A half-page feature in a prominent British Sunday newspaper paints a lively picture of the Cayman Islands, describing them as very individual.
The article, in the travel section of The Sunday Times of 20 February, written by Alexander McCall Smith is headlined ‘A haven for more than just money’. A large photograph accompanying the article shows a snorkeller underwater with a stingray.
The journalist, in his half-page feature in the broadsheet paper, describes the Cayman Islands as being much better known than they were 20 years ago.
‘One of the reasons for this is last September’s disaster, when Hurricane Ivan tore across the Caribbean and flattened Grand Cayman. The images were seen all over the world.’
He also speaks about the remarkable growth of the islands as an offshore financial centre.
‘Indeed a free association test could prove interesting. If one said banks, I imagine that quite a number of people would say Cayman Islands just as quickly as they might say Switzerland.’
Mr. McCall Smith describes the society in Cayman as fairly complex.
He points out that there are the original Caymanians, the descendants of sailors, settlers and fishermen, along with Jamaicans, Central Americans, Americans, British and European expatriates.
It mentions that author Dick Francis has lived on Seven Mile Beach for years, and that several thousand visitors can be here at one time to experience the diving, beaches and ‘turquoise coloured perfectly warm sea.’
He singles out couple Jean and Wintroy Randal as an example of a couple who moved here from Jamaica many years ago and whose hard work has paid off for them.
Moving on to Hurricane Ivan’s passage, the journalist says, ‘Ivan shattered lives and created immediate needs in a community that had become used to a good measure of prosperity. But the islands are making a remarkable recovery, no doubt helped by the Caribbean sunshine and the cheerful good humour of this part of the world.’
Also mentioned in the article are the old Caymanian names of Bodden and Ebanks, and the gentleman’s experience of fishing with Captain Bodden while here.
‘A large barracuda, with its sharp teeth, was landed but proved inedible when put to the ant test on shore. Large fish can be toxic in these waters, and the test the locals use is to leave the fish out near an ant colony. If the ants swarm all over it, it is safe. The ants studiously avoided our barracuda.’
However, he points out that the waters are wonderful for viewing fish and mentions swimming with stingrays and snorkelling.
‘It is one of the great Caymanian experiences to swim with these giant rays. They glide below you, like stealth bombers, with their great black wings.’
Also made mention is Heroes’ Square in George Town and the statue of the late James Manoah Bodden, along with an anecdote of how the statue came to be.
The article ends on a highly positive note, saying that things are now getting back to normal in Cayman with visitors returning.
‘This means that it is probably a good time to visit, as the welcome is especially warm. It is relatively easy to get there – little more than an hour from Miami or Nassau – and it is possible, too, to make a brief side trip to Cuba.’
However, it is clear where this journalist’s heart re-directs him.
‘It is worth doing, as Havana is an intensely beguiling city, but the privations of the place and the wearying determination with which the Cubans seek to separate you from your money will make you get back on the plane to the nearest British colony with some relief. Cayman Airways will take you back.’