Review: Snorkelling and diving in the well-known tax haven of Grand Cayman

George Town

George Town - Credit: Archant

Grand Cayman is probably first known for its tax haven status as opposed to a Caribbean holiday destination.

Seven mile beach

Seven mile beach - Credit: Archant

But if you have ‘done’ many of the usual islands, and are looking for something a little different, especially if you like snorkelling and diving, then maybe you could give it a look.

For several years Seven Mile Beach has been voted as one of the Caribbean’s best. Not only for the soft coral sand but also the clear waters are perfect for spotting the beautifully coloured fish and vibrant coral below.

There are of course the usual water sports, river rafting and tubing, kayaking, canoeing, swimming with dolphins, you know the sort of thing.

But also there is an amazing little turtle farm. Back when we visited, Grand Cayman had just suffered a pretty devastating hurricane.

andrea powell

andrea powell - Credit: Archant

The damage was clear, such that contingency arrangements had to be made for many of the turtle areas. Since then though, they have developed a truly interactive experience – the chance to swim in a pool with the yearlings, actually hold a turtle and also learn about the education and welfare management programme that takes place within the site.

This was also one of my favourite Caribbean Islands as a result of the people I met. So friendly and genuinely welcoming. They gave you a real sense of belonging – no matter how long or short your stay.

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But for me the highlight was Stingray City.

andrea powell

andrea powell - Credit: Archant

As I glanced at my watch, the time was a little before 8am.

I thought of those back in the UK on some dull February day, returning from lunch and another dreary afternoon.

Lounging back on the rope mesh at the front of the catamaran, the sun gleaming down from a perfectly picture-postcard blue sky and the sea a gorgeous turquoise blue, calm and warm, I really thought I had it sussed.

We were off to swim and snorkel with stingrays.

andrea powell

andrea powell - Credit: Archant

I had been looking forward to this trip all holiday. Well, that was until the talk from one of the crew about minding the barb that could impale itself and kill you if you got on the wrong side of one of these animals.

I always tried to be fully respectful of creatures when entering their habitats and after this pep talk even more so!

But there was no need to worry. All the stingrays behaved themselves and we had a fabulous time.

Often when people take this trip, the water is just knee high out on the sandbanks but for us the tides were clearly in – perfect for that underwater snorkel. The stingrays were all around you but not in the least aggressive, so it actually felt quite safe.

As we re-joined the catamaran, it had been a brilliant, exhilarating adventure I would never forget.

As I laid back again, enjoying the journey home, the waves below the catamaran splashing gently against the side, I could not help but smile.

Life was great - sometimes anyway.

As we came closer to shore, I realised Hubby was not next to me as I thought. I did know he was on the boat – we had stepped on together. That at least was some consolation. I began to panic a bit. Surely if he had fallen overboard someone would have spotted him. And in this calm sea it was impossible – wasn’t it?

My eyes frantically began to search the ship for that familiar face – but to no avail. I caught sight of one of the crew.

As I grabbed his arm, I thought I heard a thud from the underneath of the boat.

Blimey, that was a bit of a wave.

I was just about to ask for help when it occurred to me, help for what? What exactly was I going to say? I thought my husband had fallen over board? Where madam? he would ask me. How? I had thought only a moment earlier how calm the waters were. As the man was also sure to ask if I had checked around on board, I decided that was probably the best thing to do first.

Searching around every corner, I soon realised there were not many hiding places. This was a small catamaran – not a 1000 passenger cruise ship. Where on earth could he have gone?

Opening ‘No Entry’ doors – just hoping they would not get me in trouble – bang, another of those waves – but still no Hubby.

As I stood by the steps to the toilet, the waves were really making a constant thud.

It was only then I realised that the seas of the Caribbean were, as I had previously concluded, in fact perfectly calm. There would be no banging against the hull of this catamaran.

And then – thud – there it was again. It seemed to be coming from the lower deck.

“Toilet is down there, Madam,” the crew man said helpfully, obviously thinking that was why I wanted his attention.

It suddenly dawned. Hubby! Running down the stairs and through the door to the bathroom, the door was firmly shut.

“Is that you,” I half whispered, imagining what an absolute fool I would look if it was in fact not Hubby but some complete stranger. Fortunately for us both, (for different reasons!) a familiar voice piped back.

“The lock is jammed stuck,” he said, his voice a mixture of desperation and relief.

Within minutes, help duly arrived and Hubby was rescued from his ordeal, a bit shaken but otherwise unharmed.

As for one further possible attraction whilst in Grand Cayman, if you ever have a row with your other half you could always just tell them to go to Hell.

How cool is that?

“Hell” in this case refers to a cluster of short black limestone close to the town of West Bay.

Whilst able to go there and even send a ‘postcard from Hell’ at the Post Office, you are unable to ‘walk on Hell’, but can stand on a platform and ‘observe Hell from above’.

In the absence of him annoying me too much during the rest of the holiday, Hubby decided against going there this time.

For him, after the trip home from Stingray City, he felt one trip to Hell in a holiday was more than enough.

Andrea Powell is owner and Managing Director of Idelo Travel in Ipswich. Contact: 01473 231181.

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