Dave Rogers/Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
Rarely do the terms Queen Elizabeth and reptilian breeding ground appear in the same sentence, but at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park—inaugurated by Her Majesty in 1994—you’ll find a notable exception. Of the countess features to recommend the place, from its riotous gardens to its serene teahouse, perhaps most fun are the residents of its blue iguana habitat—shimmering azure ambassadors who’ll greet you on the paths (and occasionally, in the parking lot, where signs caution you to check for sleeping iguanas under your wheels). Other colorful characters to look out for: the emerald Grand Cayman parrots flecked with crimson (they like to frond-hop overhead) and the various aquatic birds in and around the flower-garden-adjacent lake.
QE II Botanic Park + Blue Iguana Recovery Programme
If you can manage to peel yourself away from the beach, I highly recommend seeking out the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park/ Blue Iguana Recovery Programme while in Grand Cayman. While the garden alone is worth a visit—bursting with fragrant flora and fauna, a vibrant cactus garden and many orchid species native to the island—it’s the Blue Iguana Habitat that steals the show. The Blue Iguana was once effectively extinct, but thanks to the captive breeding program at the Blue Iguana Habitat, close to 750 blue iguanas now survive in the wild. We opted to take the Blue Iguana Safari, which included a behind-the-scenes tour of the breeding facility and a walk around the Park’s trails. The day was hot (make sure to bring lots of water!), but our guide assured us this was a good thing because it meant that iguanas would be out soaking up the sun. Sure enough, it wasn’t long before we were picking our way around a particularly large iguana that had decided to take a nap in the middle of the path. All-in-all, the park was a beautiful place to spend an afternoon and getting to stare a blue iguana in the eye isn’t something I’ll soon forget!
Beauty in the Blue Iguanas
The indigenous Blue Iguana is a marvelous wonder saved and preserved due to on the efforts of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program located in the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park. This exotic, beautiful reptile, only found on Grand Cayman, was on the critically endangered list—with numbers in the low teens—when the program was started in 1987. The foundation is currently working towards a repopulation goal of 1,000 Blue Iguanas to roam freely within a natural reserve on the eastern tip of Grand Cayman. Until then, see the various life stages from hatchlings to full-sized adults at the reservation. Watch these amazing reptiles bask in the sun, casually roam around the park, or even go wild for a bite of their daily snack of Noni Fruit.
Stop to Smell the Flowers at the Botanic Park
Casually strolling through the peace and quiet of the gardens on the Cayman Islands is a great way to decompress in the midst of a busy schedule of exploring. Down sunny dirt paths at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, you’ll find small nurseries and groupings of various tropical flowers, herbs, and medicinal plants from the Cayman Islands and around the world. Admire the beauty and conservation of the native orchids—including the endemic Wild Banana and Ghost Orchid—on display in the orchid garden. Or meander through the tall trees, smell the fragrant flowers, and stretch your legs on the secluded boardwalks and gazebos at the Christopher Columbus Gardens located on Cayman Brac.
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