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The Cayman Islands have over a millennium of rich history, but most of the islands' history with humans began less than 400 years ago. In that time, Grand Cayman has gone from a remote island jungle to a busy stop for pirates and other seafarers to a bustling tourist destination.

Today, Grand Cayman is known for beautiful beaches, Caymankindness, and stunning sunsets, but the island is also home to a vibrant and bustling arts scene—the home of which is at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands. 

Since 1996, the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands (NGCI) has been the cultural hub of the Cayman Islands with a mission to promote the appreciation and practice of the visual arts. For over two decades, NGCI has been following this mission by providing exhibitions featuring art pieces by Caymanian artists from throughout Cayman’s history, representing and serving all three islands.

The National Collection and Other Exhibits

One of the main and semi-permanent exhibitions at NGCI is the National Collection, a collection of pieces that are considered crucial for the preservation of Cayman’s cultural history. The collection features a variety of media that illustrate how artists have captured life in the Cayman Islands over the last four decades. The collection rotates, meaning only 40 percent of it is on display at any given time, so there is something new to see every time you visit.  

 

Every year, NGCI also features 10 temporary exhibits in their main exhibit space on Grand Cayman and other satellite exhibits around the three islands. The Gallery currently features several pieces by iconic local artist Gladwyn “Miss Lassie” Bush and Bendel Hydes, the founder of modern art in Cayman.


A few of the staff’s favorite pieces among the more permanent works include 3 a Lick, No Taws (Ode to Milo Series) created in 1999 by artist Wray Banker, a pop art-inspired piece exploring identity and heritage through a can of Milo; and Amen, 2019, by Randy Chollette, a reimagining of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam through the lens of his Rastafarian faith. 

The Gallery also features a sculpture garden, the labyrinth, and an art studio that serves as the home for education programs.

What the National Gallery Means For Cayman

Since its founding, the National Gallery has been dedicated to serving as a place to discuss art, history, identity, and heritage. It serves as a place where Caymanians young and old, tourists and newcomers, can come to relish in the history of the islands we love so dearly.

“The art that we care for tells an essential story about Cayman, from its very beginnings to its hopes for the future,” says Camille de Marchenna, NGCI arts administrator.

Camille says 2020 will be full of exciting new exhibitions, including "Island of Women" in the first part of the year. This exhibit charts the contribution of women to the development of Cayman. Other exhibits throughout the year will feature a variety of media from photography to ceramics.

Visit NGCI

Whether you're interested in learning more about Cayman's culture, interested in art, or looking for a place to spend a rainy day out, be sure to put the National Gallery on your next vacation to-do list. The main gallery is located on Esterly Tibbetts Highway, just a short drive from Christopher Columbus Condos. You can visit Monday through Saturday from 10 am to 5 pm. Admission is free every day. 

For more information about featured exhibits, educational programs, and other gallery events, follow them on Facebook or visit their website.

*We would like to thank the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands for submitting the feature image used in this article. 

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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!

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Nadia Hardie is a natural leader, and I don't just say that because she is the leader of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands. She is indeed the Executive Director, but when I first met her last fall at the National Trust, I was enamored by both her professionalism and charismatic personality. Nadia is definitely the kind of person I'd want to follow! 

She's a self proclaimed "Cayman Coconut," with a fascinating cultural background like so many others in Cayman. Although a world traveler practically from birth, Cayman has earned the beloved title of "home" for Nadia. She was born in Trinidad to a Welsh father and Austrian mother. She spent a brief time in the Bahamas as a baby, but lived most of her first eleven years in Switzerland. Then the family returned to the Caribbean, making Cayman their home in 1985—wow, can you imagine a lifetime of travel in just your first decade of life? And that was just the start for Nadia. After her family moved to Cayman she was back and forth between the Caribbean and London, where she attended boarding school and university.

Nadia remembers her summer holidays in Cayman with fondness. She grew up in a Cayman of about 20,000 people, where everyone knew everyone and it was safe to hitch a ride home from anyone driving by. She spent her summers walking from her house on South Church Street to the Holiday Inn on Seven Mile Beach. Without smartphones and social media to plan meetups, the beach at the Holiday Inn served as the local meetup and place socialize. "You knew if you went there everybody would be there."

After university Nadia spent a little over a decade working in London, and of course visiting her family in Cayman when she could. She felt a special yearning to return home to be with her family, so she took some time to backpack around the world and then settled back at home in Cayman in 2002. 

Nadia has a wide range of experience working in both of the major industries in Cayman: tourism and finance. She spent 10 years working in sales at different hotels across the island and another 6 years working for businesses like Deloitte in financial services. When asked about her current role at the National Trust, she says it's a dream come true. She gets to use the skills she's acquired in business over the years to help protect historic and environmental places of significance in the Cayman Islands. Taking care of her homeland is a mission that is near and dear to her heart. It's easy to see how much she loves this place when you talk to her about the work of the Trust.

In Nadia's own words, "Cayman is a lovely place to grow up," and now she and her husband, Damon, have the gift of raising their two girls, Sasha and Mia, here. Damon, originally from New Zealand, came to Georgetown to visit a friend and celebrate the new millennium in December of 1999 and never went back home. He got a job offer and phoned home that he was staying in the Caribbean. Shortly after, he and Nadia met and the rest is history.

When she's not working to protect Cayman, Nadia loves spending time with her family. They're an active family that love boating and the sports life. Nadia herself was a huge football (soccer) player and a "massive field hockey person." Now she laughs that her sport is driving her kids around from sport to sport. One daughter is a squash champion and the other is an excellent football player. "I encourage them to be as active as possible," Nadia adds. The family loves taking holiday vacations to New Zealand during their winter to ski and to the North Carolina mountains for a different landscape experience. She adds, "When we live here why would we go on a summer holiday? We have the best beaches right here."

We talk some more and Nadia tells me all about the work of The National Trust (perhaps enough for an entire blog post—hint hint—one that might be coming soon to a blog near you soon). ;) She also tells me about her furry love, Maisy, a Shih Tzu who's like her 3rd child and an absolute sweetheart. She starts to recommend local restaurants I should try: Vivine's on the East End, Singh's Roti in Georgetown, Champion House II (where you might meet Shelly), Vivo for the vegan hearted, and Alfresco's to dine on the beach. She leaves me with a book recommendation as well, for Don't Stop the Carnival. She says it's a hilarious comedy about escaping a mid-life crisis in the Caribbean. Maybe just the book to read next time you're on the beach! (Catch these tips to make that reading experience even better.)

Stay tuned for more from Nadia and The National Trust for the Cayman Islands as we share a post about all the great work the Trust is doing next month.
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I was so excited when I first heard about the "Explorer Passport" created by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands.  I've been visiting Cayman for about 5 years, and was surprised to discover that I'd been to less than half of the places included in the passport. There are some points of interest that I hadn't even heard of which goes to show there is always something new to discover on this island.

The passport is an awesome activity booklet that the National Trust created to promote the cultural, historical and natural wonders of the island. It has 39 points of interest inside and comes with a poster-map and stickers to place on each location as you visit them.

The booklet describes the significance of each attraction and has extra tips for things to do, try or look for at each place. You'll find yourself eager to go to each spot so you can proudly put another sticker on your map. Kids will love the stickers and fun activities, and adults—you will love developing a deep sense of connection to the island as you learn more about what makes it so special; and who are we kidding, you will love the stickers, too!

The fun doesn't stop with the stickers and the map either. There are extra tips in the booklet which are presented as 3 things to check off at every place. The tips give even more reason to visit each attraction and made me want to revisit most of the places I had already been so I could experience something I missed the first time. For instance, one of the points of interest is Boggy Sand Road; the book explains that the street is lined with historic homes and the extra tips ask if you've seen:

  • Gingerbread fretwork (each district was known for its unique style)
  • Zinc roofs and expansive verandas
  • Traditional sand yards trimmed with conch shells

Although I've been to this sweet street before, I didn't know to look for these things that are culturally significant to the island. It made me want to go back and check off each item and read more about the traditional architecture in Cayman. 

The map even includes some culturally important places that few locals know about. While I was taking pictures of Miss Lassie's House, another place in the passport, a jogger approached on what seemed like her daily route. She saw me taking photos of the house and then saw the house. She stopped, pulled out her phone and took a couple of snapshots of the place saying she had never noticed it before. It's amazing what you miss when you're not looking for something.

There's so much joy in the "hunt," and taking your passport along on an island road-trip makes for easy exploring. A lot of the attractions are free and you can drive up to several of them anytime (even on Sundays when many island shops and attractions are closed).

So grab the passport and hit the road for some adventure. I suggest taking the day as it comes. Just pick a place on the map and go! Since some of the attractions are "off the beaten path" you'll discover a lot of things along the way, too. For instance, my husband and I found Dart Park by The National Trust—one of the stops on the map. At Dart Park you'll find super cool trees, an iron-shore full of fossils and little hermit crabs. It wasn't on the map, but we wouldn't have discovered it if we hadn't pulled in to see the Trust. We also happened upon a stretch of highway that followed the southern coastline just past Miss Lassie's House. Somehow in the five years I'd been frequenting Cayman we always bypassed that stretch of coastal highway and it was really pretty. I was so glad we found it.

Some of my favorite spots on the map have been Spotts Beach (for the sea turtles!), Crystal Caves and Heritage Beach. Honestly, I've enjoyed visiting them all, but I don't want to spoil any more of the fun for you.

Pick up your very own "Explorer Passport" at the National Trust and start discovering Cayman like never before. The packet only costs $10 KYD, and you'll have a blast checking off each location. Enjoy, and let us know when you've checked off all 39!

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Learning about other cultures is a fascinating journey, and Cayman culture is worth the exploration. Take some time to see if you can find the following trees of cultural significance to the Cayman Islands and their products on your next trip to the island. (Make a scavenger hunt out of it!) Some produce literal fruits that are happily consumed, while others have been used to create essential products for the island. 

Ironwood Tree

There are common trees around the world called Ironwood, but the tree referred to as the Ironwood tree in Cayman is endemic to the Cayman Islands, important to the culture and unfortunately endangered. Used to build the framework for early homes (like Dovovan’s grandfather’s home), the wood of the tree is heavy, water resistant and termite proof. Ironwood was first used in Wattle and Daub construction and then throughout the years in various construction.

Where they grow: Dense forests such as the Ironwood Forest, Forest at Crystal Caves, and Mastic Reserve

Where you can see them in use:

nurse leila home
Nurse Leila’s home pictured above is a Wattle and Daub structure built with ironwood.

schoolhouse
Another ironwood supported structure is the Old Savannah Schoolhouse built in 1940.

Silver Thatch Palm

Also used in the Wattle & Daub buildings (for roofs) of early settlers, the Silver Thatch Palm was used in a multitude of additional products, many with economical value, and is vastly significant to the history of the Cayman Islands. The Silver Thatch was weaved into ropes, hats, brooms, baskets, fans and much more. The thatched rope was in high demand from neighbors in Cuba and Jamaica and thereby created a roping industry that helped support the island. Because of it's impact, it's no surprise the Silver Thatch Palm is the national tree of the islands.

Where they grow: All over the island and especially present on the East End

Where you can find products: Try the Cayman Craft Market at The Waterfront in Georgetown or one of the local Farmers Markets for thatched products.


A Caymanian shows off a broom made of Silver Thatch in front of the plant itself in her yard.

Breadfruit Tree

The Breadfruit Tree has long been providing sustenance to those living on island. According to A Cayman Childhood Remembered by Jackie Bodden, a Breadfruit is “a large, round, usually seedless fruit with a starchy pulp. When cooked it tastes similar to an Irish potato.” The breadfruit is still a popular fruit today among Caymanians—in fact Lisa, our property manager, gifted me a breadfruit during my last trip to Cayman. She said that Caymanians love to eat breadfruit with fish, with gravy, with fried chicken, with anything!

Where they grow: All over the island, and grown in the yards of many residents.

Where you can find breadfruit: When in season you can buy breadfruit in local grocery stores, and some local restaurants such as Da Fish Shack in Georgetown or Vivine’s Kitchen in the East End.

breadfruit
Breadfruit growing on Lisa's tree.

two breadfruit

Ackee Tree

Speaking of what to eat breadfruit with, ackee and cod is another dish that Caymanians love to pair with the fruit. The Ackee tree bears a red fruit that can be toxic before it is ripe or when it is too old, so it’s important to get the fruit from a store or a local that knows when it is ready to eat. When ripe it’s full of many healthy nutrients. The meat of the ackee fruit looks similar to scrambled eggs, and has a slightly sweet and slightly bitter taste that is the perfect compliment to the codfish. The ackee and cod dish is especially popular for breakfast.

Where they grow: Grown in the yards of many residents, these trees became prevalent when Jamaicans migrated to Cayman in the 60's according to Roger Ebanks.

Where you can find ackee: Eat like a local and grab ackee and cod for breakfast at Full of Beans Cafe or Champion House II, both in Georgetown.

caymanian woman with her ackee tree
Mrs. Nettie, a local Caymanian, shows us an ackee tree in her yard.

Seagrape & Popnut Trees

Original homesteads in Grand Cayman were often shaded by seagrape and popnut trees. Popnut trees were also used in the making of Cayman catboats (along with mahogany and fiddlewood trees). Both trees tend to grow near the shore. The seagrape tree is known for its green leaves with red veining and the edible fruit that it bears (ask a local how to tell when seagrapes are ripe for eating). The popnut tree has yellow flowers that last only a day and turn maroon by the end of the day. It also has a brown leathery fruit bulb that resembles a nut.

Where they grow: Head to the sea and you’re sure to find one or both of these trees. You can enjoy the shade of seagrape and popnut trees at Smith’s Cove and many other beaches on Grand Cayman, including our very own beach here at CCC!

seagrape tree
Catch this seagrape tree by the swing here at CCC. There's also one by the boat shed on the other side of our beach.

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If you want to see the "real island" then biking the West Bay Loop is for you! Tour guide, Richard McKee, leads bike tours through West Bay and shares lots of history and saucy facts about Cayman along the way. Aside from being a great Caribbean historian, Richard is a hoot and will keep you entertained along the way.

The tour meets and ends at the Cracked Conch/Macabuca. When my husband and I pulled up and approached the bike stand, Richard was there helping two other couples find the best bikes and helmets for their ride; and then did the same for us. I got the "Birthday bike" and was feeling pretty special as I made a few practice laps around the parking lot. (Someone had wrapped the handlebars with ribbon the day before for a Birthday girl.) Richard prepped us for the journey with some safety tips (like "Remember to stay to the left!!") and off we went.

We rode for a while and then stopped in at Boatswain Bay, a quiet little nook we never would have found on our own. Directly next to the bay is a cemetery, so Richard told us about burial customs new and old including shells used to mark graves (that are still there now). We took shelter from the sun under some shade trees nearby, and Richard started in with the history of the islands beginning with Christopher Columbus discovering the islands in 1503. He explained how the islands went from Spanish to British rule and how they went from the island that time forgot to one of the most successful islands in the Caribbean. He wrapped up our first stop by telling us he was going to tell us about the economic miracle of the Cayman Islands in little spurts along the way which left me excited for not only the biking ahead but our stops, too!

teeny house on beach

As we rode further through West Bay we got a good glimpse of the local life. We passed West Bayers who were walking, biking and relaxing on their porches. Everyone we passed was so friendly, wishing us a good morning and waving and smiling as we passed. We pulled up briefly next to an ackee tree along our way, and Richard told us all about the local love for the fruit and how Caymanians would often cook up a fresh batch of ackee and cod for dinner. We also made a quick stop at Hell, so Richard could explain how the attraction came to be and then carried on.

Our next big stop was at the library adjacent to the Sir. John A Cumber Primary School. School children were playing at recess when we stopped. Richard pointed out the British architecture of the library and then continued on telling us about the history and economic miracle of the Cayman Islands. As he gave us the coolest history lesson, a few of the school children had taken notice of our group and were waving and chuckling hellos at us in the background. Any time we'd actually look their way they'd immediately look away and act as if they hadn't been trying to get our attention. They were pretty cute, and it was fun to feel a part of everyday Cayman. We left the school grounds, and pedaled along further through West Bay. I was starting to feel proud of my morning workout!

library kids at recess and biking

The next stop was a fun surprise - and I'm not sure if Richard always makes it a stop - but he took us by his house to show us what life was like for residents of West Bay. He pointed out beloved birds flying around in his back yard, told us about hurricane preparations and explained why Caymanians feel that 9 ft above sea level is high ground and a valuable asset. He shared a few more facts and stories, and then we headed off towards Barker's National Park.

On our way to Barker's we made a pit-stop to look at interesting architecture and learn more about how the island has evolved. Once we arrived at Barker's we took a little break to walk around and then Richard shared more history and current affairs with us. We picked up our bikes and hit the road again, this time pedaling through mostly residential roads, winding our way to the West Bay Four Ways stop and then crossing over to Boggy Sand Road. The houses that line this little coastal road are a mix of old charming island cottages and new luxurious homes; and I think Richard had a story for just about every one of them! Once we left what might possibly be my favorite road on the island we headed back for home base - Macabucca. The final stretch of the ride was especially beautiful with the sea peeking through the trees to our left. I felt so peaceful and enjoyed having a little time for personal reflection.

Once we returned, Richard told us we had biked 11 miles which surprised all of us. He gave us some advice for what to do with the rest of our time on island and then several of us decided it was time for some grub at Macabuca. We earned it!

If you'd like to bike the West Bay Loop (which I 5000% recommend), get in touch with Richard on his website here. I hadn't ridden a bike in a year or so, and would only call myself slightly in shape at best; so don't let the 11 miles scare you away. : )

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When I arrived for a tour of the Crystal Caves, I expected to just learn about things like stalagmites and stalactites. But thanks to tour guide Donovan Ebanks, I came back from the excursion with a new appreciation for the history, flora, and ecology of Grand Cayman.

As he drove the tour group down a winding road, Donovan told us that the caves are located 62 feet above sea level, which is the highest point on Grand Cayman. There are over one hundred caves across seventy-five acres, three of which were open to the public at the time we visited with more openings to come in the future. 

Donovan grew up around three miles from the Crystal Caves on his grandfather’s fifty-acre farm. He eventually made a move to the United States, where he worked as a bartender in San Diego for around twenty-five years. He ended up back home on Grand Cayman when a San Diego connection recruited him to come work as a tour guide for Crystal Caves. As a child, Donovan explored the caves with his friends, so it felt like there wasn't anyone better to show us around. 

Along the pathway, Donovan stopped to point out the red birch tree. He called it the living fence post, but also the Tourist Tree. “Why do we call it the Tourist Tree? Cuz it’s red and peelin’.” He knocked away a few peels of bark and waited for our laughter.

That wasn’t the only funny joke Donovan had up his sleeve, however, and he would frequently make a joke, wait a beat, and then exclaim, “Just kidding guys!” Donovan was great with the kids on the tour, making sure to explain certain facts just to them so they didn’t feel left out.

Once inside the first of three caves, Donovan explained how he and his friends would come explore the caves. Before the caves were cleared out for visitors to enjoy, they were filled with rocks and red sand, which meant no clear walkways or paths. Donovan said he’d crawl through the caves on his hands and knees, playing with his friends and gaining them all amateur-spelunker status. He was sure to warn us that the red sand is impossible to get out of clothing, so we should be careful. While he didn’t mention getting in trouble as a kid for coming home covered in stains, I did wonder how his grandfather must have felt about it!

Outside each cave and along the walkways, Donovan would stop to point out specific trees and plants and their many uses. “Take a look,” he’d say and would let us gather around. He explained that the green papaya is the best world’s meat tenderizer. Amazingly, the fruit off soursop trees can be made into a tea that helps fight high blood pressure and even has  properties that can prevent cancer. The ironwood tree provides wood as sturdy as the name suggests—Donovan’s grandfather’s house was framed with ironwood and withstood many hurricane seasons in Grand Cayman.

Donovan also explained how the bounty of the land provided the island with economic opportunities in early settlement days. Leaves from the Silver Thatch Palm were weaved into ropes and hats that were sold to traders, as well as used for roof thatching at home. The Silver Thatch Palm is indigenous to the Cayman Islands and is not only the national tree but also makes an appearance on the country’s flag.

Inside the caves, Donovan showed us some of the more noteworthy formations and shared the fun names the staff and other tourists had come up with, including the cathedral room, the Statue of Liberty, and the dragon. There was even a formation that looked like a head and was wearing a pair of sunglasses. "These caves are very much alive," he told us, explaining that the water droplets that sprinkled us in the head meant the stalactites were growing, albeit very slowly. "If you get hit with a water droplet, it's seven years good luck!" By the time we were through, I'd saved up enough good luck to last me several decades. 

While the Crystal Caves were beautiful, I was most interested in Donovan’s knowledge of the island. His stories brought a new appreciation for the Cayman people, their resourcefulness, and the landscape of the island itself. I wasn't the only one—at the end of the tour, another guest from New Jersey turned to me and said, “I think what Donovan had to say about all the plants was the best part.”

Check out the Crystal Caves for yourself, and if you see Donovan, be sure to ask him about his dance moves. :)

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Get to know Grand Cayman better by treating yourself to a day of Cayman History. We've rounded up five fascinating, historical attractions (some well known and some not) that you can see in a single day trip. Check them out below!

Pedro St. James Castle

Pedro St. James CastlePedro St. James Castle is a Cayman "Great House," and a great place to see what life was like in old Cayman. The house was originally built in the late 1700's and has been lovingly restored to its original 18th Century glory with period furniture and historical displays throughout its three stories.

The house was built by a wealthy Englishman using Jamaican slave labor, and at the time there were only about 500 people living on the island. Most of the houses around the property were little "wattle and daub" single level homes. Imagine the attention this "castle" must have garnered!

Pedro St. James is perched upon a beautiful beachfront area of South Sound. History buffs and novices alike will adore this site for both its beautiful views and grand stories. Self-guided and guided tours are available with fees ranging from CI$5 to CI$15.

Nurse Leila's House

Nurse Leila's House was purchased by the National Trust in 2006 due as much to Leila's historical contributions to the island as the structure's historical significance itself.

midwives houseThe beloved Nurse Leila was a Caymanian nurse, midwife, columnist and church activist. As midwife, Nurse Leila delivered over 1000 Cayman babies in West Bay, many of which were born in this house and still live on the island today.

The house itself is one of a few "wattle and daub" houses left on the island and the only one of its kind owned by the National Trust. It's currently undergoing a full restoration, but you can drive by and check it out on West Church Street just past the four way stop in West Bay. There's a sign with additional details at the front of the property. This one is a quick feel-good stop!

Mission House

The Mission House is a traditional, two-story Cayman home located in the heart of Bodden Town. The house was built in the 1700's and became popularly known as the Mission House during the 1800's, due to the missionaries, teachers and families that lived there and helped establish the local Presbyterian school and ministry in Bodden Town. Guided tours are available by appointment only, so make sure to call 749-1123 or email mission@nationaltrust.org.ky to schedule your tour ahead of time. Entry fees are CI$8 for adults or CI$4 for children with groups of 4 or more.

Historic Step Well

If you stumbled upon this site unknowingly, you might not think much of it. Its story is what makes it so interesting. This historic well is believed to be one of four wells documented on a British surveyor's map from the early 1700's where ships would stop to stock up on fresh water. What's most interesting about this site, though, is that it was completely lost until 2003 when it was discovered on the site of a development project. The property owner decided to partner with the Cayman Islands National Museum to preserve this treasure by building around it.

So now, the step well is located in the middle of a shop in the Bayshore Mall in Georgetown (located on S Church Street). You can walk into the shop and find the well beneath a glass encasement. You can safely walk on the glass cover and peer down into the well. What's even better is that the water in the well has been rated good enough to drink still today!

Fort George

Fort George, nestled in the capital city of Georgetown, dates back as far as the 1700's and has been used as recently as WWII. The fort was originally built to fend off potential Spanish attacks from the shores of nearby Cuba. A lookout house assembled of original doors and windows plus other historical salvage material from the island sits in a cotton tree at the fort. The lookout house was built to resemble one that locals used at the fort to watch for German submarines during WWII. Fort George can be found at the corner of Harbour Drive and Fort Street and is free to visit.

Want to experience Cayman History? Come stay with us and explore the islands!
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