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7 of the best luxury eats in the Cayman Islands
7 of the best luxury eats in the Cayman Islands

 The Cayman Islands are widely regarded as the culinary capital of the Caribbean, and it's not difficult to see why.luxury food on a plate in the Cayman Islands

A thriving tourism industry coupled with a multicultural population means expectations are set extremely high when it comes to the quality and diversity of food available in Cayman. This combined with a growing number of internationally recognised food festivals, industry experts, award-winning establishments, and increasing demand for and supply of locally grown produce, quickly makes it apparent that food is more than just sustenance here, it’s a way of life. 

To help you navigate the plethora of restaurants and places to eat in the Cayman Islands, we've compiled a shortlist outlining just some of Cayman’s best spots to dine, sip, and savour. Here are the top seven:

 

Best for raw: Catch Restaurant & Lounge, Morgan’s Harbour 

Tucked away in West Bay, you’ll find Catch Restaurant & Lounge, an open-air dining room perched on the edge of the Caribbean Sea. As the name might suggest, Catch is renowned for its fresh seafood, both cooked and raw, and you’ll understand why when you see fishermen unloading their haul and carrying it right through the dining room. 

Local catch ceviche, a duo of local fish tartare, tuna sashimi and the seared yellowfin tuna are just a few of the raw or near raw options on the menu. For those that prefer their seafood slightly more cooked, the crispy trigger fish with pickled escovitch is a Caribbean classic that’s not to be missed, along with the smoked wahoo carpaccio and the crispy octopus.

Catch restaurant grand cayman fish dishPhoto by Sonita Malan

Highlights:

  • Local catch ceviche
  • Duo of local fish tartare
  • Tuna sashimi
  • Seared yellowfin tuna
  • Crispy trigger fish with pickle escovitch (a Caribbean classic)
  • Smoked wahoo carpaccio
  • Crispy octopus

Best for cocktails: Backroom Cigar Bar, Regency Court 

Backroom Cigar Bar is as close to a speakeasy as you’ll find in the Cayman Islands. Next to a colourful and brightly lit Asian restaurant on West Bay Road, Backroom is in stark contrast with its non-descript sign simply stating “BAR” atop a row of blacked-out windows.

When the sun dips below the horizon, discover this sumptuous bar’s hidden secrets. Behind the well-worn brass door handle is a dimly lit room with a long, dark wooden bar, a few incredibly comfortable red leather bar chairs, and a world of luxurious libations waiting to be explored.

From contemporary and classic to seasonal and experimental, the menu at Backroom is concise and compact, but still offers up a drink for every palate. But, the best way to enjoy a cocktail at Backroom is to give the bartender a direction — be it your choice of spirit or a seasonal ingredient — and then sit back and watch the international team of mixologists craft a truly remarkable beverage.

Backroom also moonlights as a cigar bar with a selection of luxury Cuban cigars.Backroom cigar bar Grand Cayman cocktailsPhoto by Janet Jarchow

Highlights:

  • Speakeasy atmosphere
  • Highly customisable cocktails
  • International team of mixologists
  • Luxury Cuban cigars

Best for steak: Seven at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman 

In 2018 Seven, at the Ritz-Carlton, was ranked among the 10 best restaurants in the Caribbean. This luxurious dining spot boasts a sleek interior design with contrasting cream and dark wood accents with two beautiful wine-filled walls encased in glass. 

Top notch cocktails compliment the a la carte menu which offers premium quality Niman Ranch meats, Snake River Farms wagyu, and local seafood selections. Ordering multiple cuts of meat and asking for them “sliced” is recommended to make sharing easy, along with ordering several of their decadent side dishes like truffled mac and cheese, coconut creamed callaloo, and chipotle creamed corn with uncured Niman Ranch bacon. It’s often unwise to fill up on bread at restaurants such as this but passing on the freshly baked mango brioche would be a grave mistake. Seven Ritz Carlton Grand Cayman Steak

Highlights:

  • Niman Ranch meats
  • Snake River Farms wagyu
  • Local seafood selections
  • Truffled mac and cheese
  • Coconut creamed callaloo
  • Chipotlet creamed Corn with uncured Niman Ranch Bacon
  • Mango brioche

Best for seafood: Blue by Eric Ripert at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman 

Chef de Cuisine Thomas Seifried is at the top of his game, carrying the torch passed down by three Michelin Star chef Eric Ripert of Le Bernardin in New York City. 

The menu at Blue, at the Ritz-Carlton, by Eric Ripert focuses on the best and freshest seafood available. Each dish is perfectly prepared and cooked before being served with rich sauces exquisitely paired to elevate the undisputed start of the plate, the fish. The menu changes seasonally but notable dishes at the time of writing include the tuna and foie gras, a signature dish at Blue, as well as the scallop with summer truffles, poached scampi with marinated sushi rice and ramps, and the seared grouper with saffron risotto and bouillabaisse broth. 

Attention to detail is evident from the moment you walk in - every wine pairing sublime, every dish meticulously and elegantly presented with flavours that range from subtle to striking and back again. This is the reason that Blue remains the only restaurant in the Caribbean to be bestowed the coveted AAA Five Diamond Award, a distinction it’s held since 2008.Blue Restaurant, Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, Seafood dish

Highlights

  • AAA Five Diamond Award
  • Seasonal menu
  • Tuna froze gras
  • Scallop with summer truffles
  • Poached scampi with marinated sushi rice and ramps
  • Seared grouper with saffron risotto and bouillabaisse broth

Best for tasting:  Avecita at Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa 

Cayman’s newest hotel addition, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, boasts a stunning bar and restaurant called Ave. 

Naturally lit with expansive floor to ceiling windows, the exposed beams and concrete walls blend seamlessly with the inviting furnishings. The island-style bar on the left draws your vision first and should certainly be the first stop for a glass of wine or a handcrafted cocktail. However, the true crowning jewel of the space is a 10-seat open concept chef’s counter called Avecita. 

Here you are seated only inches away from the chefs and waiters engaged in a well-choreographed dance, a myriad of hands cooking, slicing, plating, and serving every dish in full view. The whole performance is dramatically backlit by a wood-fired Grillworks grill, which not only adds a vivid flicker of light, but also an aroma that foreshadows the delicious morsels to come. 

During a recent visit we enjoyed grilled scallops with fugu dashi broth and French morels, then Atlantic halibut, basil risotto and pine nut caponata, each perfectly paired with its own wine. On to slow-smoked and roasted duck with cracked coriander glaze, before a wood-fired striploin steak with black quinoa, lightly pickled mushrooms and, of course, more wine. Lights, fire, action! Avecita is truly dinner and a show. Ave Kimpton Seafire Restaurant dish

Highlights:

  • 10-seat open concept chef’s counter
  • Wood-fired grill
  • Scallops with fugu dash broth
  • Atlantic halibut, basil risotto and pine nut caponata
  • >Slow  smoked and roasted duck with cracked coriander glass
  • Striploin steak with black quinoa and lightly pickled mushrooms

Best for dessert: Bàcaro at Cayman Islands Yacht Club 

Bàcaro shattered the mold of typical Italian dining when their open-air restaurant in the Cayman Islands Yacht Club opened in 2017, offering a menu focused around an Italian version of tapas known as cicchetti that is served throughout Venice. 

Bàcaro prepares mouthwatering cicchetti favourites with a creative Caribbean twist, and their desserts are no exception. The passionfruit panacotta and traditional tiramisu are so delicate and decadent, you can easily close your eyes and imagine the sounds of the passing boats in the harbour are passing gondolas in Venetian canals. The jarred chocolate cake is layer-upon-layer of deep chocolate and espresso cream, light chocolate mousse, crumbled chocolate sponge cake with sea salt, and black pepper and fennel chocolate. The burnt strawberries, dusted with cinnamon and coriander sugar before being brûléed and served with yogurt semifreddo, are a unique and whimsical contrast to the traditional, simplistic Italian dessert known as affogato; vanilla bean ice cream drowned in a shot of espresso and enjoyed with a spoon. Perfection. 

To keep in line with the cicchetti concept, all the desserts at Bàcaro are smaller portions, so you don’t have to feel guilty about ordering several. Bacaro Restaurant Grand Cayman dishes

Highlights:

  • Passionfruit panacotta
  • Traditional tiramisu
  • Jarred chocolate cake
  • Affogato
  • Cicchetti concept; Italian version of tapas popular in Venice

Best for local: Cayman Cabana Oceanside RestoBar George Town harbour 

For many years the words “best” and “fine dining” were synonymous, however as the collective focus has shifted towards the farm-to-table movement, more casual restaurants like Cayman Cabana Oceanside RestoBar have been given the opportunity to shine. 

The restaurant’s four-course farm-to-table-dinner on Thursday nights features exclusively local produce from Cayman’s land and sea in a beautiful oceanfront setting under the stars. Here guests are seated at long communal tables draped in white linen before wine and fresh pressed juices are offered. 

The food is fresh, seasonal and exclusively local, served family style on large plates and platters creating a vibrant, social dining atmosphere between friends and strangers alike. This is a truly unique dining experience in Cayman, and a great introduction to the thriving community of local growers, producers, and fishermen in Cayman.

Alternatively, check out the restaurant’s newly launched locavore brunch, held every Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. The a la carte menu features a selection of Caribbean inspired dishes where local produce is the star of the show.Cayman Cabana Grand Cayman DishesPhotos by Janet Jarchow

 Highlights:

  • Four course farm-to-table dinner Thursday nights
  • Local and seasonal menu

 

Want to discover more of the Cayman Islands? Take a look at issue one of The Cayman Book and discover what this gem of the Caribbean can offer.

 

About The Author

Chef Dylan Benoit is an active member of Cayman’s culinary scene. He is also an established food writer and blogger, documenting some of the best culinary adventures from around the world, as well as the host of Food Network Canada’s new fiery cooking show Fire Masters. His company Prime Group offers private chef and consulting services as well as food tours for tourists and residents alike.

Post On: 10 April 2019
A bygone era at Pedro St. James
A bygone era at Pedro St. James

Step back in time and enjoy a fascinating glimpse into Cayman’s past 

I recall first visiting Pedro St. James, or Pedro Castle as it is often called, at just six-years-old. With its stone framework, 18-inch thick walls, numerous cannons, and jail cell, not to mention the word “castle” in its title, I was convinced that this 18th century “great house” was indeed a castle.

A few decades later I’m back to join a guided tour to learn more about this fascinating home, and to find out the reason behind its misleading moniker.

Pedro St. James was built more than 200 years ago and offers a fascinating glimpse into Cayman’s past. Perched on a dramatic stretch of ocean bluff with far-reaching views across manicured lawns and the Caribbean Sea, this magnificent site is the ideal spot to learn more about the island’s rich culture and heritage.

Visitors can tour the site under their own steam or enjoy a guided tour. I opt for the latter. Many of the tour guides are direct descendants of previous inhabitants, offering a rich glimpse into the home’s fascinating past.

A colourful background

Built in 1780, when Cayman’s population hovered at around 500 inhabitants, Pedro St. James was Cayman’s largest building and the only brick-and-mortar structure on island. The project was led by William Eden, an Englishman whose descendants would be just one of many to occupy the house over the years.

In 1831 the decision was made at the house to form Cayman’s first government, leading it to become known as the “Birthplace of Democracy.” Just a few years later in 1835, the house was the spot where a new era was ushered in when it was announced from the front steps that slavery had been abolished in the British Empire.

Life at Pedro St. James certainly has been colourful. The great house has served as a home, courthouse, jail, government assembly, inn and restaurant. It has also been besieged by a series of fires and hurricanes, and abandoned twice, leading many to believe the building was jinxed.

In 1991, Pedro St. James was given a new lease of life when it was acquired by the Cayman Islands Government, which embarked on an ambitious project to restore the home to its former glory.  Today, Pedro St. James serves as a spectacular showpiece of a traditional Caribbean great house and a proud tribute to Cayman’s past.

Tour the house

As you walk the windswept verandas of its comfortable, open-air floors, there’s a distinct lived-in quality about the home.

Authentic furnishings and artifacts from the 18th century decorate the halls and rooms, from a wooden rocking horse to old-time kitchenware, showcasing the unparalleled living conditions its original habitants enjoyed.

During the tour, my guide Joseph explains the quirks of 18th century upper-class life in Cayman and points out interesting details that abound from yesteryear.

“Do you feel off-balance?” asks Joseph at one point, explaining that the balcony floor is angled sideways to keep away rainwater. The slight tilt suddenly comes to my attention, subtle but now quite noticeable.

Joseph also points out the mosquito net around a bed. It’s a reminder of a very different Cayman, before the advent of pest control, when these tiny insects were the greatest threat to cattle, and no one ventured outside at night without a smoke-pot to keep the swarms at bay.

After the tour, visitors are free to explore the more than seven-acre gardens filled with cacti and indigenous fruit trees, explore the caboose, a traditional outdoor kitchen where meals were prepared, and visit Watler House, a traditional wattle and daub Caymanian cottage. 

For first-time visitors, the initial stop should be the impressive multi-sensory presentation on the history of the castle.

The story-opening cliché of a dark and stormy night has never seen such an entrancing manifestation. Rain, wind, and lightning effects enhance the tragic tale of Mary Jane Eden, William Eden’s great-granddaughter who was killed by a bolt of lightning at the entrance steps, setting the house ablaze.

But, what about the reasoning as to why it’s called a castle?

The name stems from the early 1960s when American citizen Thomas Hubbell purchased the building and renovated the house so as it looked like a castle. It operated as an inn and restaurant from 1967 until 1970, when it caught fire. But, the moniker stuck.

Whether you are young or old, and whether you choose to view it as a castle or simply the grandest Caymanian house of its time, Pedro St. James remains an indisputable national treasure.                                                          Visit www.pedrostjames.ky

Words by Ian Swaby

Photos by Janet Jarchow

Post On: 31 January 2019
Weddings in paradise
Weddings in paradise

Cayman offers a match made in heaven

Whether you live in the Cayman Islands, or reside overseas and are planning a destination wedding, there is no more romantic place to exchange your vows.

With year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches and first-class service, the islands offer an abundance of romance for the day of your dreams.

From a barefoot beach ceremony to an elegant service and reception, Cayman can cater to any style of wedding.

“The Cayman Islands are unique to the Caribbean – we are very cosmopolitan while maintaining that island vibe,” says Devlin Kenny of events company Celebrations. “We have many venues that we work with, from luxury hotels to private beachfront villas, and we’re known for our food scene as the culinary capital of the Caribbean.”

Devlin points out that the Cayman Islands provide a beautiful backdrop for all weddings, and many couples choose to combine the ceremony celebrations with their honeymoon.

“We would absolutely recommend Cayman as a honeymoon destination,” she says. “In fact, we find many of our newly married couples choose to extend their stay on Grand Cayman after they say ‘I do’, or they hop over to Little Cayman or Cayman Brac. It’s a great time to soak up all the island has to offer, including great food, nightlife, live music, shopping, and lots of water sports and outdoor activities.”

An array of excursions is available to entertain bridal party guests, so Devlin suggests chartering a boat for a day-trip to Stingray City, Rum Point, and Starfish Point to enjoy swimming and snorkelling. She also recommends the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park and Cayman Crystal Caves for an on-land itinerary, as well as dinner at one of Cayman’s many world-class restaurants.

Island themes

Whether living locally or visiting to tie the knot, couples love an island theme for their marriage celebrations.

This can include local music, such as reggae, soca, and steel pan, Caribbean-inspired food and drinks, and tropical décor.

“I always recommend steel pan for the ceremony and cocktail-hour music,” says Juliette Heath-Ebanks of Five Star Events. “There is nothing better to accomplish that Caribbean feeling at destination weddings.”

Local fish, conch and lobster (when in season) are often-selected menu options, while rum is a favoured drink at island weddings.

“Our coconut rum bar is very popular with our clients during cocktail-hour, when guests are treated to fresh, cold coconuts chopped open by a server with a machete,” says Juliette. “They can drink the water with a straw straight out of the coconut or enjoy it with a shot of rum – a great, fun element for any wedding.”

Juliette also suggests coconuts make unique flower vases for the ceremony, and palm leaves can be used as place-settings or twisted into arches.

Other ways to bring in an island theme are to charter a boat for the cocktail-hour, or for the bride to “trash the dress” by jumping into the water in her wedding gown.

Climate

When setting the date for a wedding in the Cayman Islands, it is important to take weather into account.

“November through June (high season) is usually good weather with less humidity, but some of the out-of-season months have very good pricing on accommodation and flights - you just have the risk that it’s hurricane season,” says Sarah Parker of wedding planning company Save the Date.

The sun can be extremely hot during the late morning and afternoon, so the timing of the ceremony is also crucial.

“The best times are either early morning, up until 10 a.m., or 5 p.m. onwards, depending on the time of sunset,” Sarah advises. “Sunset is a good time to get married, as the light is still beautiful for photos, but it’s not too hot.”

Due to the tropical location, insects such as mosquitoes and sand flies can be a possible nuisance, but Sarah suggests they can easily be dealt with by offering guests eco-friendly bug spray and lighting tiki torches.

One of the greatest advantages of a destination wedding in the Cayman Islands is that guests don't need to pack many clothes. Ladies rarely need more than a light pashmina for extra layers on winter evenings, while swimwear and sundresses are the usual attire for daywear.

“Bring sandals, lightweight dresses or pants, broad-brimmed hats, and a fan,” says Sarah.

Some bridalwear can be bought on-island but most visiting couples travel with their outfits for the big day, and residents may prefer to shop overseas.

Many brides choose a casual, cool wedding dress for the ceremony, and grooms may even opt for shorts.

But when it comes to wedding jewellery, the Cayman Islands is the ideal place to buy rings and bridal-party gifts. With tax-free prices, there are dozens of high-end stores offering dazzling diamonds and other precious stones. Rings can be sized on-location.

The combination of all these elements, including location, climate, service, sun, sea, sand, shopping and attractions, make the Cayman Islands a top choice for weddings for people from all over the world.

“Bringing families together for a vacation which includes a wedding is just magical,” says Sarah. “We have the ocean as the backdrop to their beach-wedding, the Caymankind hospitality that’s offered throughout the islands, and an amazing choice of restaurants and talented vendors that really go out of their way. We also have amazing professional photographers, who have a really high standard and produce beautiful images.”

Top spots to tie the knot

There are lots of beautiful places to exchange your vows in the Cayman Islands. Here are some of the top spots, as recommended by wedding planners:

Celebrations suggests:

Grand Cayman

  • Pedro St. James (historic home)
  • A private home along Seven Mile Beach

Cayman Brac

  • The Bluff (dramatic cliff-setting, high above the sea)

Little Cayman

  • Point O’ Sand (beach at tip of island)

 

Five Star Events suggests:

Grand Cayman

  • Surfer’s Beach (South Sound) for small weddings
  • Governor’s Beach (part of Seven Mile Beach) for large groups
  • Smith Cove (South Sound) for a photo spot

 

Save the Date suggests:

Grand Cayman

  • Smith Cove
  • Starfish Point (secluded beach near Rum Point)
  • Governor’s Beach

 

Words by Catherine MacGillivray

Photos by Heather Holt

Post On: 24 January 2019
Delectable cuisine at Calypso Grill
Delectable cuisine at Calypso Grill

As we approach Calypso Grill, the famed Caymanian seafood restaurant where an atmospheric and sumptuous dining experience awaits, the town grows quieter and the scenery greener, and we find ourselves in pleasant Morgan’s Harbour on the edge of the North Sound.

When a nearby road sign reads Sticky Toffee Lane, we know we’ve come to the right place; it’s here, amidst the splendour of an ocean view and a colourful open deck, that we’ll be treated to renowned dishes including a sticky toffee pudding praised by the likes of Eric Ripert and beloved by both visitors and locals.

The restaurant has been a staple of West Bay since the late 1990s, co-owned by Terry Grimes and her husband James Mason with the illustrious Chef George Fowler serving as its heart. Originally from the U.K., Chef George has cooked in countries including Jamaica, the Bahamas, and Scotland, but it is Cayman and Calypso Grill that he has called home for nearly two decades.

Two double doors and a kind gesture from our waiter lead us onto the porch, and we find ourselves overlooking a light blue ocean where yachts rest and mangroves boarder the coast. Like the rest of the deck, our table is awash with bright oranges and blues.

“The design itself came first,” explains Terry. “We were very interested in vignettes and colour and being on the water. We tried to keep the food simple but also very tasty, and we wanted to present all of the restaurant as a whole.”

The restaurant truly is an experience, but the food plays a role in encouraging return guests. We are served an assortment of seafood dishes including sashimi, ceviche, and crabcakes, which are accompanied by the restaurant’s excellent salads and followed by a round of desserts including sticky toffee pudding. Since 1999, Calypso Grill has taken its fresh fish from the dock just next door, and it uses local conch and lobster and the produce of local farmers when they are in season.

As we relish our meal, the waters of the North Sound glisten in the afternoon sun and the occasional imposing frigate bird soars along the coast foraging for food. Although it should feel hotter at this time of day, the ocean sends a calming breeze across the deck.

When we’re finally ready to say goodbye to the scene, we leave with our minds relaxed, our stomachs full and our eyes lightly dazzled.

By Ian Swaby

Post On: 24 January 2019
Luxury on the water
Luxury on the water

Cruise Cayman’s aquamarine waters in true VIP style aboard one of the island’s largest and most luxurious catamarans. The Cayman Book team gives it a whirl.

Lying on the trampoline nets of a luxurious yacht the worries of the day start to ebb away. Indeed, with the warmth of the Caribbean sun enveloping me and Cayman’s crystal-clear sea gently rocking the boat from side-to-side, it’s hard not to nod off.

I’m aboard Catch the Cat with the Pink Duck Publishing team, the cast of creatives behind The Cayman Book magazine and numerous other high-end publications.

Catch the Cat is one of Cayman’s most luxurious and largest sailing catamarans available for private hire, offering guests the ultimate VIP experience.

While we might all be long-standing Cayman residents, the team never tires of a day out on the water. Indeed, Catch the Cat is a deliciously decadent way to escape the day-to-day grind of office life and enjoy the best of Caribbean living.

Catch the Cat comes with everything the most discerning of passengers could require, with a dedicated crew who are able to cater to every need.

With four double cabins, four bathrooms, and a spacious saloon and galley, Catch the Cat is the ideal private charter boat for larger family groups requiring room to spread out, or for smaller groups who will appreciate space and luxury all to themselves.

On board you’ll find a spacious rear cockpit with ample room for guests to sit and shoot the breeze, while a large gull-wing roof provides much-needed shade from the Caribbean sun. The flybridge has extensive seating and big sunbathing pads from which to soak up the sun’s rays, while the front cockpit includes seating spots to sit and enjoy the view. The catamaran’s stand-out-feature, its dual trampoline nets, offer the ideal spot to relax, snooze, or simply while away the day.

You’ll find ample drinking water, soda, chips, dips, and fresh fruit to tuck into. For foodies seeking a delicious feast out on the water there’s the option of a barbecue lunch if you wish, or the crew can even arrange for a private chef.

Alcohol isn’t supplied as standard, although the crew are happy to provide it upon request. Our tipple of choice?  A bottle of Seven Fathom’s Rum. After all, you can’t be out on the Caribbean Sea without enjoying the islands’ liquor of choice.

Catching the breeze

As the catamaran gently motors from its mooring at the Cayman Islands Yacht Club we decide the order of the day. A stop-off at the Stingray Sandbar, followed by a visit to Starfish Point, then to Kaibo Restaurant & Bar for nibbles and, perhaps most importantly of all, cocktails.

There’s a wide range of tour options and activities for those hiring the catamaran, so whittling it down can take some time. Popular stop offs include Rum Point, Morgan’s Seafood Restaurant, Kaibo, and the restaurants at Camana Bay.

For those on a full-day charter there’s the option of exploring Seven Mile Beach and fishing for wahoo, barracuda, and mahi-mahi. And, for those wishing to explore below the waves, the crew can take you to a selection of some of the island’s best dive spots.

As we exit the Yacht Club and approach the North Sound the motors turn off and the crew haul up the sails. The team spread out and pick a spot to soak up the sun and enjoy the sail across the North Sound.

There’s a steady breeze, so we soon find ourselves at the Stingray Sandbar.

Gentle giants

Snorkelling amidst the friendly southern stingrays is one of Cayman’s top attractions, and it’s easy to see why.

 

These gentle giants have been gathering at this site for more than 50 years, likely the by-product of fishermen resting in its calm waters to clean their catch. These fishy titbits soon attracted the stingrays, who now call the sandbar home.

As the yacht anchors in the shallow waters, the stingrays quickly start to hover around the surrounding water. As we enter the crystal-clear waist-deep water, the stingrays swim around us, awaiting their treat. The crew come prepared with pieces of squid so as we can feed the stingrays and give them a rub on their velvety smooth bellies.

Once the stingrays have had their feed, we head back aboard Catch the Cat to sail over to our next stop at Starfish Point.

Located along the north-eastern tip of Cayman in North Side, Starfish Point is a beautiful stretch of beach peppered with bright red starfish in its shallow waters.

As the yacht anchors we slip into the water and soon find a cluster of starfish nestled in the shallows. While it is tempting to lift these creatures out of the water for a closer look, do resist the urge. These are delicate living creatures, so shouldn’t be handled.

After a relaxing sojourn along the beach we head on over to Kaibo, a lively restaurant, beach bar, and marina. Here we order a selection of nibbles and a round of cocktails.

All too soon it’s time to head back. As Catch the Cat sails back home we head out to the trampolines and watch the sun slowly set on the horizon, casting a stunning ethereal glow. It’s the perfect end to the perfect day.

With thanks to Cayman Yacht Charters and the crew of Catch the Cat for treating the Pink Duck Publishing team to a fabulous day.  

To book your trip aboard Catch the Cat, or any of the other boats owned and operated by Cayman Yacht Charters, a division of Stingray Watersports, visit www.caymanyachtcharters.com

Words by Joanna Lewis

Photos by Gene Pascual

 

 

 

 

Post On: 23 January 2019
The Westin resort offers approachable luxury at every turn
The Westin resort offers approachable luxury at every turn

Through a recent reimagining, The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort and Spa has evolved to feature a chic tropical look inspired by a grand new ideology.

From the moment you arrive, be captivated by the open-concept lobby and its glass walls, with views to the brilliant blue of the Caribbean Sea and world-famous Seven Mile Beach.  As smiling doormen welcome you, you’ll find natural tile and white sand-coloured walls among the ceiling-to-floor decor creating a casual Caribbean atmosphere of comfortable luxury and relaxation.

Just steps from the lobby, the sparkling pool deck beckons. Right on the edge of Seven Mile Beach, the largest freshwater pool on Cayman follows an open-concept design, with room to relax even at peak capacity. Additional pampering is brought by the swim-up bar, hot tubs, and poolside café.

Step onto famed Seven Mile Beach – a glorious expanse of white sand as fine as sugar and the shimmering calmness of the azure waters. Over 700-feet wide, the Westin’s generous beachfront provides loungers, umbrellas, cabanas, hammocks and nests with ample space to relax.  One tap of an umbrella’s magical “easy button” sends a server on the way with your choice of food and drink offerings.

Discover the vibe of Cayman culture in every part of this resort. Touches of local artistry line the corridors and flowing arrangements of soft seating capture the movement of the ocean. The lobby bar resembles Cayman’s southern coastline in shape, truly bringing the outdoors in.

Numerous amenities and experiences add to your travel memories.  A series of Caribbean-themed restaurants, from the award-winning Beach House, to the Tortuga beachside café and bar, offer gorgeous beach views, and complement the scenery with creative variations on local cuisine.

Meanwhile, in this tropical climate ideal for staying active, fitness needs are met through a fully-equipped workout studio with views of Seven Mile Beach, as well as yoga and fitness classes, running programmes, and the Westin’s acclaimed superfood menus.

Renew and rejuvenate in the world-class Hibiscus Spa, the perfect way to wind down after an outing in the Caribbean sun. Featuring a 7,000 square-foot facility and a series of unique rooms, the spa provides numerous rejuvenating services including massages and much more, using organic essential oils and plant extracts.

Whatever you choose to enjoy at The Westin you are guaranteed a Caymanian experience never to be forgotten.

For more details visit www.westingrandcayman.com

Post On: 11 December 2018
Lustworthy timepieces and jewels
Lustworthy timepieces and jewels

Thanks to duty-free prices, Cayman is the ideal place to treat yourself to something special.

 

Cartier Panthere de Cartier Necklace

This show-stopping necklace is made from yellow gold, black lacquer, tsavorite garnets, and onyx, set with 36 brilliant-cut diamonds. The panther, the symbolic animal of Cartier, made its first appearance in the Maison’s collections in 1914. Whilst Louis Carter was the first to tame the mythic animal, it was his colleague Jeanne Toussaint who turned it into the now iconic feline motif.

Available at Kirk Freeport, Bayshore Mall; at the Cartier Boutique Cardinal Avenue; at the The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman; and at Kirk Freeport.

View collection at https://www.cartier.com/

 

Cartier Santos de Cartier LM

Stay on time with this luxurious timepiece by Cartier. The rounded angles of the dial, the seamless curve of the horns, and the exposed screws make for a timeless and iconic watch that has inspired countless reinterpretations. The Santos watch features a patented strap interchangeability system.

Available at Kirk Freeport, Bayshore Mall; at the Cartier Boutique Cardinal Avenue; at the The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman; and at Kirk Freeport.

View collection at https://www.cartier.com/

 

Rolex Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II

Although the Rolex GMT-Master was designed essentially for professional use, its combination of peerless functionality and rugged good looks has attracted a wider travelling public. Amongst its many features, the Oyster Perpetual GMT-Master II features a stunning combination of Oystersteel and 18-carat Everose gold, a distinctive black dial, 3285 movement, and a 24-hour bezel. Waterproof to 330-feet.

Available at Kirk Freeport Bayshore Mall. www.kirkfreeport.net / 949-7477

 

Messika Paris Move Romane Bangle

The Move Romane collection combines unique design and timeless elegance. In this elegant bracelet, Messika has adopted the art of modern asymmetry. Featuring a thin diamond strand and an 18-carat yellow gold ribbon balancing five individual brilliant cut diamonds. Wraps around the wrist like strands of elegant ribbons. Perfect for stacking.

Available at Kirk Freeport at Bayshore Mall. www.kirkfreeport.net / 949-7477

 

Pasquale Bruni Giradini Segreti Ring

The Giradini Segreti collection by Pasquale Bruni is a collection that celebrates the never-ending love between women and nature, with rings that can also be used to fasten silk scarves or turbans. Inspired by sensual floral motifs this ring is made from 18-carat rose gold and features white and Champagne diamonds, creating an eye-catching piece.

Available at Kirk Freeport at Bayshore Mall. www.kirkfreeport.net / 949-7477

 

Balaclava Ring

Add some wow factor to your fingers with Balaclava’s stunning collection of rings. Pictured is an 18-carat white gold diamond ring, featuring a brilliant 0.71-carat centre round white diamond and a further 0.80-carats of diamonds. Alternatively, plump for the contrasting 18-carat rose and white gold diamond ring with a 3.04 carat centre round natural orange brown diamond capped off with 0.86 carat round white diamonds. 

Available at Balaclava Jewellers, Governors Square

View collection at http://balaclava-jewellers.com/

 

Balaclava Earrings

These timeless earrings are made from 18-carat rose and white gold set off by shimmering round white diamonds. Perfect for any occasion.

Available at Balaclava Jewellers, Governors Square

View collection at http://balaclava-jewellers.com/http://balaclava-jewellers.com/

 

Mark Henry Stingray Pendant

Take home a brilliant reminder of your trip to the Cayman Islands with this stunning 18-carat yellow gold alexandrite and diamond stingray pendant. This handcrafted pendant is part of the Cayman Sea Life Collection by jeweler Mark Henry created exclusively for Rocky’s Diamonds.

Available at Rocky’s Diamonds, George Town

View collection at: https://www.rockysdiamonds.com/

Effy Multi-Color Ring and Earrings

This stunning ring and earrings are bound to make a colourful statement when paired together or worn individually. Both the ring and earrings are set in 14-carat yellow gold and feature both sapphires and diamonds for a dazzling effect.

Available at Effy Jewellery, George Town

View collection at https://www.effyjewelry.com/

Post On: 11 December 2018
Invest in paradise
Invest in paradise

Miles of pristine white sandy beaches, year-round sunshine, and world-class service providers make Cayman an ideal destination. Indeed, hundreds of thousands of visitors opt to vacation in the Cayman Islands, with many choosing to purchase property or invest in a holiday home.

Cayman’s family friendly atmosphere, wide range of activities, low crime rate, and high standard of living makes this Caribbean jewel the perfect place to invest.

As one of the world’s leading offshore financial centres and a British Overseas Territory, purchasing a property in Cayman offers a safe and secure investment option, offering sound potential for capital appreciation.

Besides a one-off stamp duty payment, there are no taxes on property, income, services, or capital gains, making investing in Cayman a savvy financial move. In addition, favourable economic forecasts by the International Monetary Authority, and independent survey reports showing continued growth for the coming years, means that there has never been a better time to invest in paradise.

While investors will benefit from capital appreciation, rental demand is also very strong. The rental market is slated to rise as the population increases to fill new business ventures and stay-over tourism grows, offering an additional lucrative revenue stream.

Well-regulated

Cayman offers a safe and well-regulated real estate industry, meaning that investors can purchase with confidence. Indeed, government actively encourages property ownership for both residents and foreign investors. Additionally, the Cayman Islands Government also guarantees title.

Purchasing property couldn’t be easier. Cayman’s property market is largely organised by the Cayman Islands Real Estate Brokers Association, known as CIREBA.

CIREBA was established in 1987 and is a not-for-profit association that provides a professional and ethical network to the leading independent real estate companies in Cayman. There are currently more than 30 real estate brokerages governed by CIREBA, covering some 185 real estate agents. Between them they manage more than US$1.9 billion worth of listed properties across all three islands.

The vast majority of all property sales and purchases are handled through CIREBA. Agents receive training and are required to adhere to a robust set of industry leading guidelines, protecting sellers and purchasers.

CIREBA’s Multiple Listing Service helps ensure an effortless property search too. This sophisticated platform means that purchasers are not restricted to using only the listing broker or agent for a property, and instead can use an agent of their choosing as all have access to properties on the MLS.

World-class property

Cayman offers an extensive range of property for sale, from beautiful luxury mansions, opulent penthouses, and chic condos along famed Seven Mile Beach, in addition to stunning canal-front homes, townhouses, single-family starter homes, as well as land and commercial buildings.

Seven Mile Beach continues to be one of the most popular investment options, having seen one of the largest surge in prices, mainly driven by U.S. purchasers. And, residential construction continues to grow, both along the Seven Mile Beach corridor and across Cayman.

High-end luxury resorts favoured by investors include the Residences at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, the Grand Hyatt, Rum Point Club in Cayman Kai and Fin in South Sound. Scheduled to come onto the market shortly offering more luxurious residence options are the Mandarin Oriental, and another spectacular, ultra-high-end Seven Mile Beach private residence development.

Another exciting residential development in the Frank Sound area will be Arnold Palmers’ Ironwood Golf Course & Resort. The project offers residents the use of a PGA championship golf course designed by golfing legend Arnold Palmer.

Residential developments currently proving popular with investors and home-owners are Periwinkle, Cayman’s first sustainable community; Stone Island a luxurious gated waterfront community; TIDES, a sophisticated South Sound development offering a selection of condos with far-reaching sea views; and the ever-popular VELA, also a luxurious South Sound development that boasts Cayman’s largest resort pool.

Infrastructure development

The Cayman Islands Government and private developers continue to invest in the island’s infrastructure, ensuring Cayman is a leading destination in the Caribbean, both now and in the future.

New infrastructure developments include major improvements to Owen Roberts International Airport; the further development of an economic zone at Cayman Enterprise City; the expansion of Health City, a world-class hospital; and the ongoing growth of the purpose-built town, Camana Bay, set along the heart of Seven Mile Beach.

Whether you are looking to make a property investment, purchase a holiday home, or perhaps start a new life in Cayman, simply turn the key to find your new life in the sun.

https://www.sircaymanislands.com/eng

By Sheena Connolly, Cayman Islands Sotheby's International Realty 

Sheena Connolly is the owner/broker at Cayman Islands Sotheby's International Realty and has been at the forefront of Cayman’s real estate industry for more than 20 years. Sheena is also a board member of CIREBA.

 

Post On: 11 December 2018
Festivities galore
Festivities galore

The axiom that Cayman is a year-round outstanding vacation spot holds true when it comes to its wide range of festivities too. From culinary delights, pirate invasions, to Carnival-style celebrations, Cayman’s varied calendar holds something for everyone. And don’t miss KAABOO, an exciting new addition to the list bringing renowned names in music and comedy. Here are just some of Cayman’s not-to-miss annual highlights.

Taste of Cayman

Taste of cayman dishesOne of Cayman’s longest-running festivals, Taste of Cayman Food and Drink Festival is held every January and highlights Cayman’s vibrant culinary scene.

Now in its 31st year the festival, organised by The Cayman Islands Tourism Association, is held on Camana Bay’s Festival Green and offers an evening rich in great eats alongside a celebratory atmosphere.

“The festival is unique in that there is something for everyone, with more than 40 restaurants, bars and vendors offering everything from delicious ice-creams to grown-up cocktails, street food to gourmet masterpieces,” says Kirsty MacGeoch, communications manager for Taste of Cayman.

Alongside a selection of delicious fare, guests also enjoy live musical entertainment, cooking demonstrations, the ever-popular Amateur Chef Cook-Off and heavy cake competition, all capped-off with a stunning firework show.

“We are proud to create an event which brings the whole community together to celebrate our varied culinary offerings, which have earned Grand Cayman the title of the culinary capital of the Caribbean,” Kirsty adds.

Visit: www.tasteofcayman.org

Cayman Cookout

Once a year in January, some of the world’s most renowned celebrity chefs gather in the Cayman Islands, courtesy of The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman.

The week-long celebration features a dynamic calendar of sell-out culinary events, offering gourmands the opportunity to rub shoulders with food and drink experts while savouring dishes prepared by some of the world’s most celebrated chefs.

The four-day event includes a series of cooking demonstrations, exclusive tastings and dining events, local food tours, and unique epicurean adventures. In celebration of the spirit of the Caribbean, most events take place in scenic locations across Cayman’s many beaches.Image credit: Rebecca Davidson

“Cayman Cookout is truly an experience like no other in that guests experience a sense of camaraderie with the chefs,” says Maria Pineda, communications manager at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. “They’re right there next to you enjoying great food and drinks, chatting with friends, and attendees have the opportunity to interact with them in a casual and friendly setting.”

The roster for Cayman Cookout 2019 will feature host Eric Ripert accompanied by José Andrés, Andrew Zimmern, Emeril Lagasse, Yannick Alléno, Dominique Crenn, Amanda Cohen, Emma Bengtsson and Nancy Silverton. Events are individually ticketed.

Visit: www.ritzcarlton.com/en/cayman-cookout

Slow Food Day

Camana Bay and Slow Food South Sound team up to bring you Slow Food Day, an easygoing festival focused on the principles of Slow Food, a global organisation which promotes local food and traditional cooking.Slow food day camana bay caymanBringing together local farmers and chefs alongside international talent, the event offers guests a delicious experience aimed at showcasing the richness of local produce. The event line-up includes the popular family orientated Farm-to-Table Tasting Market, the Harvest Dinner, an extravagant dinner held under the stars, in addition to a series of workshops and culinary demonstrations.

“Recognising and encouraging the use of local ingredients is good for just about everyone for many reasons,” says Alan Markoff, president of Slow Food South Sound. “It supports local farmers, so it’s good for them. It reduces the carbon footprint of the food we eat, so it’s good for the environment. Fresh produce is more nutritious; produce loses vitamins as it ages. Finally, fresh produce simply tastes better.”

Also, what’s a great meal without the chance to meet a few friends? Through events like the Harvest Dinner, which seats guests together across a series of elongated tables, Slow Food Day seeks to transform food back into a social experience.

“Historically, dining was an event where people sat around a table not just to eat, but to socialise as well,” Alan says.

Each year, the day features a different guest chef, with past guests including notable experts such as Clare Smyth, Edward Lee, Mike Lata, Jonathan Waxman, and Caymanian Jack Barwick.

Visit: www.camanabay.com

Batabano

Carnival traditions extend around the world, and the Cayman Islands is no exception. Since 1983, the streets have played host to Cayman Carnival Batabano during the first week of May.Batabano carnival caymanAs the official national carnival of the Cayman Islands, Batabano aims to celebrate Cayman’s culture and heritage even as it adopts the traditions of others. In a nod to Cayman’s turtling past, the festival takes its name from the tracks made by sea turtles in the sand as they come ashore to lay their eggs.

The highlight of Batabano is the popular street parade, an event for which the entirety of West Bay Road, from Public Beach all the way to the shops of George Town, is closed-off to make way for a flurry of extravagantly costumed masquerade bands, dancers, and music trucks.

“This day is about the unity on the road,” says organiser Donna Myrie-Stephens. “It’s about everyone together in one joyous stream, all dancing to the same beat. About forgetting what bothers us and enjoying the euphoria of the carnival vibes.”

For 16 years, the island has also held Junior Batabano, which last year saw more than 450 students from both private and government schools participating.

The celebrations close out with The Last Lap, where participants dance until midnight along the streets of Cayman’s capital.

Visit www.caymancarnival.com

Pirates Week

One of Cayman’s premier annual festivals, Pirates Week has stood the test of time. This swashbuckling festival recently celebrated its 40th year, offering an entertaining and fun-filled range of events for children and adults alike, spread across all three islands.Pirates week in the Cayman IslandsImage credit: Wil Bignal

Held every November, guests don their best pirate garb and participate in a packed line-up of events including street parades, pageants, competitions, sporting events, food festivals, live musical entertainment, cultural demonstrations, fireworks, and a whole lot more.

One of the most eagerly anticipated events is the Landing Pageant, a mock pirate landing, featuring two colourful pirate galleons which sail into George Town Harbour. Pirates “invade” the town and take the Cayman Islands’ governor “hostage”.

“Over the 11-day celebration across the three islands, Pirates Week showcases the local districts with their unique charm and diversity, their people and traditions, as well as the Cayman Islands’ unique attractions, says Melanie McField, executive director of Pirates Week, “and with a variety of activities, it’s accessible to the entire family.”

Visit: www.piratesweekfestival.com

KAABOO

Launching February 2019, KAABOO is topped to become one of Cayman’s biggest events and is sure to be a hit with residents and visitors alike.Kaboo cayman music festivalDescended from the annual festival of the same name held in Del Mar California, U.S., Cayman’s KAABOO continues the tradition of bringing a high-class, multifaceted experience with world-renowned musicians and more.

“Beyond a host of top-tier musical performances, KAABOO Cayman also promises to please guests with our Five Senses Under the Sun experience, which includes world-class contemporary artwork, internationally known comedians, delectable culinary offerings, and personal spa indulgences,” says Jason Felts, KAABOO’s chief brand officer.Kaboo music festival grand caymanThe Cayman Islands will create their own unique mark on this beloved event, set against the exhilarating backdrop of famed Seven Mile Beach. 2019 also sees the launch of KAABOO Discovers, an initiative where local musicians compete for a spot on the stage.

Featured musicians include The Chainsmokers, Duran Duran, Zedd, Blondie, Counting Crows, Flo Rida, Bryan Adams, Jason Derulo, Margo Price, and Los Lobos, while the comedy line-up consists of Alonzo Bodden, Darrell Hammond, David Spade, Jenny Slate, Natasha Leggero, Tom Green, and Wanda Sykes.

Visit: www.kaaboocayman.com

Want to discover more of the Cayman Islands? Take a look at issue one of The Cayman Book and discover what this gem of the Caribbean can offer.

Post On: 5 December 2018
Journey to the Middle East at Spa at Seafire
Journey to the Middle East at Spa at Seafire

Journey to the Middle East at Spa at Seafire

Cayman’s only traditional-style hammam offers a relaxing treatment quite unlike any other.

Transport yourself to the Middle East and immerse yourself in the splendour of an authentic Turkish bath. At the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa you’ll find Cayman’s only traditional-style hammam, offering a restorative and relaxing treatment quite unlike any other.

A hammam is the Middle Eastern variant of a public steam bath and involves numerous steps aimed at cleansing and exfoliating the skin to leave it silky soft. Think of it as a thorough deep-clean for your entire body.

An ancient treatment, hammams can be found throughout the Middle East. They originated in Morocco where they are still very much a part of traditional life.

Traditionally, hammams feature a large hot and humid chamber where people gather to socialise, gossip, relax and, most importantly, be cleansed. Hammam attendants, known as tellaks, douse guests with hot water and apply a traditional black soap to cleanse and invigorate the skin.

At the Spa at Seafire the hammam is a steamy turquoise-tiled enclave inspired by Cayman’s aquamarine sea. Here, you’ll be cleansed to perfection by your therapist, all the while cocooned in your own private steam-filled retreat.

True to a traditional hammam, you’ll lie down on a marble slab for the duration of the treatment. While it might sound uncomfortable, it isn’t as bad as it sounds, with rolled-up towels placed under the knees and lower back for support and comfort.

During the treatment the therapist applies a wonderful mixture of cleansing oils, an exfoliating volcanic ash, and a soft and creamy detoxifying mud.

Like in a traditional hammam, hot water is used to cleanse the skin between each step, while a traditional kessa mitt is used to moisten the skin and prepare it for an intense exfoliation using volcanic ash, which sloughs-off dead skin cells to reveal new and radiant baby-soft skin beneath.

The treatment also includes a wonderfully relaxing scalp massage followed by the final flourish, a head-to-toe massage in the adjacent treatment room.

Be warned, the hammam room gets hot. The heat of the steam is designed to open the pores and help relax tense muscles but, for the uninitiated, it can also feel a little overwhelming. Upon request there are plenty of cool flannels to help combat the heat and there’s also water to rehydrate if you feel you need it.

The spa offers two hammam treatments, the Purification Hammam Journey, aimed at detoxifying the skin, and the Beauty Hammam Journey, aimed at beautifying the skin. Both offer two hours of heavenly bliss.

Emily Gardner, marketing manager at the Kimpton Seafire Resort + Spa, says that the two hammam experiences are amongst the island’s most sought-after treatments.

“We wanted to create a signature treatment that was not offered anywhere else in Grand Cayman,” Emily explains. “Creating a traditional hammam experience felt very authentic and something that would excite and delight our guests as well as our local clientele.”

Spa indulgence

A visit to the Spa at Seafire is so much more than the treatment itself though. This award-winning spa spans more than 8,000 square feet and offers a sumptuous spot to relax and unwind.

Arrive with at least an hour to spare before the start of your treatment to take advantage of everything that the spa offers.

Start off your spa experience with a dip in the grand soaking tub. Sitting in its own airy enclave complete with natural light streaming in and botanical adornments it’s the ideal spot to while away the time.

Next, sink into a deeper state of relaxation and enjoy a session in the steam and sauna rooms, found in each of the luxurious his and hers changing rooms.

Then head to the dedicated relaxation room. Filled with oversized lounge chairs this calming spot is the ideal place to sit back and de-stress. Luxurious coffee-table books offer inspiring reading while guests can enjoy a selection of beverages and nibbles.

If you don’t feel the hammam is the treatment for you there are ample of others to choose from.

Other popular body treatments include the Lime Blossom Body Scrub, an energising and nutrient-rich scrub featuring macadamia nut oil, lime blossom, and crystals, and the Tranquillity Meditative Ritual, a treatment designed around a combination of sound, touch, and aroma, to release tension and oxygenate skin tissue.

Of course, the spa also offers a selection of traditional treatments, including facials, massages, manicures and pedicures, as well as treatments for hair, alongside waxing and makeup services.

A feast for the senses

In line with the rest of the resort, the Spa at Seafire features breath-taking design throughout, making a visit a true feast for the senses.

“The concept was to create a spa space and brand that was as distinctive as the entire resort,” Emily explains. “We wanted the spa to include beautiful textures and colours and to offer unique treatments, such as our traditional hammam ritual and the heated quartz massage table that we use for our Beach Break treatment.”

She adds: “The design intent was mostly influenced by timeless English botanical illustrations with tropical selections. Upon entry, guests are greeted by an explosion of colour – blues, key lime, sea green, and more. Flower blossoms adorn the ceilings and walls, with the overall effect conjuring up images of a tropical English garden, with blue and white toile merging effortlessly with Cayman logwood and woven baskets.”

Once the spa experience is over, make sure you set aside some time to check out the spa’s retail boutique, which is filled with a fabulous collection of natural, vegan, and organic skincare products, as well as jewellery and items made by local artisans.

And, for the perfect end to your spa journey, head to the resort’s Coccoloba Bar & Grill where you can enjoy delicious coastal-inspired fare washed down with hand-crafted cocktails, all the while soaking up the view of world-renowned Seven Mile Beach.

Life doesn’t get much better than this.

Words by Joanna Lewis

Post On: 27 November 2018
Sink beneath the waves
Sink beneath the waves

Sink beneath the waves

The Cayman Islands are surrounded by an awe-inspiring range of undersea terrain, but three unique dive adventures across each island were joined by one common centrepiece: the luxurious Clearly Cayman resorts, and their extraordinary Reef Divers’ Valet Service.

Countless dive companies line Cayman’s coasts, but Reef Divers exemplifies the gold standard that discerning travellers have come to expect.

Writers Ian Swaby and Adam Clark enjoy a dive on each island with Reef Divers.

World-famous Bloody Bay Wall on Little Cayman

As the day ends in Little Cayman the keenest divers are taking to the seas. From the Reef Divers boat, I watch the sun sinking below the shoreline, beside silhouetted palm trees, casting a warm, orange glow across the sky.

By the time the boat rests, the surroundings have darkened. The water has faded to navy except for a ripple of reflected moonlight, and as we stride into the waves, the ocean feels even more than usual like a bottomless void.

During descent, our only visual reference is the lights of the divers already below, but as our flashlight beams spread over the terrain, they reveal the beauty of this site known as Lea Lea’s Lookout, part of the renowned Bloody Bay Wall.

Jacques Cousteau once declared the seemingly untouched precipice of Bloody Bay Wall among the top three dive sites in the world, and as I explore its array of bright coral, I can understand why.

The giant tube sponges that seem to grow only along this stretch are found here in abundance. Large enough to fit a person, they tower over the surrounding coral. The critically-endangered staghorn coral, a branching heap resembling antlers, could be thought a common sighting by those who haven’t dived elsewhere.

The difference in a night dive is more than just night and day, as the reefs play host to a new cast of creatures rarely spotted in the light.

The first sighting of the night is a West Indian spider crab. Large and bright red, with a spiny and gnarled appearance and enormous claws, it moves warily away, sideways. A few moments later, my eye is caught by a long, snakelike sea cucumber. Like most of its kind, it appears motionless at first glance, but after a moment, it becomes clear that it’s edging its way along at a snail’s pace.

As we straddle the edge of the enormous drop-off thousands of feet deep, we find even more tube sponges before circling back over the coral. A slipper lobster, an exceptionally flat creature barely recognisable as a lobster, makes a surprise appearance as it emerges over the top of a brain coral.

Once the dive comes to an end, we sit on the upper deck of the boat and gaze at the stars, which are exceptionally bright beside this island with no city lights. It’s the perfect way to round of a stunning night dive.

 

Explore the Kittiwake on Grand Cayman

Among Grand Cayman’s most iconic dive sites, the USS Kittiwake is a national park, a playground for divers of all skill levels, and something of an underwater maritime museum. Sunk deliberately off the coast in 2011, it has seen notable changes since its installation, including coral growth, and a sideways tilt from Tropical Storm Nate.

It’s a pleasure to experience this majestic site through a dive operator that represents Cayman’s highest standard. It will turn out that Curtis, the staff member who guides the tour, knows this wreck down to every detail.

As the Kittiwake emerges from the blue, it feels unexpected amongst the natural surroundings of coral and barren sand. With its profound sideways tilt, it feels more like an accidental shipwreck and less like a planned attraction.

After we enter the dark interior through an opening near the hull, there’s a sudden disorientation. I’m completely lost as to which way is up and which is down, as the direction I’m being pulled by gravity doesn’t align with the floor. Awkwardly, I follow Curtis through a doorway.

Soon, I’ve learned as well as I can to ignore the illusion of direction created by the tilt of the ship, and to swim according to my physical senses. Numerous openings line the sides of the Kittiwake, making most levels of the ship suited to novice divers, yet this guided tour proves helpful for finding the points of interest and for exploring some of the more difficult areas.

We explore the engine room, with numerous tanks and valves, and a bathroom where the mirrors are still somewhat intact, despite the cracks and overgrowth.

There is also the ship’s recompression chamber, a place which most divers hope to never visit above the ground but is exciting to explore beneath the waves.

In some areas there are sizeable air pockets produced by the exhaust bubbles of divers. I peer into one of these and enjoy this brief look out of the water, 50-feet under the sea, but I don’t dare to breath in the air.

Finally, we emerge back into the blue, greeted by refreshing swaths of sunlight and the natural sight of large coral mounds. Just as we are leaving the wreck behind, a turtle glides gracefully over the bow of the ship. One of Cayman’s national symbols, it’s a beautiful finishing touch to the trip.

 

Crab Alley, Pillar Point, and Lighthouse on Cayman Brac

During a recent visit to Cayman Brac I had the opportunity to observe the marine life and coral beds that can be found off the south coast of the island in three separate dives at Crab Alley, Pillar Point, and Lighthouse, courtesy of Reef Divers.

The first dive is known as a deep dive (around 100-feet) and the other two were in shallower waters (40 to 60-feet).

All three dives offered something different, which may seem surprising as they are all located within a radius of less than a mile.

Crab Alley is the deepest, with depths reaching more than 100-feet. This site is interesting because I began the dive at around 50-feet and within minutes I was proceeding along a wall of coral located at around 90-feet. The colourful coral here is truly awe-inspiring. The mixture of colours blended with a unique appearance give this dive site a feeling that you have swam into another world.

The second dive was at Pillar Point, which is in shallower waters. Here the coral is shaped like large pillars that have fallen on their side. I was able to swim in-between each opening which gave this dive an excursion feeling, due to the direction that it takes. I could see so many fascinating things in such a short space of time. At the deepest point you can swim along the sea bed while observing marine life that are situated in very small crevices. This was truly compelling and something everyone must observe.

To conclude the dive experience, we visited Lighthouse. This site included cave like opportunities with entry points at different depths. Descending into these large holes gave me the opportunity to experience a thrill that I haven’t had before. The formation of these monumental rocks enables you to feel that you are exploring something other than the ocean. Dark crevices, steep drops with limited lighting in parts give this site a completely different type of escapade and one I would highly recommend.

 

Valet diving with Reef Divers

Dan Tibbetts – an International Scuba Hall of Fame member - opened Little Cayman Beach Resort and started Reef Divers 25 years ago. Since then the company has grown to fulfill its late founder’s vision of providing world-class diving at friendly, family-owned resorts on all three islands, now also including Cayman Brac Beach Resort and Cobalt Coast Resort on Grand Cayman. You will find a Reef Divers operation at all three.

Over the years, the company has built an enviable reputation by providing comfortable and well-appointed accommodations, high-quality culinary options, and world-class sport diving. One of the stand-out features of Reef Divers is their Valet Service, which ensures guests enjoy their diving instead of working at it. Indeed, the service begins before guests have even arrived, with staff helpfully assembling their gear. Once everyone is on board, it makes diving as simple as a boat ride and a stride into the water.

No guests are expected to carry their cumbersome tanks or waddle across the deck in fins, making this an excellent option for anyone seeking the most sublime levels of relaxation, as well as for anyone unable to handle the equipment. From beginning to end, your needs are handled by personable and expert staff, leaving you free to enjoy what you came to do: revel in the beauty of the Cayman Islands.

Visit www.clearlycayman.com to book your ultimate dive experience with Reef Divers at a Clearly Cayman Dive Resort.

Photo credit: Jordan Charles

Post On: 4 September 2018