The Ultimate Cayman Bucket List, Part Two: Adventures in Nature
by Maia Muttoo Oct 21, 2019
Are you visiting the Cayman Islands for the first time?
Maybe you’re a resident looking for a new weekend adventure?
Look no further than our Yello series of bucket list experiences in Cayman.
From outdoor activities to culinary events and cultural sites, we’ve got you covered.
This time: Adventures in Nature.
The Cayman Islands’ natural beauty goes without saying. You can appreciate the incredible flora and fauna with a range of fun activities on land and in the water.
Scuba Dive Shipwrecks
With hundreds of shipwrecks in Cayman’s waters, there is no shortage of dive sites for wreck enthusiasts. Some of the most popular are:
-The USS Kittiwake: A 251-foot American rescue vessel dating to 1945. In 2011, the ship was intentionally sunk off the coast of West Bay in Grand Cayman to create a new dive site and artificial reef. The wreck sits at 60 feet with excellent visibility and water temperatures that range from the mid-70s in winter to low-80s in summer.
-The Oro Verde: The name of this 84-foot cargo vessel translates from Spanish to green-gold for the bananas it used to transport. The wreck is no longer in one piece due to impact from hurricanes over the years but is still an incredible artificial reef for moray eels, drum fish, jacks and angelfish. The wreck sits at 50 feet, and visibility is typically good.
-The Balboa: The Balboa sits at only 20 feet, making it a superb site for beginner divers or snorkellers. This site is the remains of a 375-foot freighter that sunk during the 1932 hurricane. Located in the George Town harbour, this site is popular with cruise ship passengers as it is very close to the port.
-The Carrie Lee: The Carrie Lee freighter, which once carried goods between Grand Cayman and Cayman Brac, wrecked off Grand Cayman’s southwest side. The wreck sits at 180 to 220 feet, and as such, this dive is recommended for experienced wreck divers.
-The Capt. Keith Tibbetts: This 330-foot Russian warship was sunk off Cayman Brac in 1996 to create an artificial reef. It lies in 56 feet of water at about 200 yards off the shore and is home to groupers, grunts and many other species.
Dive Cayman’s shipwrecks with these scuba diving centres:
Swim with Stingrays
Stingray City is one of the most popular attractions in Cayman. Stingrays have frequented the sandbar off North Side since fishers began using it as a stop to clean fish caught at the nearby reef. You’ll still find colonies of free-roaming stingrays here, especially when tour boats come in with squid. Join a tour group or take a private charter with one of these companies to swim with the rays:
Walk the Mastic Trail
Intrepid travellers will love the mastic trail nature reserve in East End. The easy, hour-and-a-half hike through beautiful tropical woodlands takes you up to the highest natural point in Grand Cayman at 60 feet. Along the way, you’ll see many of the country’s native plant and animal species up close, including yellow mastic trees, cedar and mahogany trees, woodpeckers, bananaquits and ground doves.
Join a guided tour with the National Trust for the Cayman Islands on Tuesday or Thursday mornings. Additional tour times may be available at request. Find out more at the Trust’s website.
You can also visit the trail independently. Trail maps are available at the National Trust’s Nature Store at Dark Park in South Sound.
Pro tip: Be careful where you walk! Maiden plum, a harmful plant similar to poison ivy, grows along the trail. You will recognise it by its dark, shiny leaves with serrated edges. Touching this plant can result in severe skin reactions.
While you might not be able to go spelunking in Cayman, there are several easy-access caves you can explore.
In Grand Cayman, visit Crystal Caves. A knowledgeable tour guide will lead you through three of the caves in the Old Man Bay area of North Side. Inside Crystal Caves, you’ll see subterranean lakes, ancient stalactites and, if you visit at the right time, a family of friendly fruit bats.
There are many caves to visit in Cayman Brac, and all are great options. Accessible caves include:
-The Great Cave.
Go Bird Watching at Booby Pond
Break out your binoculars at Little Cayman’s Booby Pond. The watering hole boasts the largest colony of red-footed boobies in the Northern Hemisphere, along with several other wetland species. Flamingos, herons, egrets and whistling ducks are all frequent visitors to the pond.
Scuba Dive Bloody Bay Wall
Bloody Bay Wall is one of the world’s most impressive dive sites. The incredible marine drop-off starts at 20 feet and plummets to over 1,000 feet. With spectacular visibility, you’ll have a great view of the vibrant corals and sponges that constitute the wall, and the sea creatures that frequent it.
Many resorts in Little Cayman operate dive tours. To dive Bloody Bay Wall, check out resorts and dive shops:
Climb the Bluff
At 140 feet, Cayman Brac’s Bluff is the highest point in the Cayman Islands. The limestone sea-cliff rises over the Caribbean Sea for an incredible view of the crystal-blue water. You can scale it with Rock Iguana, a company that offers outdoor rock climbing on the bluff. Professionals will teach you the skills you need to climb, no matter your level of experience; courses are available for beginners, intermediates and experts.
Go Off-the-Path Kayaking
Kayaking at Seven Mile Beach is always incredible, but you can take your experience up a notch by heading out into the bioluminescent bay or the mangrove wetlands.
At the bioluminescent bay, plankton light up the water a bright, sparkling blue thanks to a natural chemical reaction. Cayman Kayaks offers a guided, moonlit tour into the bay on illuminated kayaks. The tours start at Rum Point Club and last approximately one and a half to two hours.
You can also explore Cayman’s mangroves via kayak with Ambassadors for the Environment or Cayman Sea Elements. You’ll learn about the islands’ wetland environment and the species that call it home while paddling under picturesque mangrove canopies.
Visit the Botanic Park and Blue Iguana Reserve
If you want to see Cayman’s habitats in one fell swoop, head to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park where you can stroll through themed gardens. You’ll likely have the chance to spot blue iguanas, an endangered species that can only be found on Grand Cayman, thanks to the park’s on-site reserve facility.
There you have it! These are some of the best nature activities to do in Cayman.
What are you waiting for?
Head out into the sunshine and start ticking off these bucket list items.
Sources: Uncommon Caribbean, Cayman Compass, National Trust for the Cayman Islands, Scuba Diving, Explore Cayman, iDive Cayman, Paul Gacek, Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, Scuba Board, Atlas Obscura, Caribya, Visit Cayman Islands, and Sport Diver.