Know your islands
The Mastic Reserve & Trail on Grand Cayman protects part of the largest adjoining area of untouched, old growth dry forest remaining on the island. This area and other similar expanses of forest in Cayman are of international significance representing some of the last remaining examples of the Caribbean’s dry, subtropical, semi deciduous dry forest, which have been the target of particularly intense deforestation throughout the West Indies. The area is home to a wide variety of animals and plants unique to the Cayman Islands, and also to large populations of trees which have vanished from more accessible places through logging in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
One of the principal aims of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands is to try to safeguard the survival of the diversity of native wild plants and animals on these islands. This is most effectively achieved by protecting intact natural areas. It is difficult for residents and visitors to appreciate the value of this natural heritage unless they are able to see it for themselves.
It was with this thought in mind that the Trust decided to re-open part of an old footpath through the area.
The first origins of the trail are lost in time, but at least 100 years ago William Steven Watler and his contemporaries completed a causeway of mahogany logs and beach rocks to assist passage across a deep mangrove wetland at the southern end of the trail.
This was gruelling work, using only basic tools and donkeys as pack animals.
For a while the trail was a major thoroughfare, but later as the coastal roads and the modern Frank Sound Road were established and upgraded, the trail fell into disuse and became overgrown.
In 1994, assisted by grants from the RARE Centre for Tropical Conservation, the Governor’s Fund for Nature and hard work by the local Rotary Club, work started on restoring the trail. Finally, on 21st April, 1995, in the presence of the Governor Mr. Michael Gore, the Mastic Trail – as it is now named – was officially dedicated and opened to the public.
Since then, many residents and visitors to the island have taken guided tours of the Mastic Trail.
The Mastic Trail passes through a variety of habitats: Black Mangrove wetland, stands of Royal Palms and Silver Thatch Palms, abandoned agricultural land and extensive ancient dry forest. Along the trail, walkers can expect to see now rare trees such as Cedar and Mahogany as well as an exceptionally fine specimen of a Mastic tree, from which the Reserve and Trail take their name. This is a beautiful area for birdwatching and viewing many flowers along the trail. Butterflies, lizards, snakes (not poisonous), frogs, large hermit crabs and the carton nests of termites are a few of the other animals walkers may encounter.
The Mastic Trail is two miles long and the guided walk takes approximately two and a half to three hours.
The National Trust provides a Guided Mastic Trail Hike every Wednesday at 9am and one Saturday per month. Please contact the National Trust for a guided tour or a self-guide pamphlet. Photographs generously provided by Courtney Platt.
Please note that the trail is not suitable for children younger than six years old, the elderly and infirm, or for persons with physical handicaps or conditions that may require emergency medical assistance.
The Trust can accept no liability for injuries sustained on the trail.
Remember it is a criminal offence to take any plant or animal from Trust property.
The trail is for pedestrian use only: it is much too rough for bicycles or horses.
To protect ground nesting birds and other sensitive wildlife, dogs are not allowed on the trail. Poisonous plants such as Maiden Plum have sap which can cause serious skin reactions – so stay on the path and exercise reasonable caution!
Grow Cayman Plants and encourage Cayman Wildlife! For more information, to share your knowledge or if you would like to get involved with the many activities in the National Trust’s Know Your Islands Program, please visit www.nationaltrust.org.ky, www.caymanwildlife.org or call 949-0121. The weekly column from the National Trust is submitted by Marnie Laing, Education Programs Manager at the Trust.
Last week’s answer: During their seasonal abundance in Cayman, thousands of Great Southern White Butterflies can be observed and this abundance gives the impression of a passing cloud.
Trivia question: What do Banana Birds eat?
Look for the answer in next week’s feature!