The Cayman Islands are made up of three lush islands, Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman; all surrounded by some of the bluest water in the world. Part of the British West Indies, the Cayman Islands are nestled approximately 200 miles south of Cuba. There is plenty of snorkeling, diving, sailing and boating to be done on all three of the islands. Grand Cayman is the largest and most populated of the three islands. The island is approximately 22 miles long and anywhere from one to seven miles in width. The population on the island at any given time varies greatly due to the high numbers of tour
ists occupying the island, but averages approximately 36,000.
The Cayman Islands a re probably best known for being one of the world’s top dive sites. Many tourists come down solely to explore the vast underwater life. So, if you’re a diver, you’re in for a real treat, and if not, we will have you diving in no time. The Cayman Islands are a British Colony with a Governor appointed by the British Government. The capital is George Town, located approximately 26 miles from Cayman Kai. George Town is the “center” of activity on the islands. Duty-free shops, tourists, restaurants and off-shore banking are all abundant in George Town.
Christopher Columbus was the first person to discover the Cayman Islands. On the 10th of May 1503 his son, Ferdinand noted in his diary, “We were in sight of two very small and low islands full of tortoise, as was the sea about insomuch that they looked like rocks.”
It was for this reason that the Cayman Islands were originally named Las Tortugas meaning “The Turtles.” The name, however, did not stick, and after briefly being called Lagarotos, the name Caymanas was used.
Caymanas is derived from the Carib Indian word for crocodile. For many years it was thought that this name was a mistaken reference to the iguanas that used to be plentiful in the Islands, but recent evidence suggests that there may indeed have been members of the crocodile family present at the time of their discovery.
There are no records of the Islands being inhabited at the time of their discovery. In 1955, Oliver Cromwell’s army invaded Jamaica and took it from the Spanish. By the “Treaty of Madrid” inn 1670 the Cayman Islands were officially declared British property. Legend has it that the first settlers of the Islands were deserters from Cromwell’s army but there is no proof of this. All that is known is that in 1668 an attempt was made to settle Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, but the people were recalled to Jamaica three years later because of the problems of protecting them from Spanish pirates.
The Cayman Islands played a big part in Caribbean piracy. Because the Islands were remote and had plentiful supplies of meat and water, characters such as Sir Henry Morgan and Edward Teach used these Islands as a “hang-out.”
It was in the Cayman Islands that Blackbeard shot and Iamed Israel Hinds, who was later immortalized in Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stephenson.
It was not until the1730’s that the first permanent settlers were recorded. They were David Campbell, Mary Campbell and John Middleton who were each granted land in the Islands in 1734.
Further grants of land to Samuel Spofforth, Murray Crymbe and William Foster were made in 1741. William Foster was founder of the Foster family that moved to Cayman Brac in 1833, one of the first families to make permanent settlement there.
One of the more fascinating tales of the Cayman Islands is “The Wreck of the Ten Sails,” that happened in November 1788. On a dark night a convoy of Jamaican merchant men bound for England sailed past the Cayman Islands. The lead ship “Cordelia” struck the reef at East End, Grand Cayman, and gave a signal was mistaken for the order to “close-up” and one by one the other nine ships struck the reef……..Today, the tip of an anchor can still be seen protruding from the sea, a grim reminder of “The Wreck of the Ten Sails.”
The residents of East End are said to have shown great heroism in the rescue of the people from the ships, and it is said that not one life was lost. Around this story has grown the legend that a royal personage was aboard on one of these ships person’s life, was lost. Around this story has grown the legend that a royal personage was aboard on one of these ships and that as a reward for saving this person’s life, George III decreed that Caymanians should be free from conscription in wartime.
Another version says that he granted Cayman freedom from taxation, which is a colorful explanation for the tax-free status of these Islands.
However, prolonged research has failed to turn up any royal person who was in the area at the time or any evidence of either of these decrees.
WHEN IN CAYMAN:
ON ARRIVING: On arriving in Cayman, one of the first expressions you may hear is, “take care.” This is not a grammatical error, it’s a national saying, and means, “safe journey” or “I wish you a good day.” If you don’t hear those words from the immigration officers as you enter the airport it may be because they must keep track of more than 200,000 people who arrive each year and there simply isn’t time.
ON DRIVING: In order to see the Cayman Islands, especially Grand Cayman, it would be wise to rent a car. In the Brac and Little Cayman, bicycles are a fun and inexpensive way to travel. You will require a valid driver’s license if you intend to drive any motor vehicle. Either the police or the rental agency will issue you a temporary local permit (which costs US $5.00) if you are over 17 years old. Remember we drive on the left, or as the locals say, “Drive on the left and you’ll always be right.”
ON PEOPLE: There is virtually no racial bias or social stratification and today over half the population of 30,000 persons is of mixed origin. Most of the early settlers were British, Irish and Scottish – shipwrecked sailors, deserters from Cromwell’s army in Jamaica, and buccaneers hiding from the Royal Navy. To eke out a living they farmed or caught turtles, hence our national symbol, the peg-leg turtle pirate.
ON WHAT NOT TO BUY: The Cayman Islands have very severe laws on the use of marijuana (or ganja, as it is called locally) and other controlled drugs. Large fines and prison terms will be given to those who are in possession of or import any controlled drug. Unlike many other CaribbeanIslands, Cayman has no roadside peddlers or beggars.
ON TIPPING: A tip is a reward for good service. Most hotels and restaurants automatically add a service charge of 10% to 15% but many visitors leave an added bonus. Cayman Kai Development Co. does not add anything to their final billing for service charge. It is to the discretion of our guests what they wish to leave for continued good service.
ON CURRENCY: There is no limit to the amount of non Caymanian currency you may bring into the Island. One U.S. dollar is worth $.80 cents. The Cayman Islands dollar is divided into one hundred cents, like other dollars with 1,5,10 and 25 cent coins, and 1, 5, 10, 25, 50 and 100 dollar notes.
ON TAX: This is a rare word in Cayman, but Government Tourist Tax of 10% will be added to your accommodation bill. There is also a departure tax of CI$8.00 or US$10.00, collected by your airline. Other than these the money is all yours to spend.
BANKING HOURS: Generally the hours are 9:00a.m. to 4:00p.m. Mondays -Thursdays and from 9:00a.m. to 4:30p.m. On Fridays.
ON TIME: Cayman remains on Eastern Standard Time all year round. There is no Daylight Savings Time in the summer.
CAYMAN ISLANDS GOVERNMENT:
The Cayman Islands are a British Crown Colony.
Their laws are made by twelve elected Legislators and three Ex Officio Members.
The day-to-day administration of the country is the responsibility of the Executive Council (Cabinet) which is comprised of the Official Members and four Elected Members. There is a Madam Speaker appointed as Chairman.
The four elected Members are given various portfolios and one Official Member is charged with the responsibility for Cayman Brac and Little Cayman.
The Governor is appointed by Her Majesty The Queen, but he must accept the advice of the Executive Council in all matters except foreign affairs, defense, internal security and civil service appointments.
In matters on which he must consult the Executive Council, the Governor may go against the wishes of the Council only with the approval of the British Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, in London.
FACTS ABOUT CAYMAN ISLANDS:
TOPOGRAPHY: Grand Cayman is 26 miles long and varies from four to seven miles wide. The maximum elevation is 60 feet above sea level. Little Cayman is nine miles long and one mile wide. Cayman Brac is ten miles long and one mile wide. Grand Cayman’s “SisterIslands” lay 89 miles in a north easterly direction from the district of East End. The two lesser Islands are separated by a channel about seven miles wide.
POPULATION: Approximately 50,000 plus (the three Islands combined).
CAPITAL: George Town, on the west side of Grand Cayman. It is the center of Government, Business, Banking and other Amenities.
MOTTO: “He Hath Founded It Upon The Seas.”
ACCOMODATIONS: Approximately 2,500 rooms. High season is December-April. 13% Government room tax added to all hotel bills.
IDENTIFICATION: Proof of citizenship, such as a passport, coupled with a return ticket is required to enter the Cayman Islands.
SUN: The Cayman Islands are much closer to the equator than often realized. The concentration of ultra-violet and other rays from the sun is great and one can get a very bad sunburn in a short time without realizing it. Taking the sun in small doses is advisable.
LANGUAGE: English is spoken on all three islands. Dialect and intonations used by Caymanians have puzzled some linguistics but you’ll have no difficulty communicating with them. Their speech is a mixture of American southern drawl and the English slur with a Scottish lilt to end a statement.
TELECOMMUNICATIONS: Telecommunications are provided by Cable & Wireless (West Indies) Ltd. under Government franchise. Automatic Telephone, Telex, Data Transmission and Facsimile services are available with international links by Satellite and Submarine Cable. International telephone booths and a telegraph counter are located at the Anderson Square office, open from 8.30am until 5.00pm. However the Government has offered other cellular service franchises to undo the monopoly of Cable & Wireless and add some competition via two additional service providers AT&T and Digicel.