1. The Cayman Islands was the only Caribbean country to be truly discovered by Christopher Columbus, who first sighted Little Cayman on 10th May 1503 on his fourth and final voyage. There is no evidence of previous inhabitants. He named the islands “Las Tortugas” for the many sea turtles found living there. The islands were later renamed “Las Caymanas” for the iguanas that were mistaken for crocodiles.
2. Around 100 nationalities live in the Cayman Islands making it one of the most cosmopolitan, friendly and safest countries in the world. The extraordinary story of Cayman’s early settlers can be found in Mission House, and Pedro St James which was the birthplace of Caymanian democracy. Both are in Bodden Town which was the original capital of the Cayman Islands.
3. Apart from below sea level, the best way to appreciate the reefs is by air. Cayman Helicopters is run by former stunt pilot Jerome Begot who worked on 27 Hollywood films including the blockbuster Speed with Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock. See turtles, stingrays, eagle rays, giant starfish and the stunning coral reefs from the air on a never-to-be-forgotten flight over the reefs. www.cihelicopters.com
4. Most of Cayman’s resorts are located on Seven Mile Beach. The 70 miles or so of coastline beyond the capital of George Town, are largely undeveloped with just a smattering of small hotels and B&Bs and no resorts at all on the North Side although there are around 100 private homes available to rent through www.caymanvillas.com
5. Cayman is one of the most family oriented countries in the world with a deep rooted sense of community. Children of all ages are welcomed in all establishments and can enjoy a huge range of activities including learning to dive from the age of ten, and Jean Michel Cousteau’s Ambassador of the Environment programme.
6. The Grand Cayman Blue Iguana was the first species to be saved from extinction in the 21st Century by British scientist Fred Burton, MBE, who brought the huge prehistoric reptile – which grows up to 5 ft, has bright red eyes and turns vivid blue in the sun – back from functional extinction. See the Blues roaming freely or in the breeding facility in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on Grand Cayman. www.blueiguana.ky
7. There are more flora and fauna species in the Cayman Islands than can be found in the Galapagos.
8. The 65 acre Queen Elizabeth iI Botanic Park was opened by Her Majesty in 1994 and now is one of the finest in the world with many species of orchid including two of the rarest on earth – the Banana Orchid and the Ghost orchid. In 2009, in an initiative with the Cayman Islands Department of tourism, the park won a Gold medal at the Chelsea Flower Show and the President’s Award for the Most Creative Garden. www.botanic-park.ky
9. After eight years of negotiation, a 250 foot US submarine rescue vessel, the USS Kittiwake, was sunk just off Seven Mile Beach in January 2011 to make an artificial reef for divers and snorkelers. The marine life and coral reefs in Cayman are regarded as some of the best in the world with a stringent marine conservation policy. www.kittiwake.com
10. Little Cayman is the last wild island left in the Caribbean. It has just 150 residents but around 2000 iguanas, all of whom have right of way. Little Cayman also has the largest population of red footed boobies in the Western Hemisphere. Choose from one of just three tiny resorts or a handful of private cottages.
11. Stingray City just off Grand Cayman is one of the only places in the world where it is possible to swim with hundreds of friendly Southern stingrays in open water. A fisherman called Captain Marvin Ebanks founded the site, which is in fact a shallow sand bar, just 1 m to 4 m in depth, a mile out to sea, when he decided to jump in with the rays which came to collect the scraps from the fishing nets.
12. All visitors to Cayman Brac, the second largest island are offered a free nature tour . The Brac is known for its miles of walking trails, empty beaches, The Brac Parrot Reserve, huge bat caves and The Bluff (after which The Brac is named in Gaelic) which rises 140 foot above sea level and is home to hundreds of nesting brown boobies. www.itsyourstoexplore.com
13. There are almost 200 restaurants on Grand Cayman and eating out is a daily activity for Caymanians, expats and visitors alike. Choose from a local Caymanian café serving cuisine such as conch fritters and turtle stew, or sophisticated French, Italian, Japanese and even Australian cuisine. http://www.caymanrestaurants.com
14. Although turtle is the national dish, turtle meat is only available from the Cayman Turtle Farm which also plays a major role in conservation releasing hundreds of hatchlings into the sea every year. It is also a fabulous family marine park. http://www.boatswainsbeach.ky/
15. The Cayman Islands produces its own beer – Caybrew – and its own rum Seven Fathoms Rum which is matured in barrels in a secret location underwater, using the motion of the waves to turn them. www.sevenfathomsrum.com
16. Much of Cayman is covered in limestone ironshore, making it one of the harshest islands in the world in which to grow local produce. However, a successful hydroponic farming industry has been established by British producer Stephen Herron – former supplier of frozen peas to Waitrose – who is now supplying many of Cayman’s top restaurants with local produce grown in water without soil. The Farmers Market takes place at 7 am every Saturday in Bodden Town and there is a daily fish market in George Town.
17. A secret lagoon on Grand Cayman is one of a handful of places in the world where the phenomenon of ‘bioluminescence’ can be found. Best described as like fairy dust, it is caused by a single cell organism reacting with the water resulting in a green or blue light, and can be experienced on nights when there is a new moon by kayaking into the lagoon. For more information on the Bio Bay tour, visit www.caymankayaks.com
18. The Central Caribbean Marine Research Institute is located on Little Cayman and is one of two leading centres in the world involved in critical research into issues such as the effect of climate change on the coral reefs and invasive species such as lion fish. ‘ Dive with a Researcher’ is a programme that allows experienced divers to spend a week working with some of the world’s experts at CCMI. www.reefresearch.org
19. The Cayman Motor Museum is one of the largest and most valuable private collections of cars in the world. The priceless collection of almost 90 exotic, rare and classic motor vehicles is owned by Norwegian shipping magnate Andreas Ugland and includes the original Batmobile from the 1966 movie, the world’s first car and Elton John’s Daimler as well as many more extraordinary models. www.caymanmotormuseum.com
20. Getting married on the Cayman Islands is easy but the resorts have a ‘one wedding a day’ policy to ensure that every couple has a unique experience. Couples can choose from a beach wedding, church wedding and even an underwater wedding using an anchor as an alter and an aisle on the seabed lined with conch shells, before flying away in a 19 seat twin otter for their honeymoon on Little Cayman www.celebrationsltd.com
21. Supermodel and Victoria’s Secret Angel in the US, Selita Ebanks, was born in a village on Grand Cayman and discovered by Elite Models when she was 17.
22. The Cayman Trench is the second deepest ocean in the world at 7686 metres, or 4.77 miles. Wall diving in the Cayman Islands is regarded as the best in the world with dives such as Bloody Bay Wall just a stone’s throw from the shore on Little Cayman which falls from 6 m to over 300 m in a sheer vertical drop off.
23. The 48 passenger Atlantis Submarine is an advanced technological marvel that allows visitors wishing to discover the vast coral canyons and brilliant tropical fish of Cayman’s National Marine Park without getting their feet wet. The submarine descends to depths of 100 feet. Passengers simply descend into the observatory and enter a wall-to-wall glass-viewing chamber gazing at teeming shallow reefs and shipwrecks. http://www.atlantisadventures.com/caribbean/cayman/cayman-activities.cfm
25. The Cayman Islands enjoys its tax free status after locals rescued the crews of ten British merchant ships that struck a reef in 1794 and George III rewarded the islands with a promise never to introduce taxes.
26. The Cayman Islands should be referred to as The Cayman Islands or simply as ‘Cayman’. It should never be called ‘The Caymans’.
For further information please contact:
Susie de Carteret/Laura Shelbourne
Tel: 020 7792 3719 / 07957 322275/07797742541