Barefoot Abroad in the Cayman Islands
Having lived in the Cayman Islands post-hurricane Ivan 2004 – 2009, I have seen the worst and best that the island can offer. The best way to get there is a direct flight from Heathrow, it stops off at the Bahamas for an hour (you stay on the plane) before finally touching down in Grand Cayman. As you come into land you are greeted by turquoise waters and it feels like you are about to land in the ocean, when suddenly land is sighted. The airport is small and open air and is very welcoming and your first taste of being in a Caribbean country.
Crystal Clear Waters
As a flat island, the views are out to sea rather than to small coves or mountains, and this aspect of Grand Cayman is in stark contrast to its Jamaican neighbour. But when you do look out to sea, the most amazing sight awaits you. The waters are clear, crystal blue, safe for children and full of the most wonderful sea life you can imagine.
Even if you are not a swimmer, into snorkelling or scuba diving, you can still catch glimpses of what lies beneath. Simply sit in the shallows of the sea and eventually little fish will come and swim around your legs and hands, a great experience for small children. Or see the crabs clinging to the rocky shoreline which is abundant in downtown George Town, the capital of Grand Cayman.
However, the ocean, snorkelling and scuba diving are what the Cayman Islands are famous for and it probably doesn’t get much better, from guided tours around shipwrecks or snorkelling close to shore The Cayman Islands has it all. If you want an experience of a lifetime, then Stingray City is a must. Located a short boat ride away you get to snorkel, feed and swim with Stingrays and we are not just talking small baby sized ones here, we are talking huge, mammoth sized ones! Now don’t get me wrong, Stingray City is overcrowded with tourists, but if you are lucky to arrive just before the hoards then you are in for a treat.
What’s for dinner?
Dining on Cayman is a culinary experience; there are amazing restaurants to choose from and far too many to mention, but food and drink are not cheap. You can pay in US Dollars or Caymanian Dollars (I would recommend you exchange direct to Cayman Islands Dollars from the UK).
Now, as I said, I arrived post hurricane Ivan, the most destructive hurricane to hit the Cayman Islands for over a 100 years. And it wasn’t pretty. The island, its vegetation and the properties certainly took a battering, but the people and their spirit managed to re-build and repair itself. I re-visited recently (2012) and the place had transformed beyond recognition. For starters, they have built the eagerly anticipated Camana Bay, a new and fully functioning lagoon village. They have re-built mega villas for the super rich and improved local areas, and the vegetation is lush, tropical, flowering and simply stunning.
I would recommend a hire car, taxis and buses are available, but you do need transport to get around and a hire car gives you the freedom to explore. My favourite place on the island is Rum Point, where you can eat on the beach, relax under a palm tree and sip a cocktail all in the comfort of your free sun bed!
Watch out for chickens regularly walking around free, the occasional land crab (in season) can often puncture a tyre with its one huge claw as it makes a dash across the roads, and make sure you take the mosquito repellent. But most of all, take the sun tan lotion (high factor), it’s pretty hot all year round, just what you want from a Caribbean holiday.