Prep students get tourism insights in Turtle Centre visit

Pamela Smith and students Kathryn Lambert Wragg, Belle Forget and Anabella Hayden pet a baby turtle.

A social studies trip to the Cayman Turtle Center for 75 Cayman Prep and High School students focused on what happens behind the scenes and provided insight into the varied work of the tour guides.

Year 5 teacher Caroline Johnston said the group, including teachers and parent volunteers, were met by the curator of terrestrial exhibits and education programs, Geddes Hislop, who gave an introductory talk about the ways tour guides interact with cruise ship passengers, tourists, residents and school groups. They were introduced to several employees who work throughout the park in retail, animal care and visitor tours, and they were shown around the different sections before taking part in activities popular with visitors to the facility.

The group hears from lead aquarist Brian Dann at the predator tank.

Nicole Blackwell talked about the day-to-day operations of the center, from the colors of armbands to ordering souvenirs and food for the animals. The group also visited the underwater viewing area, where staff answered their questions about the sharks, barracudas and other residents of the predator tank.

Swimming in the lagoon with the turtles was a highlight for many of the students, Ms. Johnston said. They enjoyed viewing the beautiful native fish and learned that the turtles in the lagoon are eventually to be released through the center’s rehabilitation and release program.

“Some of the children had never swum with these graceful creatures, and they were in awe with their speed and beauty,” said Ms. Johnston.

“Other children ventured into the baby turtle area and were able to carefully hold the turtles and examine their exquisite shells, which they learned are all different, rather like human fingerprints.”

Many of the children saw the sharks being fed, watching the handlers pull them up onto a platform to feed them and examine them for any problems requiring a veterinarian.

Students get ready to swim with the turtles.

At the aviary, the students fed a variety of birds including ibis, bananaquits and white-crowned pigeons, some of which perched on the children’s shoulders and heads.

After lunch and a quick dip in the pool, the children visited the agouti enclosure, and also saw the peahens and peacocks. Their final stop on the tour was to see Smiley the crocodile, and the dolphins. Some of the children were able to give the dolphins a hug, Ms. Johnston said.

“The year group were thrilled to hear that the Turtle Centre is expanding its educational facilities over the next few years, and perhaps some Cayman Prep and High students will be working at this fabulous tourist attraction and conservation park in the near future,” she said.

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