The Cayman Islands are for many one of those pipe-dream holiday destinations, but it’s the second port of call on our exclusive Triple Centre Cruise & Stay. Quite distinct from many of its Caribbean cousins, Grand Cayman has a split personality. On the one hand there’s the persona in the public eye, where high-finance corporations and super-modern holiday resorts typify the momentum of the 21st century. On the other hand there’s a quieter side, keeping the media at arm’s length, where the eastern shoreline is capped with lush palms and the seafloor drops dramatically into the open ocean. It’s high society and natural curiosity, held together on one emerald mote in the Caribbean sea.
Classic tactics for a Grand Cayman holiday fall into clichés of big-budget breaks, where some of the best hotels and dining on the planet coalesce around the island’s renowned Seven Mile beach (in no way related to the Jamaican beach of the same name). Swinging by the island on a cruise is a fabulous portal into this otherworldly island, and you can bypass the regularities and get to grips with the island’s wilder side.
Make the most of Grand Cayman in a day
Once again turning to the Carnival Cruise Lines excursion manifesto, here are some of the lower-profile Grand Cayman activities to add to the bucket list:
1. Dive along the Cayman Walls
With the world preoccupied with the surface dwellers of Grand Cayman, you can be forgiven for being unaware of its rich diving opportunities. Its distinctive seabeds, known as “walls”, range from flourishing coral systems to rocky channels, all filled with colourful marine life. If you’re one of them adventurous types, the 150 feet of visibility along the Cayman Walls is ripe for some submarine exploration. The sheer blue depths are often likened to a surreal skydive; a descent though strange shapes and kaleidoscopic lifeforms. There’s nowhere else quite like it, even if you only fancy a snorkel in the shallows.
2. Swing by Stingray City
If you’ve ever been to an aquarium you’ve probably seen one of those stingray “petting pools” where a number of smaller specimens of the stingray family are kept in captivity in the name of an interactive exhibition. Getting close to nature is never a bad thing, but it’s always more rewarding, more inspiring, and more ethical to actually do it in the wild. Grand Cayman is one of the few places in the world where stingrays, by their own volition, gather together in tolerance of human interaction. The Sandbar that constitutes Stingray City used to be shallow where fishermen would clean their hooks, and Southern Stingrays learned they could garner a free meal by feeding on the scraps. Over time their natural fear of humans dissipated, for the sound of the boats coming home signalled a long-standing symbiosis between fisherman and stingray. Stingray City allows you to wade in the shallows and be surround by an abundance of stingrays, their bodies like hollow, starched canvases of silk. They might even snuffle up to you, giving you a glimpse of their peculiarly optimistic faces, right in the wild where they belong.
3. Promenade in the Botanic Park
Grand Cayman also has plenty of curiosities for landlubbers, and the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park spearheads the dry land shenanigans on the island. Cockspur Trees, Bull Thatch Palms, and dense Mahogany flesh out the jungle-like cover of the park, and a lazy trial walks you beneath the canopy, rife with richly scented flowers wonderfully unusual to the European nose. One of the local denizens of Grand Cayman, the endangered Blue Iguana, finds refuge in a specially designed habitat within the Botanic Park. It’s not uncommon to see a scuttling in the leaves revealing one of these oddly endearing turquoise chaps going about its business. The equally distinctive bird chorus of Grand Cayman is layered thickly between the treetops, making the Botanic Park a wonderfully intricate tapestry from the bottom to the top.
And on it goes
With Jamaica and Grand Cayman under our belts it’s time to once again cast off the anchor and head on to the next port of call. Next stop is Cozumel, where we disembark and begin the long land-leg of our Triple Centre Cruise & Stay. See you later, Travellers!
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