I thought it would be fun and maybe informative to do a recap of a few things from our travels, sort of a summary with superlatives and other details and photos that didn’t make it into the original blog post(s). I’ll try to go back and do similar “snapshot” posts for a few past trips, but for now I’ll start with Grand Cayman, and then I’ll write this type of post for future travels as well.
With all of the amazing adventures we had on Grand Cayman this is a tough decision, but the best moment was our tour with Fat Fish Adventures where we rode jet skis to the Stingray City sandbar and interacted with giant stingrays, and then snorkeled at Coral Gardens in Rum Point. If you’re on the island for even a half-day and can work this tour into your schedule, I highly (highly highly) recommend them! I’ll post a separate detailed review soon.
See that big shadow in the water? That’s a Southern Stingray! They were a lot bigger than I expected, but just as friendly as everyone says they are – I’ll never forget the feeling of them brushing up against my legs under water, begging for food.
Chris woke up on Tuesday with a bad case of food poisoning, which wins the title for worst moment on this trip and maybe even for all of our trips. He was sick on the hour every hour, and he spent the day convalescing while I hung out poolside feeling guilty! Of course I checked on him every half hour or so, but there wasn’t much I could do – he knew for sure it was food-related and it just needed to run its course. Thankfully by Thursday he was feeling better, but in the meantime we had to cancel our scuba diving adventure for that day. I’m grateful he didn’t discover the illness while diving though!
While researching the area where we were staying, I read about a beach with good snorkeling called Barefoot Beach less than a mile away from our villa. I read that the entrance from the road was fairly hidden, so when Chris and I drove to where I thought the entrance should be, we came across this dilapidated gate with a person-sized opening between the bars and I immediately thought ah-ha, this must be it! We parked our car, climbed carefully over broken tile and through the bars with all of our snorkeling gear in hand, and started to wander down a gravel road. We quickly realized that not only was this not an entrance to a public beach, but there were residences back there and we were probably trespassing. Oops! We scurried back out through the gate and drove away laughing. It turns out the path to the beach was just a few yards down the road. Every time we passed the broken gate while driving to and from our villa we laughed some more. And when we went back to grab this photo, we saw three confused people with beach towels tucked under their arms, also searching for the entrance to Barefoot Beach! I saved them the trouble of crawling through the gate and pointed them in the direction of the real entrance, but I was glad to know we weren’t the only ones to make that mistake.
We both agreed that our favorite meal was at Tukka, where we ordered two courses recommended by Chef Ron Hargrave. We enjoyed the Tukka Brochette – mixed grill skewers with beef filet, lobster medallions, chicken, and king prawns served with whipped potato, green beans & twin sauces – followed by the Warm Walnut & Date Pudding, which I normally wouldn’t be drawn to, but it was the chef’s special so I decided to give it a try and oh-em-gee, I’m glad I did, despite knowing that I’d get a bit of a bellyache from the ice cream. (Being lactose intolerant I try to avoid dairy about 95% of the time, but every once in a while I take a chance if it seems worth it, and this time definitely was!) If no one had been watching, I’m pretty sure I would have licked the dish clean to get every last bit of the decadent sauce.
Note: I rarely take photos of my meals, and I need to get better about this! Usually I’m too hungry to pause and snap a photo, but this time I just happened to take a quick iPhone snapshot because the brochette was so unique and impressive. It’s a little blurry and crooked because I was trying to be quick and discrete – several other patrons were staring at us and ooo-ing/ahh-ing over our the presentation of meals, so I was trying not to be even more of a spectacle!
Something We Learned
Fish and coral identification! I’ve mostly been using Florent’s Guide To The Tropical Reefs in order to ID the fish and coral we’ve spotted, but we also picked up a handy waterproof guidebook while snorkeling with Tortuga Divers. On this trip we saw brain coral, star coral, so many sponges, stingrays, eagle rays, angel fish, butterflyfish, tangs, sergeant majors, surgeonfish, several types of parrot fish, trumpet fish, spotted trunk fish, bar jacks, a teeny tiny jellyfish, and this little guy, who I think is some kind of drum fish, maybe a high hat (screenshots taken from video):
We’re Thankful We Packed
Our rash guards. The sun is strong in Grand Cayman! For the amount of time we were outdoors, sunscreen just doesn’t cut it for our fair skin. We each brought long-sleeved rash guards and used them frequently. Sure, we miss out on most of that post-beach-vacation tan, but we also (hopefully) miss out on sun damage, painful burns, and potential skin cancer.
We Didn’t Need To Bring
Swim tights. I thought if I wear a rash guard for my back and arms, why not also protect my legs? So I purchased and brought a pair of full-length tights that are made for swimming. It’s a nice idea for sun protection and maybe even for skin protection against something like jellyfish stings, but I didn’t end up using them. (Just to clarify, I brought swim tights; Chris did not. I think he would want me to make that known.)
As I mentioned, we didn’t get to scuba dive, but we thoroughly enjoyed our snorkeling adventures. And of course we regret eating the meal that rendered Chris ill with food poisoning. It’s not something that could have been avoided though. We’re 99.9% sure he got sick at a nice restaurant & bar in George Town – it was clean with lovely decor and a beautiful view, so we just never suspected that it would result in an illness.
Also? I hate to bum anyone out, but I regret giving any money to the Cayman Turtle Farm ($18 each for the basic access). I found the whole experience disappointing. I can see why families with kids enjoy it though, for the opportunity to interact closely with these beautiful creatures. As adults visiting without kids, we were just too aware that the turtles, an endangered species, are bred here for the purpose of consumption and it just made our visit sad. Yes, there is a conservation and research effort as well, and if it was conservation and research ONLY I might have been happier to visit and give them our money. Either way, some of the turtles are kept in dirty, crowded, boring conditions and it just broke my heart.
We didn’t even get to see any baby turtles – it wasn’t hatching season apparently, which they didn’t mention when we paid for our tickets. Chris and I also got kicked out of the snorkeling area because we hadn’t paid for snorkeling access. We were just standing near the outside of the pond people-watching, clearly not trying to snorkel. Meanwhile, the same staff who were standing around making sure people like us didn’t stand anywhere near the areas we didn’t pay for, did nothing to keep other people from breaking safety rules and holding turtles out of their tanks over the concrete walkways (if you pick the turtles up, you’re supposed to hold them over the water). So obviously they are more concerned about making money than for the well-being of the turtles. I think we stayed for a total of ten minutes and that was ten minutes too long.
Reasons To Go Back
We definitely need to go back to Grand Cayman to dive! It’s frequently recognized as one of the top diving destinations in the world, so if we do get into scuba as a hobby, I’d certainly love to go back and explore more of the island’s underwater world, which is a total 180 from how I usually feel about the ocean! The crystal-clear waters made us feel like we were in a giant aquarium, and all of the fish we encountered seemed friendly (or scared of us) so I’m totally feeling more at-ease in the water. That’s even despite a sting I felt on my ankle at Starfish Point – I’m pretty sure it was a jellyfish and the sting lasted a few hours, but it really wasn’t that bad, so I might even be able to get over my fear of jellyfish. Well no, I won’t get over it completely, but I feel slightly less terrified of them now.
My favorite photo from the whole trip is one that I think Chris might have taken – we both shot with the underwater camera at Stingray City, but Chris took more photos than I did. I was mostly just trying to stand still and not accidentally step on a giant stingray. The waves were bigger than I expected and made it challenging to keep my balance!
And Chris’s favorite photo is also an underwater shot – he took this one of a huge angelfish while snorkeling at Sunset Reef. We chased this guy (gal?) all over the place so I’m glad he ended up with a great image.