In addition to the long stretch of Grand Cayman’s western shore that is a popular tourist destination known as Seven Mile Beach, one of the best features of the largest of the three Cayman Islands, (the other two islands are Cayman Brac and Little Cayman), is how close you can get to its land and sea animals.
Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park you can spy the famous Blue Iguanas native to Grand Cayman. These blue dragons can reach an impressive five feet in length and 30 pounds in weight. The beautiful, cerulean lizards are critically endangered. The park housed the initial recovery effort for the reptiles and is a good spot for viewing the lizards lounging in the grass.
The park is also home to lots of gorgeous flowers including the water lilies growing in its small lake. This makes the park a perfect spot for a stroll.
Another animal-rich attraction on the island is the Cayman Turtle Farm. At the park visitors can watch sea turtles swimming in their pools and also get the chance to hold a yearling sea turtle. This is a really unique experience. The small turtles often flap their flippers wildly when they are picked up, but the farm has a trick to calm them down: simply rub the turtles’ necks. Some turtles are bred to be made into food that is sold locally while some are kept as future breeders, and the luckiest turtles are released back into the ocean, promoting turtle conservation.
Perhaps the most thrilling site in Grand Cayman where you can get close to nature is Stingray City. This lively tourist spot is a string of sand bars located in the North Sound where sting rays congregate. Tour operators bring snorkelers by the boatful out to view and also to pet the sting rays. Finding a ray that will slow down and let you pet it can be a bit of a challenge. These large, winged fish can zoom through the water quickly. Some of the ocean-going tourists choose to get extremely up close and personal with the rays. Local legend has it that kissing a stingray brings seven years of good luck.
Of course lizards, turtles and sting rays aren’t the only creatures you’ll see in Grand Cayman. In fact, one of the first animals visitors may notice is of the feathered variety. Wild chickens and roosters roam freely about the island because the fowl aren’t generally eaten. If spending the night on the island, anyone unfamiliar with farm life might get a surprise awakening by one of the crowing roosters.
Grand Cayman is a popular cruise ship destination, so the port can be a very crowded place. To get a true Caymanian experience, you may have to venture out a bit. Having a drink at the port and watching the crowds can be fun, but so can standing neck-high in water swarming with sting rays! If you happen to be on a cruise and have limited time to explore, choose your adventure wisely.
Amy Hamblen lives in New York but is always up for a quick escape to the islands. She writes for www.shortandsweetnyc.com.