Cayman Islands

Environment:

The Cayman Islands (aka Caymans) are a three-island group (Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac, Little Cayman) in Caribbean Sea, between Cuba and Central American mainland. The terrain consists of low-lying limestone base surrounded by coral reefs. The highest point is The Bluff at 43 meters (141 feet), on Cayman Brac. There are no natural fresh water resources; so, drinking water supplies must be met by rainwater catchments. The Caymans are located on a particular geological feature called the Cayman Trough, which is the deepest part of the Caribbean, and hence the popularity of “wall diving” there.

The Department of Environment, under the Ministry for Health, Environment, Youth, Sport and Culture, is responsible for conservation of the environment and management of natural resources, including protected areas. Cayman Eco is an independent environmental NGO. The Cayman Institute concerns itself with sustainability and climate change issues. The Caymans have demonstrated progress on renewable energy. In 2011, electric rental cars were introduced, with public solar charging stations. In 2012, the government provided free solar electric systems to 1500 households, under the new Electricity Regulatory Authority.

Terrestrial parks include the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. Geological attractions include the “Hell” limestone formations, as well as Cayman Crystal Caves. The development of the privately owned caves generated some controversy in 2012 when heavy machinery was brought in. The Central Caribbean Marine Institute operates Little Cayman Research Center, which offers a number of educational programs. Kittiwake Shipwreck is a new artificial reef and marine attraction.

Cayman Wildlife Connection is a local NGO concerned with the preservation of wild creatures. Unfortunately, Cayman Wildlife Rescue was forced to close in 2011, due to lack of funding; however, there is still Cayman Islands Humane Society and Cayman Animal Rescue Enthusiasts. The Blue Iguana Recovery Programme is dedicated to the preservation of the endangered blue iguana. The Cayman Turtle Farm, a commercial venture to domesticate green sea turtles, has become a large tourist attraction. Cayman Turtle Farm was widely criticized in 2013 over “factory farming” sea turtles. Stingray City is a tourist attraction, a series of shallow sandbars found in the North Sound of Grand Cayman, where southern stingrays are found in abundance, and that visitors can pet and interact with. Dolphin Cove Cayman, part of a Jamaican syndicate, offers captive dolphin experiences. In 2012, a rogue dolphin named “Stinky” was reportedly hanging around Grand Cayman, and annoying divers.

Naturalist Ann Stafford’s CaymANNature offers guided nature tours. Nature tours of Cayman Brac island and the Cayman Brac Parrot Reserve are provided by Nature Cayman. Horseback riding is available from Spirit of the West. Cayman Kayaks offers bioluminescence and mangrove wildlife tours. Captain Marvin’s Watersports specializes in Stingray City snorkel tours. Cayman Islands Submarines offers a real submarine dive to Cayman’s National Marine Park, in air-conditioned comfort, aboard their 48 passenger Atlantis Submarine. Wall to Wall Diving offers personally guided Grand Cayman diving. Cayman Islands Tourism Association maintains an online listing of their watersports members.

Culture:

There is no archaeological evidence that humans occupied the Caymans prior to European arrival in the 16th century. The islands were colonized from Jamaica by the British during the 18th and 19th centuries. Cayman Islands was administered by Jamaica from 1863 until Jamaican independence in 1962, after which it became a direct dependency of the British Crown. In 1972, the Cayman Islands dollar was introduced to replace the Jamaican dollar, and in 1974 was pegged to the United States dollar (at 1 KYD to 1.2 USD).

News reports indicate an increase in violent crime linked to the economic downturn; the Cayman Crime Stoppers website gives some indication of the current situation. Despite same-sex sexual activity having been legalized in 2000, Cayman Islands is still considered to be anti-gay. Cayman Islands law prohibits all forms of public nudity, including topless sunbathing. In 2012, a poll showed that most Caymanians favor decriminalization of Cannabis (called “ganja” in Caymans). In 2013, it was revealed that one quarter of Caymanian inmates use ganja in prison.

The National Trust for the Cayman Islands has been protecting both natural and cultural heritage of the islands since its inception in 1987. Museums include Bodden Town Mission House, Cayman Islands National Museum and Old Savannah School House. Popular events include Cayman Carnival Batabano, Pirates Week Festival and the Taste of Cayman food festival. Cayman National Cultural Foundation promotes the music of the Cayman Islands, and the Cayman Music and Entertainment Association maintains a Facebook page. Pure Art is the recommended private gallery.

References:

  • Supplemental Feeding for Ecotourism Reverses Diel Activity and Alters Movement Patterns and Spatial Distribution of the Southern Stingray, Dasyatis americana by MJ Corcoran, BM Wetherbee, MS Shivji, MD Potenski, DD Chapman, GM Harvey, 2013
  • Tourism in the Cayman Islands: the effects of the occurrence of hurricanes in the local tourist activity by LR Oliveira, EF Martins, RM Medeiros, JCS Mello, 2011
  • Unifying ecological and social sciences into a management framework for wildlife-based tourism: a case study of feeding stingrays as a marine tourism attraction in the Cayman Islands by CAD Semeniuk, 2009
  • Relationship between cruise-ship tourism and stay-over tourism: A case study of the shift in the Cayman Islands’ tourism strategy by H Shamsub, W Albrecht, R Dawkins, 2006
  • The political ecology of tourism in the Cayman Islands by DB Weaver, S Gössling, 2003
  • ‘Stingray City’-managing the impact of underwater tourism in the Cayman Islands by M Shackley, 1998
  • Tourism development on the rampage-the Cayman Islands by F Burton, 1998
  • Tourism educational and training policies in developing countries: a case study of the Cayman Islands (Caribbean) by S George, AE Clark, 1998
  • Diving in the Cayman Islands: Economic Impact & Requirements for Maintaining Its Premier Status, Prepared for the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism by M Pratt, 1995
  • Cayman islands: successful tourism yesterday, today and tomorrow by M Pratt, 1993