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Blog Home > Author > Chris Edmonds
Chris Edmonds
Chris has traveled to the Cayman Islands and stayed at Christopher Columbus Condos several times over the past couple of years. He has a huge passion for scuba diving and snorkeling and really enjoys the people he meets on his trips to Grand Cayman.

One of my favorite things about visiting Cayman is the instant change of pace I feel as soon as I arrive. The moment I step off the plane, I feel calmed and welcomed by everything—the breeze, the scent of the ocean, and, of course, the people. The last time I visited, I didn’t even have to get off the plane to be welcomed by one of Cayman’s colorful residents.

I met Marc Thomas on my flight, and he started chatting with me as though I were an old friend. He told me everything I could have ever needed to know about his life, his kids, and his love for the island we were flying to. Initially, I was a little caught off guard by how friendly and open Marc was—I fly pretty frequently, and I don't always end up having in-depth conversations with my seat-mates. However, after chatting with him for just a few minutes, I couldn't wait to hear more of his story, so I asked him to lunch. We met up a few days later and became fast friends even though we’d only known each other for a few days.

Marc shared with me that he’s originally from London and first came to Grand Cayman in 1988 when he was visiting a friend he met while at university.

Immediately, he fell in love with the island’s beauty and easy pace.

“As soon as I stepped off the plane, I thought, ‘This is it,’” Marc told me.

He visited a few times after that, and in 1990, he moved to the island permanently.

When Marc first moved here, there was a population somewhere between 30,000 and 35,000, and Grand Cayman was a much different place. The island was relatively rural with no cinema, only a few restaurants, and limited services—in fact, services were so limited, it took six weeks to get the telephone installed in Marc’s first apartment! But he didn’t mind the delay; he was on island time now.

During his nearly 30 years on the island, Marc has lived quite the life. He’s a father of three, an avid scuba diver, and a world traveler, having visited about 40 or 50 countries! He also has an unexpected passion: theater.

Theater is a passion Marc discovered by accident. As he tells it, he experienced a mid-life crisis around age 50, and, while most guys would have fulfilled that with a fancy new sports car, Marc wanted a new hobby. Between his office and his home was the Prospect Theatre, which was advertising the first rehearsal for the annual Christmas show. He decided to drop in for a look and somehow ended up in the show. He’s been a part of the Cayman Drama Society ever since, and has been cast in plays like Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and Barefoot in the Park.

Even though it started with an impromptu audition, Marc says the theater has changed his life and given him more than something to do in his free time—it’s given him a community.

In 2017, Marc’s wife passed away, and his theater family was there to provide the support he and his family needed. What surprised Marc even more was the overwhelming support he and his family received from what felt like the entire island of Grand Cayman. People he didn’t even know were showing up at his door with food for his family and offering to assist in any way they could.

“You’d find it difficult to find somewhere more wholesome and friendly than here,” he said.

I can’t help but agree.

Seeing Marc perform is on the top of my list for my next trip to Cayman. Luckily, the Cayman Drama Society puts on a number of plays and musicals throughout the year, and the Prospect Playhouse is only 17 minutes away from CCC. Marc also suggests making a trip to The National Gallery, home to an array of beautiful art exhibits that allow visitors to immerse themselves in Cayman expression.

If you're an art lover, be sure to add both of these to your "must visit" list next time you're on island—you might even spot Marc on stage! 

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Since his childhood, Scott Hartwell has always had a love of nature and the outdoors. Growing up in the heart of the West Midlands in England, he took every opportunity to explore the beautiful English countryside and woodlands.

After primary school and because of his natural ability with numbers, “Happy,” as he is known by friends, studied business and finance for 3 years at a university in the seaside town of Plymouth. His goal was to get, in his own words, “a proper job” in the world of business. But not long after graduating and entering the workforce, Scott found himself restless, and adventure beckoned him out of the office. He spent the next two years traveling Australia and Norway, where he further cultivated his love of outdoors by hiking and whitewater rafting.

After returning to England, Scott then joined a large company where in his words, “I worked the nine-to-five and joined the rat race” for the next 5 years. During his work tenure, Scott decided to take a course on SCUBA diving at a local quarry, and the rest, as they say, is history. On a particularly gray and rainy England day, he decided that a warmer climate was just what he needed. With his new found love of SCUBA diving, he packed up for South Africa and began turning his hobby into a career.

In 2010, Scott moved to Grand Cayman and has been working with the team at Living the Dream Divers ever since. As a PADI Master Scuba Diver Trainer, he is absolutely passionate about diving and interacting with all of the “creatures” he is fortunate to meet on a daily basis. However, Scott’s greatest joy is to share this amazing world under the sea with others!

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In this month’s Cayman Kind, we would like to introduce you to Michele (pronounced “Mi Ke’ le” for those of us who do not know Italian), the proud owner of Vivo Cafe & Restaurant.

Michele, who is originally from Italy, boldly immigrated to England at the age of 31 without understanding a word of English, to fulfill his desire to study culinary arts. Although he loved the culture and vibrancy that London is famously known for, like many Londoners he longed for sunshine and warmth, which quickly brought him to Cayman. Although he only planned for a short stay, he fell in love with the Island that he has now called home for over 6 years.

organic sodasAfter working for various restaurants on the Island, Michele decided to pursue his dream of owning his own in 2015. Thus Vivo Cafe was born. The word VIVO originates from the Latin vīvō and means 'alive' or 'to live'. Michele’s greatest passion in life, other than his beautiful family, is to educate his customers on the incredible health benefits of ‘live’ foods by offering organic vegan, vegetarian, and gluten free cuisine. He also strives to do this in the most eco-friendly way to our planet, and claims to have what he terms as the only “360 degree sustainable” restaurant in Grand Cayman. As an example, the serving plates are made from Kasha wood from a sustainable forest, the utensils from bamboo, and the napkins from wheat straw.

Coming from North American, I was naturally skeptical of the the idea that vegetarian or vegan food could satisfy my traditional Midwestern taste, no matter how I felt about sustainability. Michele was quick to point out that Vivo’s biggest fans are often devout carnivores who have never experienced quality vegetarian options. Vivo’s Trip Advisor reviews certainly backed this up with an astounding 96% Very Good or Excellent rating, and they are currently ranked #1 out of 18 restaurants in West Bay. But as the saying goes, the proof is in the pudding, or in this case the coconut. Since locally sourced coconut is abundant on Grand Cayman, it is one of the staples on the menu, and is often used as a meat substitute. From my personal experience, both the coconut ceviche and coconut bacon were surprisingly delicious.

Next time you are in Cayman, stop by the restaurant and say hello to Michele. He loves to welcome new guests. Vivo is located on the beautiful Northwest shore of West Bay, and offers a peaceful and breathtaking view of the ocean from tables and a bar-style counter that faces the sea. You can visit their website here for more info.

view at vivo restaurant

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One of the things I love most about vacationing on Grand Cayman is that I get to intentionally leave the stresses of life far behind me, even if it’s only for a week or so. It’s an opportunity to decompress, let go, and fully detach from my daily routine back home. I certainly do my fair share of snorkeling, SCUBA diving, and other fun activities on the island, but what I really look forward to are the soothing sounds of the rhythmic ocean tide on 7 mile beach, or a breath-taking West Bay sunset from a condo at Christopher Columbus Condos. I have discovered that it’s the simple experiences like these that are healing for the mind, body, and soul.

In addition to feeding my senses with the natural beauty of the island, I also make a point during each visit to treat myself to a full body massage at one of the many excellent spa options that GC has to offer. There are many that suggest there is scientific evidence for the healing benefits of massage therapy. I’m not sure if that is true, but I can tell you anecdotally that it definitely works for me.

Up until my recent visit to Grand Cayman, I would typically choose a “deep tissue” treatment over the traditional “Swedish” style massage. However on our last trip to Cayman, I was introduced to my first authentic “Thai massage” at Touch of Thai Day Spa and Salon.

Thai massage, or “Thai yoga massage” is a very ancient form of therapy that was originally practiced over 2,500 years ago. Unlike many other treatments, Thai massage requires you to be fully dressed (in very loose clothing that resemble pajamas) and uses no oils. Instead the practitioner uses intense acupressure, assisted yoga poses, and deep stretching to release the body’s tension and achieve maximum relaxation.

At first (and in full disclosure), I found the acupressure to be a bit excruciating, as the practitioner used her elbows, knees and thumbs to pinpoint specific areas of my body. I began to question my judgement and wonder what I had gotten myself into. But as she started combining the acupressure with coordinated stretching positions, my muscles seemed to more fully cooperate, the pain progressively subsided, and I could literally feel the tension leaving my body. For the next 45 minutes, I was able to get into a deep and relaxed state that can only be achieved with a well orchestrated massage. Upon completion, I was offered some fresh herbal tea and allowed to sit and reflect comfortably in a quiet room until I was ready to leave. Overall, I felt a tremendous sense of well-being and clarity, and my body felt fully rejuvenated.

Although this was my first Thai massage, I knew at that moment that it would not be my last. It certainly was not the experience I was anticipating, but the end result was better than any imagined. What I typically tell others is “If you can make it past the first 10 minutes, you are guaranteed one of the greatest relaxation experiences of your life.”

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Listen to the full interview with Captain Dexter here or continue reading below.

On our recent trip to Grand Cayman, my family had the incredible pleasure of getting to know Captain Dexter Ebanks. Captain Dexter is a proud, 6th generation Caymanian whose roots originated 90 miles to the northeast, on the smaller island of Cayman Brac.

The ‘Ebanks’ name (along with others such as ‘Tatum’ and ‘Bodden’) is a very prominent one among the islands and its origin can be traced back to 7th century England. In fact, the Ebanks and the Boddens were among the very first settlers of Cayman Brac. Dexter joked that originally the surname was “Eubanks”, and at some point Caymanians became lazy and dropped the “u” in order to make it easier to pronounce. For the Ebanks family, the Caribbean provided a livelihood, and as a young boy, Dexter developed an unbreakable bond and affection for the sea and all of its mysterious beauty. Since the entire island population at that time was only a few hundred, family and community were central to young Dexter’s life. He claims that this strong connection helped shape and build his character and work ethic.

Capt Dexter on his catamaranAt age 16, Captain Dexter moved to Grand Cayman, or in his words “the big city”, and joined the police force. For 14 years he served the community and built many friendships along the way. During this time and because of a longing to return to the sea, he began giving catamaran sailing tours to family and friends as a weekend hobby. As many hobbies do, this one ignited an entrepreneurial spark which helped launch Dexter’s Fantasea Tours into a full time business back in the mid 1980s. Dexter’s business philosophy is very simple: to create a more personalized experience for those wishing to visit The North Sound, Stingray Sandbar, Rum Point, and the Coral Reef. Unlike other excursion companies, Dexter never overcrowds his boat and loves getting to know each passenger by name. He also loves sharing jokes or stories about Cayman culture and history which I quickly took advantage of.

Captain Dexter is a natural “people person” who genuinely longs to share his love for the sea and Cayman with others. He told me that he has never done anything more rewarding, and that became evident during our adventure to the Stingray Sandbar one afternoon. Since there were only 9 of us passengers in total, the journey was both intimate and relaxing with plenty of room to spare on his spacious catamaran. Once we arrived, he introduced us to several of his Stingray friends, which he knew by name, and coached us on how to make the most of our time together (which included some tasty treats of fresh squid). The Stingrays were incredibly friendly, loved being petted and held, and even posed for pictures!

After a wonderful experience with the stingrays, we sailed back to The Cayman Island Yacht Club and enjoyed a beautiful sunset, relaxing conversation, and laughter along the way. Captain Dexter gave us a glimpse into his world that day and helped us appreciate the simpler things of life, which we often don’t take the time to notice. More importantly, he welcomed us warmly into this world and made us feel like friends along the way.

You can learn more about Dexter’s Fantasea Tours by visiting his website at www.dexters-fantaseatours.com.

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In this month’s CaymanKind segment, we would like to introduce you to Herman, a native Caymanian entrepreneur also known as “The Juice Man”. Since his teenage years, Herman has always had an interest and personal dedication to fitness and nutrition. A little over 5 years ago, he was able to turn his passion into a thriving business called Barbell Cafe.

Conveniently located in the front lobby of World Gym (just off West Bay Rd), Barbell Cafe serves the most nutritious (and absolutely delicious) juice creations on Grand Cayman. All of the recipes have been personally crafted by Herman himself and are the result of much research and study.

For example, the “Green Machine”, which is one of the more popular and exotic choices, uses the locally grown vegetable Callaloo (Amaranthus viridis) as the main ingredient. According to Herman, Callaloo, which is native to the Caribbean, is very similar to what we know as Kale. And like Kale, it is one of the most nutrient dense vegetables on earth and revered for its powerful medicinal and healing properties.

juice from barbell cafeAfter explaining in more detail the health benefits of his signature drink, Herman promised that I would not only love the taste, but feel energized as well. I can honestly say that he didn’t oversell it. The Green Machine gave me a nice boost of energy to take on all of my island activities.

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Shane the Conch Man

In this month’s CaymanKind segment, we are featuring local entrepreneur Shane Oakley, also know as “The Conch Man”.

Shane has been successfully harvesting and selling conch shells to both Cayman tourists and locals for over 10 years. Although his business is mobile, his favorite and most successful stand is located on West Bay Road near the famous Kittiwake shipwreck, a go to favorite for Scuba divers.

In addition to providing a beautiful selection of shells for sale, Shane is also quick to share an interesting story about the history of conch and the impact of these interesting creatures on Cayman culture. Before the age of communication as we know it, the conch shell was used as a signaling horn by native fisherman to communicate with other boats as well as villagers on shore. Shane also shared that conch meat has been a staple of the Caymanian diet for decades and is a delicacy that few are aware of. Although he grew up eating plenty of ceviche and conch burgers, his favorite dish is a fresh batch of conch fritters.

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When planning my recent trip to Grand Cayman, other than remembering my passport and sunblock, the most important item on my check list was to schedule an unforgettable dive experience. Something extraordinary that would carry me through the long, cold winter that was waiting for me on my return home to the States. I knew that Grand Cayman was already recognized as being one of the absolute best diving destinations on the planet, so I certainly had that going for me. However the biggest question was which diving operation to hire. So, after Googling “best dive operations in Grand Cayman” (which left me no shortage of options) I started the interview process!

After a few nondescript calls, I struck gold with Living the Dream (LTD) Divers. Within the first few minutes of my conversation with Liz (one of the owners), I could clearly sense that there was something really unique and special about her operation. She seemed to be more excited than I was, and was going to do whatever she could to make it memorable. After sorting out the logistics, we decided on a two tank dive for the following day at noon. As advertised, Scotty showed up at Christopher Columbus Condos right on schedule in the brightly wrapped LTD van. Immediately he welcomed me in his thick British accent and within 5 minutes we were telling jokes and poking great fun at each other. He also shared intriguing stories of his diving adventures all over the world as a PADI Master Scuba Instructor. It became very apparent that Scotty loved his job, but more than that, he seemed to be genuinely happy doing it. I later learned that Scotty’s nickname is “Happy”, which was certainly appropriate.

Within 10 minutes, we arrived at the dock where I was immediately greeted by “Captain” Carl. Like Scotty, Carl is super friendly and welcoming with his British wit and demeanor. And like Scotty, he is a 10 year PADI professional that has traveled all over the world. He started with a quick tour of our boat, which was clearly the nicest dive boat I had ever boarded. He pointed out that it was custom built for Living the Dream Divers down to the smallest detail. Before we launched to our first destination, Carl gave us a very thorough safety briefing and made it crystal clear that our safety was his top priority. Our first dive spot was along the North Sound wall of the Island which is called Eagle Ray Pass. It was a spectacular choice. Along the wall are a series of canyons that eventually feed to a sheer drop off point into the deep blue abyss. As I descended to a maximum depth of 102 feet, the area was teaming with marine life such as sea turtles, eels and lobsters. With Carl in the lead, he took the time to educate our group by pointing out creatures and plants that I would have certainly missed otherwise. It was a great education. After a brief rest and a snack, we were on to our second destination. We motored around to the northwest side of the island not too far from Seven Mile Beach and Christopher Columbus Condos. Our next dive spot was “Bonnie’s Arch,” named after a famous Cayman photographer Bonnie Charles.

Bonnie’s Arch was a great choice for many reasons. Not only was it a more appropriate depth (50ft) for our second dive, but it was a really unique natural structure that was well decorated with magnificent sponge and coral. Teams of fish like parrotfish, squirrelfish, and snapper shared their home with us, as a hungry sea turtle grazed his way along reef. We spent the next 45 minutes or so just relaxing and trying to blend in among the magnificent world of blue and vibrant colors. After we surfaced and unloaded our gear on the boat, Carl was kind enough to put back on his professor hat. On the journey back, he was very eager to discuss and unpack all that we had just experienced. Once we returned to the dock, he more than thanked us for being part of his day and allowing him to “Live his dream” of diving in Grand Cayman.

As a business owner myself, I am constantly in “evaluation mode” when it comes to studying organizations and their ability to deliver. LTD Divers have accomplished something that is rare in the business world. They have developed a clear vision for their entire team and a culture of ownership from top to bottom. Not only do they have fun with their vocation each and every day, but they are grateful for the opportunity to share it with others. I would highly recommend Living The Dream Divers to anyone looking for a first class diving experience in Grand Cayman, and look forward to seeing them again on my next trip to Christopher Columbus Condos!

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Meet CaymanKind Jorge & Josh

Jorge (left) and Josh (right) are both scuba instructors living in Cayman. Both men lead dives for DNS Diving.

Jorge moved from Columbia to work as a diver in Cayman and Josh's entire family moved to Cayman from the United Kingdom when he was 14. Jorge says you'll get a kick out of his accent, and Josh likes to give out bear hugs after great dives. Guests have commented that they are both extremely knowledgeable and fun as well as wonderfully patient and encouraging with first time divers. To learn more visit the DNS website here.

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