Enjoy the view

Sign up for our newsletter for beautiful photos, news around Cayman, the condos, and more!


Captcha Code
 


Blog Home > Tags > Botanic Park

Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, located on the island’s north side, combines two of our very favorite things about Cayman—incredible natural beauty and rich history! John Lawrus is the General Manager of Botanic Park, and we recently had the honor of taking a tour of this incredible park with him.

John shared with us that Botanic Park, owned jointly by the Cayman Islands Government and The National Trust, is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. The park was opened by its namesake, Queen Elizabeth herself, in 1994. (John had the honor of meeting the Queen at the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show, where the park took home a Silver Medal!) When it first opened, the only completed attraction was the Woodland Trail.  Since then, the park has grown by leaps and bounds, encompassing 65 acres in total and boasting beautiful features like the Floral Colour Garden, the fascinating Heritage Garden, and award-winning orchids, plus it's home to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program through the National Trust. You can even spot some blues roaming throughout the park!

Originally from Canada, John moved to Cayman around 18 years ago to work in Botanic Park. He’s always had a passion for plants since childhood. Though he initially studied finance in school, the pull towards working with nature proved stronger than the pull towards numbers. He went back to school, attending the Niagara Parks Commission School of Horticulture, which is one of the most highly regarded educational tracks in the horticulture field. The coursework was intense, and John said that the students even had room inspections! But he knew the program provided unparalleled job opportunities in the field, so it was all worth it. After graduating, John worked at the UBC Botanical Garden in Vancouver before seeing a job opening in Cayman. From there, he's worked his way up from Garden Supervisor to Deputy General Manager to his current position as General Manager today.

John’s passion for preservation and his enthusiasm for the calming power of nature is contagious. As a bit of an “indoor girl” myself, I’m not usually drawn to learning about plant life on my own. But hearing John talk about the origin of certain trees, flowers, and uses for medicinal plants made me realize I've been missing out. I really enjoyed learning about which herbs can be used in teas to help with various ailments. John also told us the story of a particular tree that was knocked over by hurricane winds. The tree was able to withstand the damage and has continued growing, just in a new direction.

My personal favorite part of the park was the Heritage Garden, which pays homage to native plants that have played a huge role in Cayman’s history. (It's also the winner of the Silver Medal from the 2008 Chelsea Flower Show in London!) In addition to highlighting important species like the Silver Thatch Palm, it also includes fruit trees, a medicinal garden, plus an original Caymanian house, owned by the Rankine family circa 1900. John told us that eight members of the Rankine family lived in the cozy iron-wood home—it's a little hard to imagine today! Instead of having a lawn with grass, the home was surrounded by a sand yard, which has been replicated down to the white conch shells lining the pathway to the front door. There’s even a “caboose” kitchen, which is separate from the main house.

Silver Thatch Palm lines the roof of the Heritage House, which is decorated to match how it would have looked in the early 1900s.

As we walked through the park, John shared his favorite aspects of his job—getting to spend time in nature and the ability to provide a beautiful place for others to come and enjoy. He loves being able to work in a place that provides peace and relaxation for others. John says he especially loves the diversity of plant life in the park— beautifully landscaped areas located next to spots with a more “rugged” feel where the plants grow a little more freely.

Enjoy a stroll in the shade on the Woodland Trail. 

John is also incredibly proud of the work being done on the new Children’s Garden within the park. With much-appreciated support from all the Rotary Clubs across the island, construction on phase one began in December 2018, and the Garden Grow Zone was just recently completed. Once it’s finished, the Children's Garden will include awesome features like a sensory garden, splash pad, maze, observation tower, and more. As a father to a young daughter, John said he was very excited to help provide a place where kids can be kids—to play in the dirt, get a little sweaty, and just enjoy spending time outside. He said the design for the park kept children of all personalities in mind—from those who prefer to run around and crawl through tunnels to those who would rather take in their surroundings a little more quietly from a comfy seat. (If you're interested in keeping up with the Children's Park, follow Botanic Park on Facebook for more info!).

When he isn't taking care of the park, John enjoys spending time with his wife and daughter. He likes to relax by going fishing or spending any time around water (which, as we know, Cayman offers the best of all water-related activities!) He also lives on the north side of the island, and gave us a few hints on the best place to grab a bite in the area—he recommends Over the Edge Cafe and Kurt's Corner in Old Man Bay, which is "the truest pub on the island." He recommends even more highly that you get your lunch to-go and come eat it in the park.

A blue happily takes in some sun.

Next time you're on island, we can't recommend a visit to Botanic Park enough. John even says, it's "the most peaceful place on island," especially to take a walk, and who are we to argue with him? So pack yourself a picnic and come take it all in. And if you see John, be sure to ask him to show you his favorite plant in the park!

Comments 0 Rating: Be the first person to rate this post.

The blue iguana is a beautiful and important animal native to the Cayman Islands. The blue iguanas, or blues, were once faced with extinction, but are now on their way back to a stable, healthy population. We were lucky enough to get some insights into how the blue iguanas are being revitalized from Nick Ebanks. Nick is the Operations Manager of the Blue Iguana Recovery, which is an initiative of The National Trust for the Cayman Islands. The recovery itself is located on the grounds of Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on the north side of the island, about a 45 minute drive from the condos.

The Blue Iguana Recovery Program was founded in 1990 as an effort to save the critically endangered species, whose population was down to only 30. The facility cares for and monitors blue iguanas, aids in the breeding process, strategically releases ready iguanas into the wild, and works with research institutions to help ensure genetic diversity within the wild population. In July 2018, the program hit a huge milestone when the wild population reached 1,000 blues. Though the program has successfully saved the blue iguanas from extinction, the work isn’t over. The ultimate goal is for the blues to be able to naturally breed and support themselves in the wild, thus eliminating the need for the program altogether. Nick says, “If we lose our jobs—perfect. That’s the goal.”


The very photogenic Peter

As Nick showed us around the rescue, I asked him a few questions about himself. Nick is a native Caymanian from West Bay. Though he didn’t always expect to be a conservationist, he’s grown to deeply appreciate and respect all forms of living creatures. After a period of time working with bats, he began volunteering at the iguana rescue around four years ago. After getting plenty of on-the-job experience, he worked all the way up to his operations manager position today. When asked what he likes most about his job, he said he really enjoys spending time outdoors, and working with great, like-minded people who are all very dedicated to taking care of the iguanas. He said conservation is very fulfilling and meaningful work, plus it’s an added bonus to be free from the restrictions that come along with an office job.

As we looked around, one of Nick’s coworkers, warden Alberto, joined us. Alberto showed us the “main attraction” blue iguana, Peter. Peter was born in 2003 to wild parents, but he liked to hang around Botanic Park so much that he basically adopted the staff himself! The program recruited Peter as an educational animal since he is so friendly—he enjoys being picked up by Alberto to be shown to visitors and isn’t bothered at all by attention. As I soon learned, Alberto himself is also a bit of a park star. He has a huge heart for the iguanas and is a beloved tour guide, so I’d highly recommend you request him if you stop by!


Alberto and Nick 

In addition to meeting a few of these sweet iguanas, the best thing about the tour was learning all about the animals from Nick. The iguanas blue color can change due to their environment, the sun, their food, and mood. It’s also a great indicator of overall health, so the staff monitors each iguana's color every day. One of the neatest things I saw while visiting was a small territorial spat between two roaming iguanas, Shreddy and Orro. Nick explained that Orro tread a little too closely on Shreddy’s territory, then pointed out how Orro took up a submissive posture and her color turned more light blue as a show of, “Hey, I know you’re top iguana, it’s all good here.” It was very cool to see up close!

As you might have guessed, Nick’s passion for animals and the Cayman wilderness extends beyond just his day job. At home he is fostering a dog named Vinny. He also tries to spend as much time as possible outdoors, doing everything from climbing, exploring, and observing native birds and insects to getting in a game of ultimate frisbee. “I like to keep it nice and simple—busy and simple,” he says. Once he reaches the goal of the blue iguanas being able to sustain themselves in the wild, he'd like to work with revitalizing native bird populations.


A beautiful blue enjoying basking in the sun in Botanic Park

I highly recommend you come visit the blues yourself the next time you’re on island and say hi to Nick, Alberto, and Peter. You can catch one of two daily tours given, Monday through Saturday, or you can schedule a private tour. Then you should see if you can spot some of the roaming blues in Botanic Park! Check out their website for more information about tour times.

Comments 0 Rating: Be the first person to rate this post.
Ann Stafford loves natural history. Fortunately for us, she also loves sharing facts about natural history with others. We first came across Ann when we discovered her blog CaymAN Nature (she is quick to point out her name in the middle of the two words) while researching for another post of our own. We found her blog to be so full of great information that we wanted to learn more about the author behind all of this first-hand Cayman knowledge!

Growing up in the English countryside, Ann’s parents taught her to identify plants and animals at a young age, and what they didn’t teach her, she learned through countless books. In 1973, Ann and her husband moved to Grand Cayman. She immediately fell in love with the island and began to immerse herself in learning about the native flora and fauna. Around this time, she unfortunately began to witness many native plants being destroyed by invasive species. Ann dedicated herself to conserving the native plant life and educating others on conserving the food chain in Cayman—if the native plants disappear, so will the native animals who depend on them. 

In order to educate others, Ann works to spread and publish her findings. In addition to her blog, Ann gained such an in-depth knowledge of Cayman plants and butterflies that she co-wrote the book Butterflies of the Cayman Islands with visiting entomologist Dr. Richard Robinson Askew. Ann is also a photographer and contributed images to the book Flora of the Cayman Islands. For a time she even lead tours of the island for a groups of journalists for the Department of Tourism.



In addition to butterflies and flora, Ann is especially interested in the early settlement of the Cayman Islands, including survival, livelihood, and exports. One livelihood custom in particular stood out and left her with a desire to learn more. This custom just happens to involve gravestones! On the island, you can find many gravestones shaped like small houses instead of the rounded shape the majority of us are familiar with. These gravestones were built in the 1800s and can be found in a variety of locations including Old Man Bay, North Side, and Bodden Town, to name a few.

On her blog, Ann explains in more detail: 
"The graves were marked, not by mounds of earth and headstones, or great massive tombs, but by houses in miniature, just large enough each to cover one person; mostly about six feet long, two feet broad, and one and a half high, with a sloping roof and full gable end, in which was inserted a small slab containing containing the name of the occupant, his age, and the day on which he entered his narrow home, 'the house appointed for all living.'" 



To learn more about these house-shaped gravestones and the Cayman natives buried there, you can visit the cultural page on Ann's blog.

Today, Ann guides guests around Grand Cayman on Nature and Historic Tours, sharing Cayman's fascinating history with others while she continues to share her countless nature photographs on social media and her blog. If you're looking for a unique tour experience, give Ann a ring next time you're on island! 
Comments 0 Rating: Be the first person to rate this post.

We first featured Willie, our Maintenance Man at CCC, in our newsletter a couple years ago, and wanted to share more with you about this kindhearted man who will be celebrating 31 years of service at Christopher Columbus Condos next month.

Almost everyone has met one of those people who quietly work in the background, with a servant's heart and no request for recognition, yet we know without them a business, organization or family would not be as successful. At Christopher Columbus Condos our behind-the scenes-guy is Joseph a.k.a "Willie."

Willie just so happens to call one of our housekeepers, Delma, his wife! When asked what it’s like working with his wife, he said it’s a blessing that “can’t be put in just a few words.” It’s a joy every morning to get to ride to work with his wife by his side. Willie is a big family person. He has two girls and one boy, of whom he’s very proud. His oldest daughter is a lawyer, the next daughter in line is a doctor and his son works in customs at the airport. Willie has 6 biological grandchildren and 5 grandchildren through an informally adopted son from Honduras. Willie himself is originally from Honduras.

On any given day at CCC you can see Willie fixing a hut, cleaning the grounds or hanging lights up for a party. He loves seeing tourists visit because it’s good for the island and he recommends outdoor activities (Turtle Farm, Botanic Park, etc.). His favorite place to chill out, aside from being at home with his family, is Smith’s Cove. He says he also enjoys eating out a couple times a year, but that he mostly enjoys cooking for his family, making things like turtle stew and rice, ribs on the grill, stew conch and green salads. “They say I’m a pretty good cook,” he laughs.

After being at CCC for over 30 years, Willie has got to know owners and other staff members very well (some have come and gone). He has especially enjoyed the special bonds that are built. He said a previous owner even took part in a couple of baptisms that his church had in the CCC pool. You read that right! In the 90s (he guessed about 20 years ago) a couple of baptisms took place at CCC. I joked with him that I had no idea the waters were so holy. He attends church at the Church of God Gospel Hall and worships with a congregation called the Ambassadors of God that he helped found over 20 years ago with the pastor. They rent a place in Georgetown and are currently looking into building a church for permanent placement.

Talking with Willie is such a pleasure, one that I hope each of you will get to experience. He has the most warm personality, and has a way of reminding you what is most important in life. He says, at the end of the day, “I don’t ask for too much other than seeing my family happy.”

Comments 3 Rating: Rated 4.5 star by 1 people.

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas here in Grand Cayman! Christmas lights, holiday concerts, shopping and more are taking place across the island as Caymanians and Christmas vacationers alike are anticipating the big day.

Santa Spottings on Grand Cayman

Santa arrived by plane last Saturday at the airport park at Grand Cayman International airport and brought lots of joy to the kids on the island. Santa has also been making weekly appearances at Camana Bay on Thursdays from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. in Gardenia Court. We hear he'll be there every Thursday through December 18th. You can get your traditional Santa photos then! 

Even Santa needs a break! He's been sporting his island wear on Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on "The Island" in Camana Bay and is posing for Caribbean Style Santa Photos, too. Come join the fun on Saturdays through December 20th.

Camana Bay Christmas Events

Camana Bay has no lack in Christmas Spirit. This community is chalk full of holiday cheer and events. Aside from both Traditional and Caribbean Santa Photos, they're featuring a weekly Moonlight and Movies Christmas Series on Tuesday nights at 7 p.m. in Gardenia Court. Show up early because you won't want to miss the snow that falls in Camana Bay every Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Movies and snow run through December 23rd. There are a plethora of other events going on this Christmas season at Camana Bay so make sure to check out the calendar on their website for all the jolly details. Launch Camana Bay Holiday Calendar >>

Christmas at The Fort

Enjoy Christmas carols, tree lighting and all kinds of gifts at the newly renovated Fort George during Christmas at the Fort on Thursday, December 11th from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will be cocktails, hors d'oeuvres and special performances by local artists! Event is FREE!

Christmas Decorations at Botanic Park

Nature and Christmas come together at the Botanic Park during the holiday season. See the already gorgeous park decorated for Christmas with a visit to their grounds.

Decorated Homes

Driving to see elaborately decorated homes on the island is a favorite holiday activity for many. The most popular homes are the Bodden sisters' home in the South Sound and the Crighton home and garden near Savannah. They go all out and have been decorating their homes for years. The Bodden sisters often greet people outside of their home, and I read in the Cayman Christmas Catalog that the Crighton family takes 6 weeks to decorate their home! 

Holiday Concerts

Many enjoy attending Christmas themed concerts at churches across the island. The East End United Church Hall will hold an "Old Fashion Treasured Christmas" on December 13th. Entry is $10 and the event includes skits, caroling, games, poems, memory gems, food and more. They suggest bringing a gift for the charity box. St. Ignatius will host a Candlelight Carol Service on December 17th with bands, choirs and readings for the season. Find more details on the Cayman Compass calendar.

Dashing Thru the Sand

Dashing Thru the Sand, one of our guest favorites, is an annual event that takes place the day after Christmas. It's a 1.5 mile walk/run on Seven Mile Beach. The fun starts at 7:30 a.m. Registration includes a t-shirt, breakfast at the end of the route and lots of prizes. The route starts just North of Hemingway's Restaurant at the Hyatt and runs North to Calico Jacks. Cost is CI$25. More details here.

Cayman Christmas Traditions

Aside from the many Christmas activities on Grand Cayman there are also some really cool traditions from times past. I found this great article on the Cayman Islands Tourism Association's website about Caymanian Christmas traditions. The Sand Yards sound particularly fun and interesting.

Comments 1 Rating: Rated 4.5 star by 1 people.
Page 1 of 1
First Previous
1
Next Last
Pages :

The Latest from Instagram @ChristopherColumbusCondos