Category Archives: Cayman Islands

Leaving Cayman Part II

Reading my last post, you may have worried that I was unhappy the past three months. You also may have worried that I am a total brat and should shut up and be happy I’m not in a working at Auntie Anne’s Pretzel Stand in Albany, New York.

I appreciate the concern, but its not necessary. I’ve already admitted to my initially troubled relationship with Cayman, but my affection for this island grew slowly and steadily until now, when I can genuinely say I feel sadness at leaving.

Cayman’s greatest asset is the water and that is where I found a lot of peace this summer. Since learning to dive last year, I looked forward to dives and genuinely enjoyed it as a hobby. I still struggled with key components like buoyancy and control of my movements. But as with all great things, practice makes competence. Between diving for fun with Mark, for education by completing more courses, and for work doing underwater video, I developed a comfort and appreciation for the underwater world. And then I bought my underwater digital camera. In the first week I went for four dives. And it was on one of them, gliding through the water slowly, quietly, I realized I was at peace. And I was in love. I promise not to get all third-eye spiritual on you here, but I’ve realized that diving is my meditation. I’ve never really been able to master that in the yoga studio, where my mind tends to fall to how many minutes are left in the class or what I’m eating for lunch. But down below, where total silence and slow movements take over, my mind can abandon the stresses above. Holding a camera and seeing things through a lens allowed me to even more appreciate the beauty of what I was seeing.

Photography was, of course, a massive part of my summer. While it was tough to accept that I was going to be having a profitless summer for the first time in years, once I moved past that I realized I could not have asked for a better internship experience. From working with Heather I have developed a diverse portfolio, a great reference, a summers worth of experience, and a great friendship.

And that was not the only friendship I made. Through the amazing diving community in Cayman Mark and I were able to make so many great friends, many of whom I know are friends for life. On my leaving night I looked around and felt lucky to have met so many funny, smart, kind people that are all out living their dreams. I was surrounded by great examples every day of the kind of life I want to lead. And that is the most valuable thing I will take away from Grand Cayman.

Photo by Heather

Advertisements

Leaving Cayman

When my plane takes off Thursday morning I will have spent three months of my life on this island. Three months of working, learning, playing, and loving. I don’t know how long you have to spend in a place to have “lived” there, but I do feel like I’m leaving a life and a home, albeit a brief one.

My relationship with Grand Cayman has been an interesting one, a strong contrast to the head over heels passionate love affair I had last summer with my island in Thailand. Here in Cayman I felt a lot of “meh” upon arrival. I raised my eyebrows at the chain restaurants dotting the harbor. I bristled as I pushed through the cruise ship tourists being herded from one duty free shop to another. I nearly choked when I saw the price of a mojito. But even with my guard up and my mind set to dislike the place, I melted at the sight of the Caribbean waters and looked forward to the heart of what brought me here: a place where I could spend three uninterrupted months with my boyfriend before passports and circumstances pull us apart again.

There are things I won’t miss. I won’t miss occasionally mindlessly snacking on ants when they find their way into a sealed box of graham crackers. I won’t miss the bureaucratic drama of bike licensing and passport validation and work permits where you seem to be paying for the privilege of living here and spending more money. I won’t miss living in a place with excellent restaurants and barely being able to afford Wendy’s.

All the things I just listed are things here that make life hard, or if not hard, mildly uncomfortable. But that’s just the thing that I turned me off of this place. Its not hard. Its actually quite easy, and familiar, and suburban. In fact, if you were to carve Grand Cayman out of its place on earth and plop it in middle America, it would be just another suburb. With better restuarants.

Crime is low, the standard of living is high. Here I can have any grocery item I desire (though it comes at a price). I can go to the over air conditioned theatre and see any movie I wish (except for R rated movies on Sundays, but that’s another post). I want for almost nothing, except the things money prohibits me from having. But it is available. Its like Pleasantville, but hotter.

And that’s the problem. When I leave my home and my country I’m looking for something different. A challenge, an assault on the senses, a glimpse into a life totally different from the one I left behind. I want to sacrifice the comfortable and the familiar in exchange for something more; too see how far I can stretch myself, to open my mind, to be a better, in so many senses, person. That is what travel has done for me.

In that sense Cayman left me a bit cold. I knew right away if I was going to enjoy my time here I needed to change my outlook. I had to stop comparing this summer’s island to last summer’s island, because Koh Tao would always win.

Stay tuned for Part II, or, How I Learned To Stop Being An Island Snob And Ended Up Having An Awesome Summer

The Last Stingray

Stingray City. You’ve heard me mention it I believe? Maybe every third post on this blog or so it seems? Well I can promise you’ve never seen a day at Stingray City like this one, because neither had I.

Stingray City Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

As I’ve mentioned, I think SRC to be Cayman’s greatest attraction. However, I’ve been there a million times, and I was in the middle of packing up and selling our stuff and truth be told I was not so enthusiastic about going along. But I wanted to spend time with my dear cousin and so I relented. Lucky me.

 Stingray City Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

After the rainy but nonetheless excellent experience I had with Captain Marvin’s when my dad and sister were in town, we went out with them again. The stingrays were out in full force this time.

Stingray City Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Kirsten, you don’t mind that I posted a photo of your bum on the internets, right? Gratzi! With the sun shining and my underwater camera in tow I wanted one great photo of myself with these guys- I did spend all summer with them after all.

Stingray City Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Stingray City Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

Stingray City Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

That water, that sky… I had never seen a day like this at the sandbar. Soon we were back on the boat and we took advantage of the two level boat to do some balcony jumping! One of the highlights of the day.

Stingray City Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
Stingray City Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands

I’m sure you all have had your fill of watching stingray videos, but I’m telling you, this one is really worth a watch, both for the beautiful water and the screaming like little girls while jumping from the boat.

Welcome to the Diving Family

One of my cousin Kirsten and her husband Adrian’s reasons for coming to Cayman (other than to go out on a pirate boat and watch as I had far too much to drink (oops)) was to complete their open water certifications. Being frequent Hawaii visitors, they both had tried out diving and while Adrian felt comfortable, Kirsten had had a bad first experience and was a bit nervous.

Open Water Grand Cayman

They completed the coursework online before coming down, so all they had to do was their pool checkout dives and four open water dives. Kirsten did have some initial hesitation with the first boat dive but between her being a great student and Mark being a great teacher we were all underwater soon.

Open Water Grand Cayman

I was able to go along for their checkout dives and make a video, which was so much fun for me. It is truly a joy to watch the people you love falling in love with the things that you love. This is my favorite video of the summer, and I think I can really see how far I have come with underwater videography. I obviously have so much more to learn and I think it could take years to truly master the art but I have had such an experience just getting to this point. There has been a lot of self-doubt and frustration but as Mark reminds me, if it was easy it wouldn’t be so fun. It’s a long one, turn up the speakers and enjoy.

A Lovely Two Bedroom with a View and a Conch Exterior

Cayman isn’t exactly a place ripe for “exploring.” Sure you can drive around, but you really aren’t going to find anything not in your guidebook. So imagine my surprise when Mark and I, en route to replace a tire on the bike for inspection, stumbled upon this:

Cayman Conch Shell House

Of course this required a pull over and full investigation, as well as a justification for bringing my camera along to a bike inspection. What does a conch shell house look like, you ask? A little something like this:

Cayman Conch Shell House

Cayman Conch Shell House

There was a small plaque letting us now that there are in fact residents in the house, but they don’t mind photos or people poking around. When I got back home I did a little research and found the house is made up of a whopping 4,000 conch shells and dates back to 1935 when it was used as a bomb depot by the US Navy. No word on the bomb-shell correlation. Ha! Pun fun strikes again.

Any Cayman-goers looking to snap a photo of something not listed in their guidebook can head to the Caribbean Electric Company and look across the street.

Why I Love Rum Point

 

When I need to get my brain juices flowing, get the mind thinking again, really stretch those mental muscles, I head to Rum Point. Its a very academic place for serious reflection and thought.

There are labs for scientific marine life research.

 

Rum Point Grand Cayman

Buoyancy analysis tanks.

Rum Point Grand Cayman

And of course, hand eye coordination training simulators.

Jet Ski Rum Point

Its almost as fun as studying for a chemistry final.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cayman Tourist: The Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park

Grand Cayman Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park

The Botanical Park was one of the few things left on my list of “must do’s before departure.” It was Mark’s day off and he and Kirsten and Adrian were very kind to humor me with a visit there en route to our old favorite, Rum Point.  Of course the day we decided to take our little road trip was the most blazing hot day I remember in ages, so I knew I’d have to hustle to see the park. We entered down a long road, paying at a small ticket booth, and entered a parking lot where I was delighted by this sign:

Grand Cayman Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park

Why was I so thrilled by the idea of checking my tires for iguanas? My main interest in the Botanical Park and it’s greatest tourist draw is the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, a critically endangered species native to Grand Cayman and found no where else on earth. The iguana is so endangered that by 2002 it was officially awarded the title of most endangered iguana on earth, a kind of bittersweet win I think. There are about 40 iguanas in the park however I had no idea how shy they were and what our chances of spotting them were.

Grand Cayman Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park

We happened to visit on what seemed to be the hottest day of the summer, so I knew I wouldn’t have long before my group faded. We started around the Woodland Trail, which was somewhat sparse, and just as I was beginning to lose faith we heard a rustle in the bushes.

Cayman Botanical Park Blue Iguana

Cayman Botanical Park Blue Iguana

They really are blue! We walked the rest of the way around with one more spotting, but both were pretty shy. At this point we had to take a shade and water break and there were some suggestions of heading out to the beach. But I had yet to see one measly flower and I was not leaving this Botanical Park without doing so.

We wandered through some mildly interesting gardens before hitting the highlight, the Flora Color Garden. Along the path flowers were planted and grouped by, you guessed it, color, a really unique idea carried out on a large scale. It sounds like such a simple idea but I have never seen anything like it. Walking along the winding path the flowers changed from purple to red to orange to yellow. On our way out we stopped by the very pretty lake where I added yet another photo to my hilarious sign collection.

Grand Cayman Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Park

Finally we resigned to the heat and headed back where we started. As we turned around a corner, smack in the middle of the trail was the largest reptile I’ve ever seen. We all stopped dead in our tracks and just stared, afraid to scare it off. We soon realized it was going nowhere soon and in fact seemed very unfazed by our giddy presence. Adrian concluded that this was now a worthwhile stop. Iguana spotting mission: complete.

Cayman Botanical Park Blue Iguana

Lowdown: There is a small visitors center that you will walk through and then enter the main event, the Wooded Trail. The trail is about 3/4ths of a mile and takes about half an hour to walk, and this is prime iguana spotting territory. Other attractions include the lake, the Palm Garden and the Flora Color Garden. Iguanas aside, the color garden was the most impressive part of the botanical park.

One thing I think looked very cool but was sadly outvoted on was the Blue Iguana Safari. It’s a guided tour starting at 11am every day except Sunday. It lasts an hour and a half and costs $30US, which includes entrance to the Botanical Park and the Iguana captive facility as well as a fully guided tour. I’ll just have to save that for next time!

Cayman Botanical Park Blue Iguana

Cost: Regular admission is $8CI/$10US. The Blue Iguana Safari is $24CI/$30US.

Time: We spent about an hour here total. I would recommend going on a cooler day, in which case I would have stayed longer.

Cayman Blue Iguana

Overall: 3/5. Without the iguanas this park doesn’t stand on it’s own, but they are enough to earn the park 3 stars. While it means that there are no guaranteed sightings, I like that the iguanas are wild because it adds to the fun of the hunt.

I wouldn’t recommend coming out to this part of the island for the Botanical Park alone, since it’s a bit of a hike, about 25 minutes from Georgetown off Frank Sound road. However due to its location it’s perfect to combine with a visit to Pedro St. James, the Mastic Trail, or of course Rum Point.

Also in This Series:
Stingray City
Boatswain’s Beach Turtle Farm
The Mastic Trail
Pedro St. James
Hell
The Cayman National Museum
Vivendi Cabaret