Although Cayman born and bred, I’ve lived and worked in the UK. While I was there, I was asked countless times what it was like. I’d mention an aspect of our history or culture and then get talking about the seafood and then I’d be off, waxing lyrical about the lifestyle or the clear blue waters. I guess I gave a different answer every time.
The truth is that the Cayman Islands are a little tricky to sum up. For a start, the three islands are very different in character. Grand Cayman is the one people think of most, perhaps, with its major business centres and thriving tourism. It’s by far the busiest of the three. With people from an estimated 100 nations here at any one time, it’s specialism could be said to be diversity. Little Cayman is, in comparison, tiny, and although many think it’s just next door, it’s over 130km to the North West. It’s neighbour Cayman Brac lies nearby. Little Cayman is known for its wildlife, Cayman Brac for the limestone bluff that gives the island its name and for its caves and diving, but there’s so much crossover, the feature that’s highlighted depends on who’s doing the talking. If SCUBA diving’s your passion, we’re one of the best locations on the planet. If you’re working to preserve rare cormorants, our nature reserves are critical. If you’re in commerce our business facilities are world class.
In other words, there’s a bit of everything. We’re back to that theme of diversity. There are cruise ships stopping by, luxury yachts in our harbours and tiny fishing boats bringing home a modest catch. Some of the world’s finest chefs ply their trade here, but you can still get a Subway or pop into Burger King. There is nightlife and partying, shopping malls and rush-hour congestion, but there are quiet spots where you could feel like the only person left on earth.
The Cayman Islands aren’t perfection. Like every part of the world, we have a few challenges. There is crime, there is poverty amongst the wealth, but we’ve got a forward-thinking government and tremendous spirit. People want to enjoy Cayman life and throw themselves into it. We have not one, but two carnivals, Batabano and CayMas, on Grand Cayman. There are always cultural events – an exhibition of coral reef photography has just opened, and the music and arts festival KAABOO is coming here again, with its organisers pledging part of the ticket price to local charities. Again – diversity.
I keep trying to sum up the islands. I keep failing.
Yes, there’s water everywhere: snorkelling, swimming, diving, paddle boards, fishing, sailing … and I’m back to diversity.
Yes, eating out is a way of life: the fancy restaurant, the fish shack, the wholefood specialist or the little place that does the awesome curried goat. Diversity.
Yes, there’s “island time”, but for every laid-back experience, there’s a good bit of corporate efficiency.
Then, finally, I think I’ve nailed it. These islands are just plain friendly. You can’t pop to the shop without meeting someone you know. People stop by rather than phoning, they make time to chat. We’re open-minded, welcoming and optimistic.
And I think I know why. It’s because of the diversity. There’s something for everyone, for those like me who were born here, for those who choose to make the islands their home and for our short-term guests. These are interesting places and the will to enjoy life, surely, is in everyone’s blood. Let’s face it, if you’re not a Cayman native, you come here because you’re outgoing, ambitious or adventurous. You’re determined to get out there and make friends.
Can you sum up the Cayman Islands? Let me know.