Little Cayman is known as a scuba diving Mecca, but what does it have to offer those who are not scuba divers? Most travel write-ups say not a lot, and this is the beauty of Little Cayman. Those who do not submerge themselves under the island’s crystal blue waters are still almost forced to leave behind the stresses of day-to-day life to relax and regenerate.
On the recent Constitution Day holiday, my husband and I and two friends visiting from Liverpool hopped on the early morning flight to Little Cayman. A hectic week of beaching, birthday parties and Sunday brunch had left us ready for four days of utter relaxation. There was only one diver among us, so we took the opportunity to focus on some of the other activities that the smallest Sister Island has to offer.
This 10-mile-by-1-mile island is a nature lover’s paradise. Sister Island Rock Iguanas, red-footed boobies and numerous marine creatures are just a few of the resident animals on and around the island.
One thing I noticed on this particular visit was the number of butterflies. From the moment we stepped off the plane, and throughout every outdoor venture, butterflies floated past en masse, like tiny snowflakes drifting down the road. Recent rains encouraging plant growth have been suggested as an explanation for the large numbers, but whatever the reason, we were lucky enough to experience it.
We stayed at Conch Club, and on the land side of the complex lies the Booby Pond Nature Reserve, a Ramsar wetland of international importance.
Stopping to investigate the newly renamed Gladys B. Howard Little Cayman District National Trust Visitors Centre, which overlooks the pond, we made our way upstairs to the viewing deck and peered through the telescopes and saw some of the resident 20,000 red-footed boobies nesting in trees on the opposite side of the pond.
At dusk, the boobies and the Magnificent Frigatebirds, which also call the pond their home, take to the skies in a beautiful display.
As well as seeing many Sister Island Rock Iguanas along the roadside, we also enjoyed an up-close encounter during two visits to the Hungry Iguana Restaurant and Bar, when the restaurant’s own hungry iguana, Janet, visited our table to enjoy the sea view (and any food scraps) with us.
One of the most common land-side activities in Little Cayman is to swing in a hammock overlooking the sea. From Conch Club’s shores, we enjoyed hammock views over South Hole Sound and out toward Owen Island. In between hammock time, sunbathing by the pool and enthusiastic after-dinner card games, and our small group sampled a selection of other activities the island has to offer.
One morning, ready for some action, we hopped on the provided bikes and set off for the island’s northern coast. Accompanied by the butterflies, we chose to follow Guy Banks Road around the western point of the island. We passed through Blossom Village, making sure to take the back road to cycle past the Little Cayman Cemetery, the few cottages that line the sleepy sand path, and the community park, which is the site of the first Cayman settlement in the 1660s.
Leaving Blossom Village, we passed the Salt Rock Nature Trail, home to many of Little Cayman’s endemic creatures, including Rock Iguanas and land birds, as well as orchids and bromeliads. The nature trail, which exits opposite Salt Rock Dock, was a footpath between the dock and village in the 1840s.
Our return journey to Conch Club took us down Spot Bay Road, which cuts across the island, delivering us back to Blossom Village to pick up some cold beverages as a reward. After a short break, we hopped into two double kayaks, again provided with our accommodation, making the short journey through the sea to Owen Island, a small uninhabited islet in South Hole Sound.
In addition to spectacular diving, Little Cayman offers some excellent snorkeling locations, some due to the fact that the reef wall begins at a surprisingly shallow 18 feet in Bloody Bay, where our most successful snorkeling took place. Here, after walking down one of the road-to-beach trails along the northern coast of the island, we donned our masks and snorkels and entered the sea.
Not far out from shore, we came across a ridge of large coral heads and fans through which a myriad of fish meandered. A large Nassau grouper and a green sea turtle were the highlights. A last-minute encounter with a sea urchin as we were getting out of the water left one of our visitors with some spiny remnants in her finger – souvenirs to take back to Liverpool perhaps?
Point to point
It is possible to cycle around the whole island, taking in all of the scenery it has to offer. We decided to take the lazier option and, on a whim, rented a car for our last day. Within half an hour of calling the rental company, we were making our way east toward Point of Sand, being careful to avoid any iguanas, crabs or the occasional pedestrian. From Point of Sand you can see Cayman Brac in the distance, and you can walk along the white sandy beach which gives the area its name.
That evening, we swapped the easternmost tip of the island for the westernmost, taking in a beautiful Little Cayman sunset from West End Lighthouse while marveling at the hermit crabs scurrying around the rock pools.
When we stepped back onto the small plane to leave, we were rested, tanned and ready to take on the stresses of George Town and, for our friends, Liverpool.
Little Cayman had served us well, and all that we needed were a few coolers of food, a book and a willingness to relax.