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Blog Home > Archive (February, 2017)

Deep in the mangrove forests you will find blissful shade, interesting wildlife and peace for days. My fiancé and I recently took a kayak tour with Sea Elements through the Central Mangrove Wetlands of Cayman, and it's an activity I would highly recommend. Our tour guide Mandy was so awesome and made the trip fascinating and fun.

We started the tour by boarding our kayaks from the Cayman Islands Yacht Club. Mandy gave us a 10 minute tutorial on how to maneuver around before we boarded our little vessels. I'd only kayaked once before and felt totally comfortable once on board. We left the bay, paddled past gorgeous waterfront homes and then crossed the open waters of the sound channel to the main mangrove area. As we passed by the mangroves, I saw iguanas poking their heads out of the trees and sunbathing on the limbs. They looked like kings up there.

kayaking through canal

We learned that there are 3 types of mangrove trees in Cayman. The red, black and white mangroves make up one of the most important ecological elements of Grand Cayman providing an irreplaceable habitat for many species, protecting the mainland from storms, helping provide rainfall to the West End and—my favorite—filtering out the residue from murky waters resulting in the crystal clear waters for which Cayman is known. While on the tour, our guide Mandy, told us how to tell the 3 types of mangroves apart which included scratching the leaves and licking them too!

As we were navigating around the perimeter of the mangrove forest, Mandy found little spots at which we could stop and rest while she taught us fun facts. She plucked flora and fauna from the trees and the water for us to handle and see. The first was an upside down jellyfish also known as Cassiopeia. She told us to look for green bean looking things hanging from the red mangrove and explained that those are actually little mangrove plants that would eventually fall and take root. I was impressed to learn that they could live up to a year floating on water before planting their roots. We also handled a poisonous algae that makes up much of the sand on the beaches here. Luckily the algae isn't poisonous to humans! We laughed when Mandy told us the other "ingredient" that makes up the sand. You'll have to take the tour to find that one out. ;)

collage of mangroves

We wandered around the perimeter for awhile until heading into the mangroves through small creek like channels. We paddled those for some time and then took a turn into a very narrow pathway. With paddles now stowed in the kayak we used our hands to grab branches and pull our way through the coolest tree-webbed passageway. I had no idea we'd be going through them like this and was excited as we slowly made our way through. Everyone was quiet as we soaked in our surroundings deep in the mangroves.

Exiting the passageway we saw a blue heron take flight, and would later see two more. I'd never seen them so close! We pulled over again and Mandy showed us mermaid's cup, a little algae plant with a suction like cup that looks like a wine glass. She stuck it to her nose and then continued to share more.

During one of our "pull-overs" she picked up a squishy little sea creature that didn't look like much more than larvae. However, we learned that this little creature informally called a sea squirt is the only animal in the world that grows a bacteria that's used to treat soft cell cancers. With this, Mandy reminded us with sweet class how important it is to protect the small things!

learning about the mangrove forest

After about 2 hours we found our way back to the dock where we had started. I left with a new respect for the mangroves and my curious soul satisfied. Mandy was truly a pro and had an admirable passion for the the mangroves. Holding a degree in Marine Biology, she was full of knowledge but we especially loved how she communicated in layman's terms.

Next time you are in Cayman, definitely make time for a trip to the Central Mangrove Wetlands. I'd suggest bringing sunscreen, an appetite for learning and a sense of humor if you plan to kayak with a partner! You can learn more about the tour we took on Sea Elements website.


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Have you ever met someone that was extremely humble, seemed to enjoy the simple things in life yet had an intriguing mystery about him? That's Stacy Eden Hurlston. He's the kind of guy that you feel knows the secret meaning of life. The kind of guy that doesn’t seem to know how much he has to share, because for him, wisdom is just a way of life. I met Stacy while touring the Pedro St. James Castle, and while we didn't get to spend much time together, I left hoping to cross paths with him again.

Stacy gave my fiancé and I a lovely tour of the first Great House in Cayman. He started with the history of Pedro St. James, telling us about those that lived there and significant events that took place within its walls. He told us about the Englishman named William Eden who built the large house in the 18th century and of Caroline Eden Hurlston, the last person born in the house.

tour of pedro st james

Then Stacy took us into the Theatre Room and introduced himself as our official tour guide, Stacy Eden Hurlston. My lightbulb went off, and I asked him if he was related to Caroline. He chuckled and murmured, "I don't usually tell people that until later in the tour." He went on to tell us that he is actually Caroline's son though! How cool to get a tour from an actual descendant of the family that built and lived in the house for generations! We felt honored. And that is living history at it's best!

I could tell that Stacy took a lot of pride in the house and was happy to be showing it off. We enjoyed going inside and soaking up the stories. I took the photo below as Stacy was telling us about his great grandfather who built the house.

Eden ancestry at Pedro St. James

Towards the end of the tour, after going through the house, he introduced us to his friend Jack the Donkey and during the theater tour we met Ginger the resident cat. He demonstrated a great love to both and fed them as we passed by. When I asked Stacy if I could take a picture of him for this post, he was pretty bashful (which made me like him even more), but he amiably agreed and took out his hat for the photo op.

As we left the Pedro grounds, I figured this story ended there; and maybe it does. But while I was writing some notes on our ride back to the condos, something triggered my memory from an event two days ago. Maybe it was the feeling he gave me or the love he had for animals, but two days before meeting Stacy at Pedro Castle my fiance and I were taking a leisurely Sunday drive around the island. We made a quick pit stop at a gas station, and I saw a man nearby tossing out feed to chickens. I asked him if the chickens were wild chickens, and he said, "I feed them, so they are here." As I was turning to walk back to the car I heard him omnisciently say, "Every mouth must be fed. That's what the Lord says!" I was so touched by his words and presence that I sneaked a discreet snapshot of the man and his wild chickens to remember the moment. But like I had mentioned, while on the way back to the condos from the Pedro St. James tour, I was struck suddenly with the idea that the man with the chickens was Stacy! I grabbed my phone to look at the photo I had snapped and gasped with delight as I saw the man wearing a hat identical to the one Stacy wore on our tour. I showed Brandon (my fiance), and he was tickled, too. The photo was too blurry to tell for sure, but its posted below, so I will leave it to you. Either way I think Stacy and the man with the chickens both had the warmth and indescribable wisdom of veteran Caymanians, so whether it's him or whether it's not, they are kindred spirits.

caymanian feeding wild chickens

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