Just a brief lesson on the coconut. The coconut palm (also, cocoanut), Cocos nucifera, is a member of the family Arecaceae (palm family). It is the only accepted species in the genus Cocos.The term coconut can refer to the entire coconut palm, the seed, or the fruit, which, botanically, is a drupe, not a nut. This tropical fruit can be found in many tropical climates around the world.
I recently took a trip to Stingray City with my mom while she was visiting in Grand Cayman. This is a common tourist attraction here on the island and during high season I’ve heard that nearly 3,000 people will make their way to Stingray City daily! We were fortunate to not have those kinds of crowds, but it wasn’t low season for the stingrays; there were plenty in attendance.
Mom and I boarded The Spirit of Poseidon, a 65 foot Red Sail catamaran at the Safe Haven location where we were greeted by friendly crew, James, Jake, Jeffrey, and the other guy… sorry, his name didn’t start with a “J” so I can’t remember it. We got a short, witty briefing from Jeffrey, who would later be our bartender, before setting out across the sound toward the sand bar that the stingrays call home.
This 40 minute journey across the water is beautiful! The water is every kind of blue you can imagine and the reggae tunes on board rounded out the perfect Caribbean scene. We didn’t have a very large group so there was plenty of space on the boat for however one chose to ride. There were sun bathers on the trampoline nets, those avoiding the sun by staying in the cabin , and some sitting along the sides with the wind in their hair.
Upon arriving at the sandbar we got another briefing, from the captain this time. James told us about the sting rays and how to act with them, where their eyes, and mouths and stingers are, then he told us how to distinguish between the males and females. After that, we all trickled down the swim steps and into the chest high water of the sand bar.
Standing in the water we could see the shadowy dark circles approaching us. It’s an odd feeling seeing these creatures close in on us. Mom was a bit more squirmy than she thought she would be, clinging to me to get her feet off the sand.
We interacted with the rays for a while, petting them, kissing them – for 7 years good luck, and watching other people squirm – which is quite entertaining! Then we got a visit from another famous islander…Stinky! Stinky is the lone dolphin that lives around Grand Cayman. You may remember I wrote about him in a previous post. This was a treat because he came swimming through the group of us in the water and started playing with the anchor of our boat. He isn’t the nicest to the poor stingrays though, he chases them and nips at them in a playful, yet bullying way. Everyone was really careful to keep enough distance and definitely not touch Stinky. He may be comfortable with humans, but he’s still over 400 lbs. and that is something you don’t want to mess with!
After an absolutely perfect day at stingray city we boarded the boat again, the crew drew up the sails and we mad our way back across the sound and back to Safe Haven. I have to say that Red Sail Cayman has very professional and experienced people who make these kinds of tours a really great experience. When you have your next trip to Cayman take the stingray city tour with Reds Sail and maybe you’ll have the pleasure of being on James’ boat, and Jeff can make you his famous rum punch!!
Thanks Red Sail and Thanks Jeffrey!
Scales and Feathers…
That’s what the roadkill consists of in the Cayman Islands. Mainlanders aren’t used to seeing squashed iguanas and chickens on their roads. A bit of a strange observation, I admit, but an observation nonetheless.
This is one of the first things I noticed when landing on the island. There are many differences, but the animals that surround the bushes and trees in Cayman, and the bars and restaurants at times, have a much more personal relationship with people than do the squirrels and rabbits of the north.
Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you’ll catch an iguana in a clumsy moment as it drops 10 feet out of a palm tree. A little dazed, a bit embarrassed and with tourist audience laughter, the iguana will give a little shake and saunter off in search of a new basking locale.
The island foul, on the other hand, are not as endearing. The roosters beckon the sun before any reasonable hour of consciousness and the chickens really do cross the road… we still don’t know why.
One can’t help but chuckle at the lost and clueless chickens roaming the KFC parking lots as the angry colonel glares down with his wicked sneer. I’ve often wondered how many times I may have eaten “parking lot chicken” at some of the local island restaurants. I’m sure it’s happened, but on the positive note, I guess that would be some fresh food!
The Cayman Islands have much more wildlife to offer than just iguanas and chickens, obviously. On its list of animals are also birds, fish, turtles, crabs, nurse sharks, and one lonely dolphin named Stinky.
Stinky is a Lone Ranger of the waters surrounding Grand Cayman. He is a bottle nose dolphin with a big reputation in these parts. There are a few theories as to why he is all by himself. He’s a bit of a stinker which is why I think he got his name. Some stories say that in 2004, during hurricane Ivan, his mate got blown to the other islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Other theories state that he was too much of a stinker that his pod disowned him. He doesn’t seem to mind though.
Local divers and boaters see him often and the snorkel tours for tourists always provide the “Stinky disclaimer” that mentions if he is seen not to touch him or engage in any kind of exchange with him because for Stinky that’s the green light to play. I can’t say I’ve ever played with an 800 pound animal, but I’m sure his playful would be my painful. He’s also been known to get a little “fresh” with people sometimes too; that’s awkward. I guess life would get a little boring though, living in a world where you are the only one of your kind. My heart goes out to him and this unconventional dolphin life he was dealt; he seems to manage pretty well.
So among the beautiful palm trees and the crystal clear waters that Grand Cayman offers live some quirky sights to be seen within the animal realm.
Next time you are looking to escape to the islands for some snorkeling, diving, swimming or sunning you should check out the Cayman Islands with it’s multiple layers of personality! Who knows, you may catch a glimpse of some noteworthy animal behavior on your next visit!