5 Family-Friendly Sea Creature Encounters in Grand CaymanBy Kristin Gough
Beyond the pristine, powdery white beaches, one of the most recognized symbols of the Cayman Islands is the prehistoric-looking green sea turtles that glide through their waters. The majestic turtle adorns both the Cayman Islands’ money and flag.
Embracing the islands’ sea residents, like the turtles, is a way of life in Cayman, something that visitors can experience too.
For truly one-of-a-kind encounters, Grand Cayman, the largest of the three Cayman Islands in the British West Indies, offers a variety of experiences for families.
Explore a Sea Turtle Haven
See how tiny green sea turtles, which could fit into the palm of a child’s hand, grow to more than 660 lbs.! That’s part of what you and your kids will learn at the Cayman Turtle Centre Island Wildlife Encounter, where you’ll find several interactive exhibits charting the life cycle of green sea turtles.
For example, in the Turtle Touch Tanks, watch yearling turtles take laps; kids (and parents!) are welcome to pick up the turtles and hold them in the tank. Guests can also snorkel in the Turtle Lagoon, home to green sea turtles and islands with iguanas and peacocks on them.
The center includes other sea creatures, too, like an 11-foot crocodile, named Smiley, and The Predator Reef where kids can watch as nurse sharks and barracudas swim by (behind viewing panels).
When you buy your tickets, ask about feeding times so you don’t miss a chance to see turtles, barracudas, tarpons, and other animals, like those in the center’s aviary, during their mealtimes.
Kiss a Stingray
Cruising through the ocean waters, stingrays look almost like large, flat, kite-shaped fish, moving their whole body to propel through the ocean current. See for yourself how friendly stingrays circle visitors at Stingray City, a group of sandbars about 25 miles off shore.
Several tour operators offer excursions to the sandbar, where you’ll be able to get out of the boats and walk on the sandbars (the water comes up about waist level).
Excursions take anywhere from three to five hours. Some tour operators will even get in the water with you and hold the stingray so you can give them a kiss —which is supposed to give you seven years of good luck.
Dance with an Iguana
Your kids are likely to spot green iguanas all over the island, whether you’re venturing through town or the beach. But to see the rare Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, head over to the Blue Iguana Habitat, accessible through the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park.
This type of iguana, also called “Blue dragons,” whose color can range from bluish-gray to bright blue, is only found on the island. Guided tours of the Botanic Park are available daily, where you’ll be able to see these dinosaur-looking reptiles running freely on the grounds.
Swim with Dolphins
If your child —or you— has ever dreamed of swimming with dolphins, there are a couple of different places where you can do just that.
At Dolphin Discovery, located close to the Turtle Centre, you can take your pick from simply getting into the water with the dolphins (and maybe even getting a hug) to going on a belly ride, where the dolphin gently pulls you through the water.
Dolphin Cove Cayman provides similar packages, including the Dolphin Royal Swim, with two dolphins swimming side by side while you hold onto their dorsal fins.
Snorkel with Seahorses
You don’t need to travel far —or even make reservations— to get an up close view of tropical fish. Seahorses, trumpetfish, angelfish and others, may just greet your family as you snorkel along the beach. The award-winning Seven Mile Beach is dotted with several resort hotels, so it’s simple to go from hotel room to sandy beach to snorkeling in just minutes.
Help your family make the most of their adventures in Grand Cayman by making a few sea friends during your vacation. And don’t forget to pack a waterproof camera to capture every moment.