Only in the Cayman Islands

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Only in the Cayman Islands
Swim with stingrays and dolphins, kayak through bioluminescence, drink rum that was aged under the sea, and learn about the endangered blue iguana. The Cayman Islands are as mesmerizing as they are surprising.
By Jordyn Kraemer, AFAR Local Expert
Photo courtesy of Don McDougall/Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
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    Nighttime Adventures
    After a day of beachside and underwater adventures, it’s hard to imagine that anything even more exciting can happen once the sun sets. In the Cayman Islands, though, the nighttime excursions can be just as invigorating. Cayman Kayaks, which is near Rum Point on Grand Cayman, offers a bioluminescence excursion, where paddlers can experience this beautiful natural phenomenon. Tours go out according to the cycles of the moon, so call ahead. Cayman Stand Up Paddle Company is also watching the lunar calendar—once a month, at the full moon, they offer nighttime paddleboarding sessions.
    Photo courtesy of Don McDougall/Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
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    Swim with Stingrays and Dolphins
    Stingray City, about 30 minutes by boat into the North Sound off Grand Cayman, is a collection of shallow sandbars inhabited by an abundance of southern stingrays. Visitors interact with the animals—wading and swimming through the water, and feeding them squid. At Dolphin Discovery, also on Grand Cayman, visitors can swim with the dolphins, and afterwards spend time with the turtles at the Turtle Farm in Boatswain's Park. George Town tour operators Cayman Island Helicopters offer a variety of routes for an aerial view of Seven Mile Beach and Stingray City. For those wanting the big picture, a tour of the entire island is also available.
    Photo courtesy of Peter Ruck//Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
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    The Endangered Blue Iguana
    Named for its unmistakable hue, the blue iguana—which can grow up to five feet long and weigh as much as 30 pounds—is one of the longest-living species of lizard in the world, believed to have a theoretical lifespan in the wild of many decades. Driven to critically low numbers, even being considered functionally extinct in 2005, the species is now the subject of the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, a captive-breeding facility and conservation body that seeks to reintroduce the blue iguana to a monitored natural reserve. Located in Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on Grand Cayman, the program offers guided safaris to learn about and view the reptiles. Stop by to witness this rare and beautiful animal in its last remaining habitat.
    Photo courtesy of Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
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    Rum Aged under the Sea
    Located in George Town on Grand Cayman, Seven Fathoms is a small-batch distillery that produces premium rum in a most unusual way. Distillers age the rum in barrels placed seven fathoms under the sea, claiming that the temperature and humidity achieved there are unlike anything available on land. This, coupled with the gentle rocking of the tides, creates a superior flavor profile. Take a tour of their distillery for a closer look—and for samples. Neighboring Tortuga Rum was established in 1984 by Robert and Carlene Hamaty, and is perhaps best-known for its rum cakes, which are based on a recipe from Carlene's family. Sample the rum, and the cakes, at their facility in West Bay, Grand Cayman.
    Photo by Richard Semik/age fotostock
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    Tropical Flowers and Gardens
    Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park on Grand Cayman was opened in 1994 by Her Royal Majesty, and in the years since has grown into a world-class facility with a marvelous collection of tropical flowers, herbs, and medicinal plants from the Cayman Islands and beyond. Of special interest is the orchid collection—best seen during the Annual Orchid Show—featuring wild banana and ghost orchids, both endemic to the Caymans. Though smaller, the Christopher Columbus Gardens on Cayman Brac are no less storied. Set among the flora you'll find the Wall of Honour, which lists the names of 500 people who have contributed to the community.
    Photo courtesy of Don McDougall/Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
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    Spellbinding Wall Dives
    The Cayman Islands are filled with incredible dive sites, but it's the extraordinary underwater walls in Little Cayman and Grand Cayman that attract divers from all over the world. Bloody Bay Wall in Little Cayman runs parallel to the shoreline and starts 30 feet below the water’s surface. Forests of fan coral and tube sponges, in tones of emerald and turquoise, are the colorful playground for trigger fish, groupers, and green sea turtles. Also check out the North Wall in Grand Cayman, and explore Ghost Mountain, where the swim-throughs are bursting with ruby-red coral.
    Photo courtesy of Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
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    The Caymans' Shipwrecks
    For a diving experience that's entirely different from the coral reefs of the Caymans, explore one of the area's shipwrecks. The USS Kittiwake was in commission from 1946 to 1994. Sold to the Cayman Islands, in 2011 it was deliberately sunk off the coast of Seven Mile Beach on Grand Cayman in order to create an artificial reef. With the top of the ship just 15 feet below water and the bottom resting at about 64 feet, this is an easy yet exciting dive. Naval buffs as well as divers will be intrigued by the wreck of the Captain Keith Tibbetts, a Russian frigate that lies about five miles east of Little Cayman.
    Photo courtesy of Cayman Islands Department of Tourism
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    Cayman Brac's Caves
    There are dozens of caves on Cayman Brac, each with its own unique features. Half-Way Ground Cave is more commonly known as Skull Cave because of how much it resembles the human skull. Nani Cave is located just off Songbird Drive and is well-known for its stalactites and stalagmites, giving rise to its alternative name: Chandelier Cave. Bat's Cave is, predictably, full of bats, and Rebecca's Cave is loaded with local significance as it was used as a shelter during the '32 Cuba Hurricane. Now a National Heritage Site, it contains the grave of Rebecca Bodden, a toddler who lost her life in the storm.
    Photo courtesy of Cayman Islands Department of Tourism