The Cayman Islands

7-19-2010

 

The Cayman Islands usually invoke images of massive cruise ships, children petting stingrays and fanny-pack wielding tourists clogging the narrow streets; either that or Bernie Madoff hiding his bounty in the Swiss-inspired banks that loom over the pastel cottages nearby. But whatever image comes to mind, Cayman is not exactly what it seems.

For every photograph of teal and aqua blue seascapes, there’s usually a gift shop in the background. The contrast of beauty and excess define this string of tiny islands and leave the fate of this place in the hands of those that see “bigger things” for Cayman (Caymanian pronunciation: Cay-Man). For us, now on our tenth visit to Cayman, it’s all about avoiding the chunky masses of boat people and the plastic culture built exclusively for them. We instead are destined to enjoy each others company. It’s our chance to unwind, forget about the stress and responsibilities of our day-to-day lives and come together as a family.

Four or five jumbo luxury-liners quietly pull up and anchor in the middle of the night like a well-oiled military attack. As soon as the sun shines the next morning, a shadow is cast on the island and the unobstructed views of angelic waters now consist of portholes, pool slides, and seven stories of nautical chaos. They cram into tour vans, queue up outside of souvenir shops, rent mopeds, slurp super-sized margaritas and devour the port town that was designed 100% for these super-consumers.

New buildings pop up each year and traffic increases around the island. With each year that passes, it becomes more difficult to navigate our way around it. This year we were determined to at least try.

Coral Sands Resort

The Mastic Trail, Cayman’s “largest contiguous area of untouched, old growth dry forest remaining on the island,” became our refuge. Our guide, Stuart Mailer, swept us through the snake and lizard teeming forest as he pointed out plant and animal species most folks would have zipped right past. It opened our eyes to the possibilities of what this island can reclaim. We allowed ourselves to get lost in the hypotheticals of nature. But at the end of the day, we washed those thoughts away on the last night when we hopped aboard the surprisingly local-packed booze cruise, the Jolly Roger.

Don’t get me wrong; we sipped martinis at the Ritz, walked in and out of souvenir shops, and made the essential trek to Rum Point like any other fanny-pack ranger, but I think as a family, we all yearned for the Cayman Islands to submerge back into it’s primitive and beautiful form. We revel in the great restaurants and attractions, but we wonder what it must have felt like to be on Cayman before it realized its potential as a tourist destination. Perhaps next year we’ll get another taste of both.

Coral Sands Resort
Stuart Mailer
The Mastic Trail
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