Cayman Islands Visit

So as you know Caitlin and I just got back from a hair over a week in the Cayman Islands. We found a deeply discounted flight+hotel package and, after reading about Grand Cayman on a “top ten snorkel vacations” list, booked it on one of those last-minute vacation sites. Direct flight too, so it was a really easy and low-stress visit. The hotel was on Seven Mile Beach, a nice clean sand beach. The best thing about it was that they’ve installed lots of hollow cement balls to create an artificial reef, so you can go snorkeling with lots of little tropical fish just feet from shore. In our journeys it seems like you could probably find a great place to snorkel anywhere you are there, and there are something like two hundred dive sites. This is the one in front of where we stayed:

We booked a couple of snorkel tours by boat, but unfortunately only got to do the first one due to weather. Especially unfortunate because the canceled one was a couple of “proper” coral reefs and what sounds like a really fun visit to a sandbar covered with wild but very tame (and large) stingrays. Not that I’m complaining about what we did get to do — it started with a visit to the USS Kittiwake, a 250 foot long wreck that was just recently sunk so coral hasn’t had much time to grow, but there are lots of fish (including a few big barracudas). The bottom of the boat is in around sixty feet of water — and it’s clear enough to see all the way down from the surface — but the very top of the boat is close enough to the surface that Caitlin could stand on it and be out of the water.

And yes, the middle picture is me losing my hotel card. I was hoping one of the divers would bring it up but no one noticed. I had so much fun swimming the length of the boat over and over that by the time I got out of the water I was in incredible pain and when we got to the next site, Cemetery Beach, instead of joining Caitlin in the water I did my best sea-sick impression and spent a few minutes heaving over the side of the boat, feeding the fish the salt water taffy that I’d gotten the day before.

Our other tour was taking a night ride on the Atlantis Submarine, which is a big 48 passenger tourist submarine. The shelf around the island is about a hundred feet down, and then after that the cliff drops a few thousand feet straight down. We did an hour or so of slowly browsing the reef. Because it was night time they were running with the lights on (other than turning them off briefly to show us the glowing plankton) so we could see color, which you can’t normally see at that depth because the light frequencies don’t all penetrate. However, night also meant that there weren’t as many fish out, and most of what we saw were tarpin — lots of big tarpin. We saw even more of them a couple days later at supper when the over-water restaurant tossed a bunch of what I assume were scraps into the water and the school of churning tarpin went nuts for the treat. Anyway, in the top picture you can see a nurse shark. Some others saw an octopus but I didn’t see it so the shark was my fish highlight.

It wasn’t as exciting as I’d hoped, mostly because you don’t really see that much out the window and you feel surprisingly disconnected from your environment. Intellectually you understand what you’re seeing and where you are, but there’s no “gut feeling” of floating along a hundred feet under water. It could be a grainy movie. That said, it looked a million times better than my crap camera (I got a Fujifilm XP20 waterproof camera and overall it sucks — and is very difficult to control and I couldn’t make take a decent low-light photo) could capture. When we are in Cozumel in November with Ari I think I’d like to try a daytime tour. As far as I know there is a sub trip there as well.

You can zoom that. Walking along the beach Caitlin noticed that there were tons and tons of cute little hermit crabs. They’re not too thrilled if you pick them up but quite brave. First they snugly hide in their found shell (and it’s quite funny to watch them in them) but it’s just a few seconds later before they pop out and start nipping at you and trying to scuttle away.

Other favorites of Caitlin included the lizards. When we were in Cuba there were cats all over. In Mexico, dogs. In Costa Rica, well… everything… and in the Cayman Islands the local critter of abundance was definitely lizards. Lizards and pirates carrying butt plugs that is (perhaps not surprising when your country code is “KY”), unless of course that’s just a broken sword. We’ll never know.

Other than that here are a couple happy pictures of Caitlin and I. The last dressed up one — and I really annoyed Caitlin by fiddling with the camera trying to take an evening portrait under a street light — is because we went and ate at Aqua, which was my favorite meal of the week. I started with a pile of different ceviches (big ceviche fan!) and got an extra one because they brought the wrong kind and then followed it with a bunch of different kinds of grilled fish.

Comparing the Cayman Islands to the other islands that I’ve spent time on (Cuba, Antigua, British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, etc.), it’s definitely the most “modern”. A lot of the time you could easily convince yourself that you’re on the American mainland.

We did not however go on any booze cruises.

I was weaker and sicker than I had expected, and I wish I had sucked it up and pushed myself a bit harder and done more, but it was still a really nice vacation break. I can’t wait for November, when Ari is coming with us to Cozumel. I’m going down to see her for Halloween which should be nice too. When we got back here it was so much colder! In some ways that was actually a relief, but it turns out that I’m eager for them to turn on our building’s heat because it’s taking my silicone twice as long (at least) to set due to the cold!!! I’ve got eight pieces of jewelry sitting in a hardening mold that I’m dying to test cast — I brought clay along and these are all things that I sculpted in the hotel room.

PS. Jeez time goes by too fast. It takes so long to make these posts… I don’t know how I ever handled posting at the volume I once did!


  1. Miss Liss wrote:

    Well, thank you for spending the (too much) time, I really enjoy reading what you’ve been up to. I love snorkelling and hope to visit our Great Barrier Reef again in the next few months. Your post has inspired me to make it happen!

    Please tell Caitlin that the pause-for-photography was worth it, a lovely photo =)

    Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 12:35 am | Permalink
  2. Twwly wrote:

    LOVE this post! Love the smiling sun slathered photos! Love it!

    Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink
  3. Caitlin wrote:

    Thanks Liss. I loathe having my picture taken, I am truly the least photogenic person ever, ask Shannon. And every time a flash goes off I think I might get a migraine so the whole process is pretty unpleasant. These pictures are nice, though, and I’m glad they exist!

    Thursday, October 20, 2011 at 4:44 pm | Permalink
Wow Shannon, that's really annoying! What is it, 1997 on Geocities? Retroweb is NOT cool!

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