Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Cayman Islands

Last week, I went to the Cayman Islands for both work and play. While there I ran or walked on the beach at least once every day. The hotel was right next to 7 Mile Beach which is supposed to be one of the best beaches in the world. I had hoped to go to Stingray City to swim with stingrays but they did not go out on a trip due to weather that day.

Instead, I got to swim with some dophins which was a very cool experience. One of them pulled me while I held on to her dorsal fins then also pushed me from behind while I held on to a kick board. They are very powerful and I would estimate we went around 15 mph through the water.

I also went to a turtle farm where they raise turtles both for food as well as to release back into the wild. Since the 1980s they said they had released around 31,000 turtles into the wild. They also had some Riddley Kemp turtles which are one of the most endangered types in the world. When you pick the sea turtles up, they flap around trying to get away but if you rub under their neck they calm down. They had turtles all the way from about 5 months old to around 15 years old in tanks varying by age.

Also at the turtle farm, there was another section which had a tropical bird aviary as well as some iguanas both on display and roaming the park. They had a blue iguana which is indigenous to the island and is also endangered.

A unique spot I visited is called Hell. It is a limestone formation out in a field with scant vegetation, thus the name. They have a gift shop there and a guy running around in a devil costume saying "welcome to Hell." It's pretty funny. Interestingly, the Cayman Islands has a great deal of Christian influence and there was a church right down the street from it. I was reminded of the great C.T. Studd quote. "Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." See below for a great juxtaposition picture of this.

The Cayman Islands are a British Territory but they govern themselves so I got a new passport stamp. They use their own currency which is tied to the US Dollar and equates to 1.25 US dollars per Caymanian dollar. There are actually more companies based in the Cayman Islands than there are residents with around 48,000 residents to 55,000 companies. This is based on the favorable tax treatment since they do not have any income tax. The main way that the government makes money is through tourism and fees charged for a company to set up business there. Each day there were tons of tourists who would come to shore from the cruise ships.

Being a British Territory, they also drive on the left side of the road so that was a bit of an adjustment for me. After about a day, I mostly had the hang of it. However, when I got back to my car at the airport, I had to mentally switch gears to reorient myself to the right side of the road.

If you got outside George Town, the main shopping district, the island has more of a small town feel to it. Going here during hurricane season is not recommended due to the Cayman Islands having more hurricane strikes than anywhere else in the world.

When it's not hurricane season, the weather is great. When I left Kansas City it was 24 degrees and upon arrival in the Caymans it was around 80 so that was a welcome change.

7 Mile Beach


Table at restaurant where we ate right at the water's edge. Very nice restaurant


Swimming with a dolphin

I decided not to swim with this fella

Blue igauna



Kemp Riddley turtle one of the most endangered in the world

Caiman (similar to an alligator but smaller)

Holding a baby sea turtle

Chickens, they roam the island and show up in random places

Waves that were crashing against the rocks

Palm tree

Hell, Grand Cayman Island

This seems like the perfect quote for this picture. "Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell." -- C.T. Studd

More chickens/rooster


Lauren said...

Beautiful pictures! What an amazing trip. I'm so envious of your dolphin/sea turtle encounter! The beach where we go in the summer has tons and tons of wild dolphins that come pretty close in to shore, and Matthew always says that we should just swim out to them, but I'm not too keen on that...

Andrew Allen said...

It was pretty cool. I've never seen them in the wild but I'm sure that would be awesome.

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