. Tour prices range from $69-$280. For more information, call [telephone] 345-943-4354 or visit www.caymanislandhelicopters.com (there is a discount for booking online).
If you're ready to enjoy a bird's-eye view of Grand Cayman, sign up for a parasail ride over Seven Mile Beach. This is the only place in the Cayman Islands where parasailing is offered. Cost is about $60.
Abank's Watersports & Tours, Ltd. [telephone] 345-945-1444
Aqua Delights [telephone] 345-945-4786
Cayman Skyriders [telephone] 345-949-8745
Kirk Sea Tours and Watersports [telephone] 345-949-7278
Parasailing Professionals [telephone] 345-916-2953
Red Sail Sports [telephone] 345-947-2097
or 345-946-5484On Wheels
Bicycling is another fun and generally safe way to see the islands. Each island has bicycles for rent. A favorite with bicyclists is Little Cayman, where nearly every accommodation--whether a B&B, hotel or resort--offers complimentary use of bicycles to its guests. Cayman Brac is also a good option for cyclists; bikes are for rent and roads have very little traffic.
For more on cycling, contact the Cayman Islands Cycling Association, Box 456, George Town, Grand Cayman, BWI, [telephone] 345-949-8666. The association has events scheduled throughout the year. Also, check The Caymanian Compass on Fridays for information.
Open-air Jeeps are so ubiquitous they could be considered symbols of the adventurous Cayman lifestyle. They're available from most of the car rental agencies (see list on page 63).
Skateboarders (both local residents and visitors) flock to the Black Pearl Skate and Surf Park. Located east of George Town at Cayman Grand Harbour, they say this is the world's largest outdoor concrete skate park. For more information, call 345-947-4161 or visit www.blackpearl.ky.
Horseback riding provides an excellent opportunity to tour some of the island's quieter sections as well as its beaches. You'll find three operators on Grand Cayman. Most horseback riding on the island is along the powdery beaches, an excellent place for practiced riders to romp and beginners to enjoy a slow walk on cushioned sand.
Honey Suckle Trail Rides ([telephone] 345-947-7976 or 916-3363) offers rides for both experienced and new riders with special attention to children. Both Western and English tack is available, as well as a variety of horses from thoroughbred to quarter horse. Guided trail rides and sunset rides are popular. Rides start at US $65.
ADVENTURE TALKS: HONEY SUCKLE TRAIL RIDES
Penny Rivers of Honey Suckle Trail Rides spoke with us about her trail rides.
* What types of rides do you offer?
Our rides are approximately an hour and 15 minutes on the beach, through the water, along a short trail and back down the beach. We also offer a two-hour guaranteed private ride, all captured on video.
* What should visitors wear?
Jeans and sneakers are fine; people even wear shorts.
* What level of riders do you accommodate?
We can accommodate experienced riders, novices and children.
* What types of horses do you have?
We have quarter horses, paints, Appaloosas (including a former barrel racer) and a thoroughbred. When visitors book the ride we need to know their skill level so we put them on a horse to suit. Again, we can accommodate all riders. We also provide pickup service within the Seven Mile beach area.
Experienced and new riders can enjoy beach rides with Pampered Ponies ([telephone] 345-945-2262 or 916-2540, fax 345-945-8813, www.ponies.ky). The operator offers early morning beach rides as well as romantic sunset rides. Full moon rides are especially popular, and private rides are also available.
ADVENTURE TALKS: PAMPERED PONIES
Danny Catt of Pampered Ponies spoke with us.
* What types of rides do you offer?
We offer a 9 am and a 5:30 pm ride during the summer and we add a 10:30 am and 4 pm ride in the winter. We can accommodate large groups up to 12 riders. We also offer a moonlight ride, starting three days before the night of the full moon. It also lasts one hour. We also offer private rides (just you or your group) for an additional US$10 per person. We accept Visa, MasterCard, travelers checks and cash. All of our rides are guided. We have one guide for small rides and two for larger groups. We will send two guides with two riders if requested and we pay close attention to children. We are the only horseback riding establishment in The Cayman Islands with insurance provided by Lloyds of London.
* What should visitors bring with them? Jeans? Swimsuits?
Visitors should dress comfortably. We have everything they will need to enjoy the beach rides. We do suggest they bring a camera because they will want to remember this for a long time.
* What level of riders do you accommodate?
We can accommodate any type of rider. We have gentle well-trained horses that seven-year-old children ride and we have some horses that allow the customers to do a little Caribbean beach jumping. We use washed up driftwood for jumps along the beach. We are also willing to split a group ride. If there are six riders and only three want to run, one trail guide will run with the first three and another guide will stay and walk with the other three riders. If the trail boss feels that the riders are good enough, then they will be allowed to run ahead of the pack by themselves (within eyesight of the guide) and then run back to the pack. We do have large, first class, big and beautiful horses. They are powerful but gentle. We have a professional trainer on site.
* Describe the itinerary for one of your rides.
The rides all start the same. We expect at least one tourist to be somewhat afraid at first. After we are all loaded up we head down to the beach. We start out at a walk to warm up the horses and the riders. This also gives the guides a chance to sum up the riders' abilities. As the riders get comfortable we offer to pick up the pace and offer the chance for you to run. Some are ready at this point and some are not. All of our customers leave our ranch with a smile and most of them come back and ride on their next visit.
Nicki's Private Beach Rides ([telephone] 345-916-3530 or 945-5839) offers guided 90-minute rides along quiet trails; groups are no larger than four riders. No children under 12 are accepted. Prices for summer rides begin at CI$50 or US$63; winter rates are CI$56 or US$70, and transportation to the departure site is included.
One of the most popular eco-tourism activities in these islands is birding. Approximately 200 species of birds make their home on these small islands (50 species are known to breed here), from the magnificent frigate bird, with a seven-foot wingspan, to tiny hummingbirds and Cayman parrots.
Silver Thatch Excursions offers specialized birding trips to birding sites such as the Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary, a haven for waterfowl, as well as Meagre Bay Pond, Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, and the Willie Ebanks Farm to view endangered West Indian whistling ducks. Founders Geddes and Janet Hislop offer private tours. [telephone] 345-925-7401, fax 345-949-3342, email@example.com, www.earthfoot.org/places/ ky001.htm.
ADVENTURE TALKS: SILVER THATCH EXCURSIONS
We spoke with Geddes Hislop, of Silver Thatch Excursions.
* How do your tours differ from a traditional guided tour?
Unlike most other tours, Silver Thatch offers a more intimate and participative look at Cayman's natural and historic heritage. These are not just sightseeing trips. Participants can expect some walking and "close encounters" with native plants, wildlife, etc., and come away with not only pictures, but an experience.
* Can you tell us more about your Mastic Trail tour?
This is one of my personal favorites. It's one of Cayman's oldest and best-preserved traditional footpaths. It runs through the Mastic Reserve, the second largest nature reserve on the island encompassing reputedly the oldest stand of native woodland left on the island. There is nowhere else in the Cayman Islands like it: historic sites, medicinal plants, Cayman parrots, woodpeckers, doves and other colorful bird life abound; magnificent trees--rare, large and some twisted into unusual shapes. At the right time of year, the trail is lush with wild-flowers, including common and rare native orchids. Participants can expect a leisurely but interesting two-hour walk through this magnificent woodland where even many locals have not trod!
* Can you tell us more about your birdwatching tours?
Again one of my favorites! I personally like birdwatching because my style is to find the birds instead of picking "one good spot" and staying there for an hour to see what shows up. With my background in wildlife management and research, my approach is to think of the birds as a function of their habitat. So, depending on the time of year, the weather, the interests of the participants (parrots are almost always on the list!), we get in the vehicle early in the morning and we're gone for about five hours. Imagine sipping coffee while sitting on the edge of a meadow waiting for the parrots to rouse and fly across just as the sun rises!
* What ecological and historical offerings of Grand Cayman would you especially like travelers to explore?
Without hesitation I would recommend the Mastic Trail as our unique and ultimate eco-experience. For the history-minded, I offer walking tours of the West Bay and the capital, George Town's, historic districts. This brings you face to face with the historic architectural treasures hidden within Cayman's modern facade.
Serious birders should consider attending a meeting of the Cayman Islands Bird Club. The group meets monthly to discuss seasonal sightings. Call the National Trust at [telephone] 345-949-0121 to check on meeting times.
Another good source of birding information is Rudy Powery of Rudy's Travellers Tours ([telephone] 345-949-3208, fax 345-949-1155). The president of the Bird Club, Powery organizes birding tours around the island.
Each of these islands includes protected sanctuaries and good birding sites. Little Cayman, home of the largest colony of red-footed boobies in the Caribbean, is a favorite with serious birders. Guided walks are available on Sundays. The island is also home to Patricia Bradley, author of Birds of the Cayman Islands (see Booklist, page 297), considered the best source of information on the islands' feathered residents.
Grand Cayman now offers an eco-tourism activity that is a favorite with both children and adults: turtle releases. Offered by the Cayman Turtle Farm in West Bay (see page 234), these annual events release tagged green sea turtles at the public beach; occasionally, groups sponsor special releases at other sites throughout the island.
National Trust Projects
Many of the conservation projects on the Cayman Islands have been brought about due to the efforts of the National Trust. Founded 1987, the trust is charged with conservation of lands, national features and submarine areas of beauty, historic or environmental importance, and the protection of flora and fauna. The National Trust has committees representing each of the eight districts on Grand Cayman and one for Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. To meet its goals, the work of the trust includes several ongoing programs.
The Land Reserves Program sets aside land for nature preserves throughout the islands. These important facilities include the Mastic Reserve, Salina Reserve, Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and the Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary on Grand Cayman; the Brac Parrot Reserve on Cayman Brac; and the Booby Pond Nature Reserve on Little Cayman.
The Biodiversity Program encourages scientists to visit the islands for their research and to assist in trust projects.
The Priority Species Program identifies local wildlife in need of special protection. These projects have included the Blue Iguana Conservation Program. Volunteers also take a census every three years of the parrot populations on Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac to monitor this bird. Research has also been conducted on the West Indian whistling duck. Other projects include a bat conservation program and an endangered plant program.
To learn more about these projects, check out the trust's Web site at www caymannationaltrust.org or write National Trust for the Cayman Islands, PO Box 31116 SMB, Grand Cayman, [telephone] 345-949-0121, fax 345-949-7494. While in George Town, stop by the offices on Courts Road off Eastern Avenue.
NATIONAL TRUST HERITAGE PASSPORT
The National Trust offers a program called Heritage One, an attraction "passport." The passport allows a 25% discount on admission to four popular attractions: the Cayman Islands National Museum, Cayman Turtle Farm, Pedro St. James National Historic Site, and Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. Each time the passport is used, it is stamped. You'll also receive a special coin as a souvenir from each attraction with its logo on one side and the Heritage One logo on the other.
To purchase a Heritage One pass, visit one of the four attractions, or check with your hotel concierge, car rental office, post office, or the tourism board. There is no expiration date on the card.
One of the largest projects of the National Trust is the Salina Reserve, a 650-acre nature reserve on the north coast. Although not open to the public, the reserve is an important ecological project that combines wetlands and woodlands and offers nesting sites for parrots, caves with bat roosts, and several acres of habitat for the rare blue iguana.
Another major project is the conservation of the Central Mangrove Wetland, a long-term effort to preserve the wetland that flows into the North Sound. Fundamental to many natural processes, the wetland filters the ground waters and provides a flow of nutrients into the sound. Those nutrients are essential for the food chain upon which the marine life of the North Sound thrive. About 1,500 acres of this area is currently protected as an Environmental Zone under Marine Parks Law (see page 35 for a description of the current Marine Protection laws). The trust is now working to increase the wetland protection with land purchases. The entire wetland spans about 8,500 acres and is still largely undeveloped. The wetland also provides moisture that later falls in the form of rain over the central and western regions of the island (a rainfall that's 40% greater than seen on the eastern side of the island). This region is the home of many species, such as West Indian whistling ducks, Grand Cayman parrots, hickatees, agoutis, and marine life.
ED Along with its eco-tourism activities, the National Trust is charged with preserving the natural, historic, and maritime history of Cayman through preservation of areas, sites, buildings, structures, and objects of historic or cultural significance. One of the first of such projects undertaken by the Trust was the conservation of the remains of an original wall of Fort George in downtown George Town (see page 152). Other projects have included the Old Savannah Schoolhouse, a typical 1940s one-room government schoolhouse; the Guard House Park, which recalls the history of Bodden Town, Cayman's first capital; and the East End Lighthouse Park.
The trust has gone on to create walking tour brochures for its most interesting historic districts: West Bay, George Town, and Bodden Town. These brochures (available for $1 from the Cayman Islands National Museum, the National Trust, and visitors information booth) introduce visitors to Caymanian architecture and are a wonderful way to learn more about the history that makes these islands special.
The National Trust has also played a major role in the preservation of Pedro St. James Castle, the oldest known stone structure in the Cayman Islands. For more on this project, check out the East of George Town section, page 183.
But it's not just the most important historic structures that have drawn the attention of this group; everyday homes and buildings also earn its respect. The National Trust has an ongoing Historic Buildings and Sites Inventory, a computerized reference list of places of historic and architectural interest built before 1950.
To encourage the public to recognize the value of these historic buildings, the trust has a historic plaque program. It also honors private citizens who have made a commitment to maintain, rehabilitate or restore historic buildings and sites with an annual "Award of Distinction for the Preservation of Historic Places."
Guided Tours Grand Cayman
Both the history and natural history of the area can be learned on a trip with Silver Thatch Excursions. These tours are operated by Geddes Hislop, former Public Education Manager Officer for the National Trust, and his wife, Janet. Hislop worked on the interpretive development of two of the island's top environmental attractions: the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and the Mastic Trail. Six different tours are available, including The Eastern Experience (historic sites from Old Prospect to the Ten Sails Monument in East End); Walk the Mastic Trail; Botanic Park Adventures (two options, including the Historic Route and the Environmental Route); A Walk Back In History (historic walking tour of West Bay, central George Town, visit to Old Prospect, Watler's Cemetery and Old Savannah Schoolhouse); and Birdwatching Excursions to one or more natural wildlife habitats, such as Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary, Meagre Bay Pond, the Botanic Park and Malportas Farm.
Hotel pickup and return, drink, and a snack (sandwich and traditional Caymanian pastries) are included. For information, [telephone] 345-945-6588, fax 345-949-3342. For more information about tours offered by Silver Thatch, see pages 117 and 134.
Visitors to Cayman Brac have an excellent source of free tours; local resident T.J. Sevik leads specialized nature and eco-tours, custom designed for your interests; for arrangements contact Kenny Ryan or Mrs. Wanda Tatum, [telephone] 345-948-2651, fax 345-948-2506.
For other tour options, check with these operators:
D&M Taxi-N-Tours, Spot Bay, [telephone] 345-948-2307. Customized tours of the island, including the bluff and the lighthouse, are available through this company.
Elo's Tours and Taxi Service, The Bight, [telephone] 345-948-0220. This company offers guided tours around the island including the caves. Trips to the lighthouse cost extra.
Hill's Taxi, Spot Bay, [telephone] 345-948-0540. These tours cover the caves, lighthouse, museum, and more.
Maple Edwards Taxi, Spot Bay, [telephone] 345-948-0395. These tours include the museum, bluff, caves, and more.
LCB Tours, Blossom Village, [telephone] 800-327-3835 or 345-948-1033, firstname.lastname@example.org. This tour company visits the bird sanctuary, museum, and more; snorkel trips are also available.
Bringing the kids along on vacation might seem like 10 an adventure in itself, but in the Cayman Islands it's an easy task. The island has many family-friendly accommodations (there are twice as many condominiums as hotels on Grand Cayman) that make children welcome. Condominium units generally accommodate four to eight people and usually include televisions with VCRs as well as full kitchens--to cut back on dining costs and to satisfy picky eaters. The low crime rate in the Cayman Islands also makes this a top destination for families.
Attractions & Activities
BOATSWAIN'S BEACH AND THE CAYMAN TURTLE FARM, West Bay: Children of all ages delight in the tiny newborn turtles and the massive sea turtles as well. Kids enjoy picking up the turtles in special tanks (bring along the camera for this excursion), just one of the activities at the newly-enlarged park which now includes snorkeling.
BUTTERFLY FARM, Seven Mile Beach: If you've visited the Butterfly Farm in St. Martin or Aruba, you'll be familiar with this facility. Kids love the free-flying butterflies; parents love the one ticket includes return visits policy.
SCUBA RESORT COURSES: Children can take a resort course from one of the many operators. The course begins in a swimming pool and is followed by a shallow-water dive.
SASY: Thanks to a new program operated by Red Sail Sports, children as young as four can now have a taste of scuba diving. SASY, or Supplied Air Snorkeling for Youths, is a scuba unit customized for young bodies. Developed in the Cayman Islands by Captain Wayne Hasson, a father of two young children, the unit combines a regulator so young divers can breath from a continuous air supply and a buoyancy compensator to keep them floating safely near the surface. Units are available for use at Red Sail Sports (www.redsail.com) locations at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman, Westin Casuarina Resort and Marriott Grand Cayman.
"Grand Cayman is the perfect place for kids to learn to use SASY," explains Red Sail Sports Operations Manager Rod McDowell. "The waters here are clear and calm, and there's a lot for them to see. Parents can now take their children along on a dive boat, and together the whole family can explore our underwater world."
GLASS-BOTTOM BOAT RIDE: Families with children of all ages enjoy the Seaworld Explorer, a semi-submersible that gives you a peek into the undersea world.
ATLANTIS SUBMARINE, George Town: Submerging up to a depth of 100 feet, this submarine is good for children but not recommended for those who might be prone to tantrums or fits in enclosed situations (there's no taking unruly kids out of this attraction).
PIRATE SHIP, George Town: Yo ho ho! The kids will love a two-hour cruise aboard the Jolly Roger, a replica of a 17th-century Spanish galleon.
PIRATE CAVE, Bodden Town: Take a look at indigenous Cayman animals--the agouti and a parrot--before heading down to the cave. Pretend you're a pirate in the damp, dark recesses or on the lookout for pirate treasure.
WATERSPORTS, Seven Mile Beach and Rum Point: The youngest kids enjoy just splashing in the gentle surf or digging in the sand; older children can ride the banana boat, try their luck on a windsurfer, or snorkel in the clear waters.
CHILDREN'S RESORT PROGRAMS: The Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman offers Camp Hyatt for kids three-12 years old. Westin Casuarina Resort has Camp Scallywag for children four-12. Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman is home to the unique children's program, Ambassador of the Environment, created by Jean-Michel Cousteau and the Ocean Futures Society.
02B KIDZ, Merrens Shopping Complex, North Church Street, [telephone] 345-946-5439. This expansive indoor playland is a great rainy day option for children under 12. Kids have a range of games and play equipment; there's a toddler area for the smallest travelers.
BLACK PEARL AND SURF PARK, Cayman Grand Harbour (east of George Town), [telephone] 345-947-4161, www.blackpearl.ky. Home to what they say is the world's largest outdoor concrete skate park, this park also has a cool surf park boasting 11-foot waves.
SMYLES, Islander Complex, Harquail Bypass, [telephone] 345-946-5800. On the premises of World Gym, Smyles includes plenty of activities for young travelers.
MINIATURE GOLF, West Bay Road in front of the Hyatt Regency, Seven Mile Beach, [telephone] 345-949-1474. An 18-hole mini course that is great for kids (and kids at heart), with a jungle theme including elephants and even a waterfall.
RAINY DAY ACTIVITIES
Into every vacation a little rain may fall, so if clouds prevail during your vacation, don't despair. Here's a list of activities that don't depend on sunshine. And remember that most tropical rainstorms are short-lived.
* Cayman Turtle Farm (Grand Cayman's West Bay area). Although much of the farm is located outdoors, the tanks can be enjoyed in all but the worst weather.
* National Museum (George Town)
* Scuba diving
* Shopping in George Town
* Pirate Cave (Bodden Town, Grand Cayman)
* Pedro St. James (Savannah, Grand Cayman)
* Nautilus semi-submersible (George Town)
* Caves (Cayman Brac)
* Seaworld Explorer (George Town)
* Atlantis Submarines (George Town)
CI Cricket Association, Tropical Plaza, [telephone] 345-945-6447, (weekdays), fax 345-949-8772.
Grand Cayman is now the home of dirt-track racing through the Cayman Motorsports Association. Races include front-wheel-drive cars, rear-wheel-drive cars, and motorbikes. Between races, children and teens race go-carts and dirtbikes.
Races take place the first Sunday of the month. At press time, work was underway on a new paved track with a drag racing strip on the east end. For information, call the Cayman Motorsports Association hotline, [telephone] 345-945-1213.
Cayman Islands Football (Soccer) Association, c/o Jeff Webb, President, PO Box 178 GT, [telephone] 345-949-5775, www.caymanfootball.ky. The season runs from September though March with games played at different locations.
Packing For Adventure
In addition to basic travel documents, there are items that are either difficult to find, or are available but may be more expensive to purchase in the Islands; bring what you'll need for the length of your stay.
WHAT TO BRING
* Passport; driver's license for car rental and proof of insurance
* Airline receipt
* Swimsuit and snorkel sear
* Sunscreen, aloe vera gel
* First aid kit, prescriptions (in original bottles)
* Cameras, flash and storage media
* Batteries and battery charger
* Mini address book
* "C" card
* Dive tables
* Dive computer
* Weight belt
* Mesh bag
* Dive boots
* Dive skin or light wetsuit
* Dive light and Cyalume sticks
* Emergency medical information
* Proof of insurance/DAN membership card
* Polarized sunglasses
* Camera to record your catch
* Wading shoes or non-skid boating shoes
* Fly-fishing tackle
* Hiking shoes (broken-in)
* Extra socks
* Insect repellent
* Bird list
* Copy of Birds of the Cayman Islands (see Booklist, page 297) or your favorite guide
John Bigley and Paris Permenter, a husband-and-wife team, fell in love with the Caribbean over a dozen years ago and have turned their extensive knowledge of the region into an occupation. As professional travel writers and photographers, the pair contributes travel articles and photographs on the US and the Caribbean to many national consumer and trade publications.
They are the authors of numerous other Hunter guides including Adventure Guide to the Leeward Islands, 3rd Edition.
Paris and John are also frequent television and radio talk show guests on the subject of travel. Both are members of the prestigious Society of American Travel Writers (SATW). Readers can follow the couple's travels on their Web sites: Travels with Paris and John (www.parisandjohn.com), Lovetripper Romantic Travel Magazine (www.lovetripper.com), and Cayman Tripper (www.caymantripper.com).
Source Citation:Permenter, Paris, and John Bigley. "Where are the adventures?(Travel Adventures Cayman Islands' 3rd Edition)(City overview)." Cayman Islands Adventure Guide, 3rd ed.. Hunter Publishing, Inc., 2008. 87(42). Popular Magazines. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 14 May 2009
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