|Country Information & Lifestyle|
To infinity and beyond
The Cayman Islands are an overseas territory of the British Crown Colony in the Caribbean 10 miles northwest of Jamaica and 150 miles south of Cuba. The Caymans occupy about 100 sq miles on three islands and the official language is English.
The islands are part of an underwater mountain range running between Cuba and Belize and boasts some of the finest tropical weather in the world. All the islands are coral outcrops surrounded by healthy coral reefs and dramatic walls close to shore, creating ideal conditions for the best diving and snorkelling found in the Caribbean.
The Cayman Trough lies between the Cayman Islands and Jamaica and is the deepest part of the Caribbean being over four miles in depth. South, towards the Gulf of Honduras is the Bartletts Deep. These deep areas of ocean are in close proximity to the three islands, this combined with the fact that Grand Cayman and Little Cayman are almost surrounded by living coral reefs, provide some of the most popular dive sites in the world.
The largest and most populated island is Grand Cayman where the capital, George Town is situated. As one of the most important and popular ports in the region George Town has two major docking terminals where thousands of cruise ship passengers board or disembark each day. About 90 miles from Grand Cayman are Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, two tiny sister islands about 10 square miles each separated by a wide channel.
There is actually a fourth uninhabited island small, privately owned within the South Sound of Little Cayman, Owen's Island and can be reached by swimming or canoeing from the beach.
This tiny group of islands located in the balmy Caribbean is about one hour flight from Florida and are famed for scuba diving and with crystal clear waters lapping the golden sandy shores of Seven Mile Beach it is hard to imagine a more idyllic place to vacation or live.
The climate of the islands is tropical and rather pleasant all year although hurricanes sometimes can occur during the warmest season, May to October, which is also the rainy season
The islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus on May 10th 1503 and one of the oldest stories in the islands history is the story of " The Wreck of the Ten Sails". Legend says that one night in November 1788 the "Cordelia" the lead ship of a convoy of merchant ships bound from Jamaica to Britain, ran aground on the reef at East End. A signal was given to warn off the other ships but was misunderstood as a call to follow closer and nine more ships sailed onto the reef.
The people of East End are reported to have shown great heroism in ensuring that no lives were lost and legend further states that one of the lives saved was one of Royalty. For this King George III is said to have granted the island freedom from conscription while another report claims that freedom from taxation was bestowed on the people of the islands as a reward. Actual records do not support this story entirely.
Grand Cayman is a place where children grow up in cosy neighbourhoods and people say hello or sit out in the yard and just enjoy a Caribbean afternoon. That feeling of real life is found in West Bay, directly north of Seven Mile Beach where you will find the Cayman turtle farm and numerous dive sites.
Turn inland and visit a very popular stop on tours, Hell, located appropriately on Hell Road there is a post post office that sends off postcards franked with the obligatory Hell postmark.
The capital George Town is the social and economic hub of the islands and the base for most of the business and government activity and is still very much an island community so don't expect a bustling city. Once this community was known as The Hogstyes, today it's a major financial centre that ranks right up there with Zurich and Tokyo, a modern, clean, and efficient city that hasn't forgotten its historic roots.
The famous Seven Mile Beach runs south to north along Grand Cayman's western edge, stretching from George Town to a region called West Bay. The beach faces West Bay and beyond it lies the Main Drop-Off, an area of ocean that plummets to great depths. Measuring just 5 1/2 miles the name Seven Mile Beach may be somewhat of a misnomer. This beautiful swath of white sand separates 5 1/2 miles of hotels, condominiums and restaurants from an aquamarine sea. Dotted with casuarina trees this beach is the most popular spot on the island.
Along Seven Mile Beach, Grand Cayman narrows to a skinny stretch about a mile wide, bordered by the beach on the west and the North Sound to the east. On its eastern boundaries, the sea makes an uneven boundary, at some points stretching into the land with salt creeks and harbours. Much of these eastern reaches are covered by swampy vegetation.
The largest harbour along this stretch of the North Sound is Governors Harbour, where Governors Creek creeps into the land in a maze of natural and man-made canals. Today it's lined with luxury lots and lavish homes, as well as the Cayman Islands Yacht Club.
East of the capital a single road leads out of town along the South Sound and has a true Caribbean atmosphere with small Caymanian cottages, cattle grazing in the fields and beaches that stretch for miles. As you follow the main road alongside some of the most rugged shoreline on Grand Cayman, just before the road begins its northern turn on the easternmost stretch of the island, it passes the Blowholes where the sea spews forth between rock with each wave. Continuing east toward the sea you'll see the sites of two of the island's most famous shipwrecks: The Wreck of the Ten Sails (1794) and the Cumberland Transport (1767).
Cayman Brac, commonly referred to as the Brac, is only 14 square miles with a distinguishing cliff or bluff,(Brac is Gaelic for bluff), which starts at sea level on the west end of the island and rises to about 140 feet at the eastern tip of the island. This is the second largest of the three Cayman Islands and is unique in the Caribbean and offers a great destination for those seeking something different.
Cayman Brac was the first of the Cayman Islands sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1503 and first named "Las Tortugas", as they were surrounded by turtles both on land and sea. For years afterwards the islands remained uninhabited visited only by passing ships or pirates.
There are no shopping malls, fast food restaurants or large business districts but email, cellphones and the latest technology can be found here. There is a laid back atmosphere on this peaceful, relaxing island which has an astounding selection of fauna and flora.
Caves, rumoured to still contain pirate gold, dot the landscape and Caymanite, a stone only found in the Caymans, can be found in crevices in the limestone. Visit the lighthouse at sunrise, view the sunset from West Point End, take a charter to Point-o-Sand on Little Cayman for the day or visit the southeastern tip of the island where the scenery is spectacular and blowing holes.
Prepare yourself for a truly unique experience if you decide to visit Little Cayman, lying five miles west of Cayman Brac. With a population of less than 100 people this tiny island of approximately 10 square miles is not much smaller than Cayman Brac and is the flattest of the three islands.
It is a nature lovers paradise and has a wide variety of exotic plants & birds as well as iguanas and other wildlife. Most visitors arrive on a boat or a small plane courtesy of Island Air which provides regular flights between the three islands. There is no paved runway only a grass landing field that only enforces the reality of an isolated island getaway but to experience Little Cayman does not mean having to give up the comforts of home.
Jamaican and English influences can be seen in Cayman cuisine and with more than 150 restaurants ranging from traditional Caymanian seafood to Caribbean, Thai, Italian and New World cuisine you will be spoilt for choice.
Caymanian cuisine reflects the riches of the sea and traditional food includes turtle, brought to the table in the form of soup, stew, or steak, and conch (pronounced konk), the mollusc that lives in the beautiful pink-and-white shell seen throughout the islands. Conch is a versatile dish and may be served as an appetiser in the form of fritters, a soup prepared as a chowder or thick with onions and spices as a stew, or even uncooked, marinated in lime juice as ceviche.
Nearby Jamaica influences the cuisine in the islands, especially in the jerk seasoning that ignites fish, chicken, and other meats. Jerk is meat or fish slathered with a fiery concoction of scotch bonnet peppers, allspice, thyme, salt, garlic, scallions, and onions, then slow-cooked over a flame to produce a dish similar to a piquant barbecue. As in Jamaica, jerk is often served with rice and beans (usually pigeon peas), a traditional Caribbean side dish.
Other Caribbean favourites found in the Cayman Islands include breadfruit served in as many ways, cassava, (a potato-like vegetable), fish tea, johnny cake (fried bread), patty (a meat pie that's a Caribbean standard as popular as the American hamburger), and ackee (a fruit that tastes somewhat like scrambled eggs and, for breakfast, is served with salt-fish).
Time now to make your trip to the Cayman Islands = no mountains, but scenic is what people call the "Cayman blues".......the wonderful shades of aqua and turquoise and cobalt blues that is the water there. It is also the clean, white sand and the green of the foliage and the beautiful colours of the flowers.