One of our 2 ports of call on this cruise was Grand Cayman. (Unfortunately most of my photos from GC are on an underwater camera that I have yet to get developed. I had no idea that so many places have completely stopped developing film.)
Anyway, we took a taxi from the pier to our excursion point and the taxi driver - Barbara - was exquisitely helpful and being a native, of course she was full of information about Grand Cayman and happy to share it with us.
Five things I found very interesting:
1. Grand Cayman is actually the largest of the group of 3 islands which make up "the Cayman Islands". The population of Grand Cayman is around 48,000 souls. About a third of those are people who have relocated there from some other place. I could see why that would be attractive after about...oh, 5 minutes.
The other two islands are Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
2. There are two main sources of revenue for the Cayman Islands--tourism and banking. Speaking of banking. Banks in the Grand Cayman are like churches in the south. On. Every. Corner. Sometimes there's more than one bank in an office building. In truth, there are 535 banking institutions operating on the island of Grand Cayman.
I'll save you the time it takes to do the long division. 48,000 divided by 535 is one bank for every 89.7 people. That is one rich little island, people! Well, ya know. Not really...but they do seem to know where all the "money" is burried. :)
3. Iguanas run free and are a common sight in the Caymans. In fact, we saw some congregating on the side of the road. Those things give me the creeps. They are spiney and prickly and way too big for my comfort. For me (the former Mississippi girl) they fall into that same class as armadillos. Creepy.
Grand Cayman is the home of two types of Iguanas - the Common Green Iguana and the very-near-extinct Blue Iguana. The Greens are a common site on the island. The Blues, however, are a very different species found primarily now in the Cayman Islands protected areas, thanks to the Blue Iguana Recovery Program started in 1993 when it was estimated that there were less than 150 wild Blue Iguanas surviving in the wild. I found this particular information fascinating:
It all began in 1938, when the late Bernard C. Lewis from the Institute of
Jamaica, joined an Oxford University Biological Expedition to the Cayman
Islands. With difficulty Lewis collected two Blue Iguanas, a male and a female,
which were later lodged with the British Museum (Natural History). Chapman
Grant, in a monograph published in 1940, formally described the Blue Iguana for
the first time.
Fifty years later, a British researcher was commissioned by the
Cayman Islands Government to carry out a survey of the remaining Blue Iguana
population. Roger Avery, in his report in 1988, came to a very similar
conclusion. In two weeks of systematic searching in the east interior of Grand
Cayman, he glimpsed only three iguanas. It was that same year that the National
Trust for the Cayman Islands was formed.
A fruitful collaboration between the Trust and the US National Zoo began in 1991, when the Zoos' then curator of reptiles, Dale Marcellini, visited Cayman and happened upon the Trust's new Blue Iguana breeding facility. With funding from Friends of the National Zoo, the Trust and zoo intern Kevin Gould began searching for clues on where the last of Cayman's Blue Iguanas might be found.
Answers came from the farming community of East End, and by 1993 a study site with up to five wild iguanas was yielding the first information about population density, threats, diet, behaviour, and breeding in the wild. In 1995 Kevin Gould working with the Trust's Blue Iguana program director Fred Burton, estimated that there were approximately 150 Blue Iguanas still surviving in the wild.
In December 2001, Burton commenced a new survey to assess changes over the past 6 years, to better characterize the area and habitat occupied by the relic population, and to assess the potential for establishing a protected area specifically for the
Blue Iguanas. The results were a shock: less than 25 individuals were estimated
to remain from the original wild population.
This news focused attention on the small released population which the Blue Iguana Recovery Program has established in the QE II Botanic Park. This group of about 30 individuals is now breeding successfully.
In 2002-3 University of Tennessee Master's student Rachel Goodman studied home ranges, habitat use and territorial interactions of this group. Her work yielded information which helped us assess the area of wild habitat which must ultimately be protected and managed to support a restored population of some 1,000 wild Blue Iguanas.
Current and Future Goals
The Blue Iguana Recovery Program is now breeding and rearing over 80 Blue Iguanas a year, with the potential to release over 80 two-year-olds annually into protected areas.
With the QE II Botanic Park now near its carrying capacity limit for
Blue Iguanas, the Program is now restoring a second wild population, in the
National Trust’s Salina Reserve. Longer term, additional managed Blue Iguana
habitat will be needed, to reach a genetically stable population size in the
From volunteer beginnings the work will soon require a small core team of
professionals, requiring a matching income stream. If we can build sustainable
economic activities benefiting the Blues, a high profile image for the species,
keystone grants and steady science-based conservation work, we firmly believe we
can save the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana. This is one species the world need not
4. The Cayman Islands have their own currency - the Cayman Island dollar. CID for short. I traded money with a store owner who deals in both and the exchange rate is 1 CID for $1.25 US Dollar. (I think I have that right...currency conversaion always confuses me to no end.)
Because the CI is a protectorate of Great Britian, there is a lovely image of the Queen on the CI Dollar.
So now you know...