Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Cayman Islands

This summer we decided to take a vacation with our best buds, Christy and Paul. Both of us will be celebrating 15 year anniversaries this year, so we decided we wanted to go tropical. We flew to Grand Cayman Island and stayed on the beautiful island in the Caribbean Sea with calm turquoise waters. The boys stayed behind with grandparents and uncle (thanks mom and Kev)!

 We were pretty much beach bums all week- no kiddos, no worries.
 We went to a sea turtle farm one day. They had hundreds of sea turtles from tiny babies to huge turtles. They raise and release them, as well as providing food for the locals to prevent poaching. Apparently sea turtles are a favorite on the menu for the locals.

 We also visited a town called Hell. It was pretty much just a spot on the map, but the strange landscape behind us is eerie, kind of Hellish-looking. Looked like volcanic rock to me, but it apparently is limestone formations that were pushed up into jagged points. The whole island is full of this stuff, no wonder they are unable to grow produce.
 One evening the guys, surprised Christy and I, by booking a pirate sunset dinner cruise. It was a lot of fun and the food was a taste of authentic island eats, topped off with Rum Cake. Yummy!!!

 We rented a little car, so that we could drive around the island. Driving was quite the challenge because the steering wheel was on the right hand side and you drove on the left side of the road. To make it even more confusing the windshield wipers and turn signal were opposite. Tourist vehicles had white license plates versus the yellow plate of locals, so you knew to steer clear of the person turning with his windshield wipers  :-) That would be us most of the time. Ben really enjoyed being a left side of the road driver and when we got home, he was still confusing his windshield wipers and turn signal. But driving around, gave us a chance to check out the rest of the island, like the blow-holes below.

Chickens were as plentiful as the locals. You could hear them crowing at all hours of the day and they ran down the sidewalks of the shopping district, Georgetown, like they owned the place. This guy was hanging out in front of KFC, perhaps looking for a chance for a jailbreak. 

Snorkeling became one of our favorite past-times and we liked exploring different beaches to see which one had the best snorkeling. Stingrays and conch were plentiful at Rum Point. Other beaches had lots of spiny sea urchins, some as huge as a volleyball. The salinity of the ocean water there made us so bouyant that you could snorkel for a couple of hours effortlessly. Christy and I loved to just lie on our backs and float in the calm water, there were no waves washing in like Florida, so you could float forever.

One evening, we took a night-time kayaking ecotour into a magical bay to witness bioluminescence in the water. As we entered the bay, we noticed streaks of blue glowing from where our oars dipped into the water. The deeper we entered the brighter the bioluminescence with every encounter of movement in the water. If you dipped your hand in, you poured sparkles of glowing stars out of your hand. Swirling your hand or foot in the water caused glowing clouds of billowing blue. You felt as if you were part of the movie, Avatar or that you had warped to another world. It was absolutely breathtaking. The bioluminescence is caused by marine plankton called dinoflagellates and this phenomenon is only found in about 10 areas of the world where the conditions are just right. Red mangroves, high light levels, and little water movement out of the bay are the factors behind the remarkable chemical reaction. 
We went to Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Gardens, where gorgeous native flowers grew. Queen Elizabeth, because remember this is a British island. Hail the Queen! It was also a refuge for the blue iguanas. Iguanas and several species of lizards are another common site everywhere that you went on the island.

The last day on Cayman, we took a jet ski tour across the sea to Stingray City. We got out and swam with the stingrays and then went snorkeling over a beautiful colorful reef. Swimming with the stingrays was another highlight of the trip. These curious creatures swam right up next to you or between our legs rubbing their wings up against to check us out as they passed by. They felt rubbery and smooth, kind of like a catfish, not slimy at all though. They were incredibly docile and we got a chance to feed them, give them a kiss, and get a stringray massage. Our tour guide even picked his teeth with one of the stingrays stinger. He told us the difference between these "friendly" stingrays and "wild" stingrays that you should not provoke. We noticed they are curious in the wild too, when we saw them snorkeling,they would turn in the sand to check out the strange masked creatures. We learned they do not mean to cause any harm to humans.


Kev said...

Glad you got tomexperience such a wonderful trip. Glad to see you back to blogging.

Anonymous said...

Enjoyed the detailed stories and photos of your Cayman experience.
Sounds like a lovely place to visit.

The Petitts said...

OHHHH! Wasn't that fun. YOu guys are the best--thanks for coming with us! Where are we going for 20?

Mom said...

Enjoyed having the boys. Glad you all had such a great trip.