The Irish Times: The Cayman Islands: A Relaxing Haven For You (Not Just Your Money)

11 August 2018

Stingray City Grand Cayman

I see a shark ahead of me in the water and swim towards it. And that is something I never thought I’d write. Mike, our snorkelling guide, had warned us that sharks may be lurking in hollows and sandy strips between the coral. “Be excited if you spot one,” he said, and he meant it in a good way. And I was. By then I had seen fish in colours from black to bright blues and yellows, some sported mixed psychedelic shades and others had parallel and road-map stripes. A lobster lounged languidly on the sea bed and a turtle paddled nonchalantly below me. Mike gently framed long, barely-there, ghostly jelly fish with his hands to show us. “Not stinging ones,” he said when we surfaced.

So by the time a shark torpedoed by, I was entranced. My fears had floated away as I focused on sea life. The creatures had no interest in me, which resulted in my ego disappearing up to the ocean’s surface somewhere. And so I followed the shark but it sped off.

By this stage, shimmying horizontally through the Caribbean Sea with fins on my feet in Bloody Bay, off the north edge of Little Cayman island, I was used to hanging out with animals in the sea. On the first day of our week-long trip to the Cayman Islands, I was pressed to embrace a stingray on a sandbank off Grand Cayman’s north side. Anton, our guide, hugged the fish with an alarming name, although he’s given them more harmless handles. “This one’s Vinny,” he said, and he spoke fondly of Frisbee (absent that day), so named because she has no tail or venomous barb hanging off her rear end. “The others look after her,” he assured us.

We set out for the stingray from Camana Bay, which has a clutch of shops and restaurants in US-mall style buildings. Further north is Rum Point, where locals park their yachts near the beach and friends paddle out to drink and chat on deck. Nearer shore, families stand in the sea and gossip, while on the beach tourists eat at the American-style burger restaurant.

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