Have you ever had a vacation so great that returning home puts you in an immediate funk? Following our return from the Cayman Islands, I’m longing for the feel of the calm, clear aquamarine waters of the Caribbean Sea, the sounds of many different accents from the friendly, multicultural residents, and even the frequent sight of iguanas darting across the street and into the Bougainvillea bushes.
It was our first time here, and our kids’ first visit to the Caribbean. Two of our favorite experiences on Grand Cayman involved iconic Caribbean marine life, the sea turtle and the stingray:
The Cayman Turtle Centre: Island Wildlife Encounter
My daughter is an aspiring naturalist, and she loves learning about all creatures, land or sea. The Cayman Turtle Centre is the country’s largest land-based attraction, and a definite must-see for the opportunity to get hands-on, literally, with green sea turtles. The Centre’s main focus is as a research and conservation facility, and it oversees turtle-breeding and release programs.
Since it raises turtles from eggs, you’re able to peer into several tanks holding turtles at every age. At the turtle touch tank, you can even pick up the one-year olds! You can see the full-grown turtles in the Green’s Breeding Pond, and in another, you can feed Sparky, the largest resident at 555 lbs.
There are other exhibits as well, including the Caribbean Free Flight Aviary and the Predator Reef, home to nurse sharks, barracuda, tarpon, and more. We stopped in to the Caribbean Exhibit for some air conditioning, and to see the lab where the turtle eggs are kept until they hatch. You have the opportunity to snorkel alongside the turtles in Boatswain’s Lagoon, or you can cool off in Breaker’s Lagoon, a pool with a waterfall and the new “Turtle Twister” water slide.
Another “must-do” activity is visiting Stingray City, a shallow offshore reef where friendly sting rays congregate. Several companies offer daily boat tours. Captain Marvin’s picked us up at our hotel, and brought our group of 20 on a three-hour tour with three stops: Stingray City to interact with the rays; and two great snorkeling spots called the Coral Gardens and Barrier Reef.
We loved walking waist-deep in the crystal clear sea among scores of stingrays. These docile creatures slide across your legs, and will let you feed them pieces of squid, supplied by the tour company. There was a photographer on board, who with his assistant poses you with the stingray, even letting you “kiss” it.
During the two snorkeling stops, we used the masks, snorkels, and flippers supplied (and sterilized) by the company. This was our kids’ first time snorkeling, and they loved it once they got the hang of it. Above and beyond several types of brightly colored fish, like Blue Tang and yellow-striped Sergeant Major Damselfish, there was coral in all shades of blue and purple.
Tomorrow, I’ll share more highlights from our trip to Grand Cayman!
–Traci L. Suppa