Saturday, November 17, 2007

Cayman Island Critters

I went to Grand Cayman for snorkeling, and while it was excellent, I saw a lot of unexpectedly interesting animals.

The Blue Iguana is indigenous and endangered, but there are lots of other green iguanas and little brown lizards running around. The retired ones sun themselves on rich people's personal boat docks and pose for you. The blue iguanas roaming at the botanic gardens sport blue bling, a sample shown here: cayman blue iguana

The sting rays at Sting Ray City were amazingly interested in people. I guess they know a good food thing when they see it. You are swamped by them when you drop anchor in the shallow waters. The story is that fishermen cleaned their catch out there to avoid mosquitoes on land, and one smart guy turned it into a tourist attraction, undetered by Steve Irwin's sad demise at the tail of one. (Here is an article on "sting ray injuries survived.") They feel mushroomy on their underside, and sandpapery on the top side.

Here's a romantic shot of them in the water, but for up close and personal, you need to go see my critter picture collection here. (There is only one underwater shot there, to show off their smile, and one of the sting ray kiss you get wrestled into when you visit them on the tourist boats.) cayman sting rays

Finally, turtles are farmed for food and tourists there. I found the crowding conditions a mite disturbing, but it's undeniably an aesthetic experience to see all those shells and mottled skin up close. Also, undeniably expensive to get in. I did it for the photo opp, and the chance to snorkel in a private lagoon with turtles in training. Training for people like me touching them while swimming, I guess. In said turtle park were also pretty birds from the Caribbean, which you can see in the critter photos. cayman turtle

When I got home, I discovered a newly arrived National Geographic Traveler mag had an article reviewing destination islands, scoring them in part by how much tourism is affecting them. [I discovered I'd been in a few of their top 20 already, and added more to my destinations desired list.] They were pretty much on target about Grand Cayman: "Exceptional diving and snorkeling but banking defines the island. Tourism is heavily weighted to cruise ships." I'd add: with huge resorts, and retirement McMansions as seen in Florida. But it was the best walk-off-shore-snorkeling I've found yet.

Cayman photos here: turtles, lizards, birds, rays, beaches.

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