Grand Cayman’s unspoiled and rugged Sister Island, Cayman Brac, is the ultimate destination for adventure seekers. Whether hiking or biking, canoeing or caving, bird-watching or scuba diving, activities on this 15-square-mile island are sure to ignite the thrill and wonder of exploration.
Take a Hike
A number of walking and hiking trails are dotted through the dense forestation of Cayman Brac. Through these footpaths unique reptiles, birds and plant life thrive, including the endemic rock iguana, a gray variation of Grand Cayman’s endangered blue dragon.
One of the more popular hikes will take you across the Bluff, which is the Gaelic definition of the word “brac” and describes the 140-foot-high limestone rock formation thrusting vertically from the royal blue waters on the eastern side of Cayman Brac. You’ll want to wear your most comfortable hiking shoes, but the majestic view of the ocean and neighbouring Little Cayman from the top is well worth going the distance. Stay a while and observe the magnificent frigatebirds in flight as they ride the air currents rising from the sheer cliff face of this prominent attraction.
Other popular trails include Bight Road, the Lighthouse Footpath, National Trust Parrot Reserve Loop and Salt Water Point Walk.
All of the Island’s trails and footpaths are easily accessible and the level of difficulty is clearly identified at the trail entrance. Visitors are welcome to journey on their own or with one of the trained tour guides available through the Cayman Brac District Administration Office, a service that is free of charge to all.
Spending a day shore- or deep-sea fishing is not uncommon for the average “Bracka” – an endearing term used to describe a native of Cayman Brac. Whether you are after a red- or yellow-tailed snapper, sergeant major, barracuda, parrot fish, or the bigger game fish of wahoo, tuna and blue marlin, fishing is a wonderful way to participate in a Caymanian tradition and pastime.
Book a private charter excursion with a local fisherman or throw a line from the shore, but be sure to check the marine laws as some areas are protected parks and a variety of fish cannot be removed from the water.
Dive into Adventure
Take the plunge and enter a realm of underwater wonder. The MV Captain Keith Tibbetts wreck is high on the list of must-visit dive sites. This 330-foot Russian frigate was built in the Soviet Union in 1984 and sunk in Cayman Brac in 1996. It is one of only a few sunken Soviet naval ships in the Western Hemisphere and the only one that can be easily dived; so, suit up and dive in for an awe-inspiring experience.
Book a dive excursion with local dive operators and explore the famous Bloody Bay Wall or other dive sites such as Tiara Tunnels, Tarpon Reef, Anchor Wall and Wilderness Wall. You can also visit shore dive sites like Cemetery Reef, the Lost City of Atlantis, the Buccaneer’s Inn and Radar Reef.
Check with the expert dive staff at one of Cayman Brac’s resorts and dive centres for a detailed map of recommended dive sites.
Explore a Cave
Hidden caves abound on Cayman Brac and usually require little to no experience or specialised gear, although sturdy shoes are recommended. Traditionally, caves have been – and in some cases still are – used as a place of refuge during storms. Today, many are visited regularly by tourists and residents alike.
Steps and ladders have been built to allow easier access to the caves on Cayman Brac. Some of the more popular caves include Peter’s Cave, the Bat Cave, Half Way Ground Cave, Nani Cave, the Great Cave and Rebecca’s Cave, named after little Rebecca Bodden who lost her life during a storm in 1932, referred to as the 1932 Cuba hurricane or the ’32 Storm. Rebecca’s gravesite is also located inside the cave and is now a National Heritage Site.
Be sure to bring a headlamp or flashlight and watch out for stalactites.
Scale a Wall
Climbing enthusiasts will revel in the jagged cliffs of the Bluff, where over 75 routes can be found. Titanium Tortuga climbing bolts have been strategically placed along the popular walls to ensure climbers’ safety while exploring the four main walls: Spot Bay Wall, the North Wall, the East Wall and the South Side Wall. Each area includes its own unique climbs with charming names such as Neptune’s Lair, Wall of the Early Morning Light, Edd’s Place and Love Shack Wall.
Most of the climbs on Cayman Brac are ideal for the experienced climber, but less strenuous climbs that are still adventurous and offer an awesome view are also available.
Cayman Brac is often described as a bird-watcher’s paradise. Almost 200 species of birds call the island home, including the endangered Cayman Brac parrot, the brown- and red-footed boobies, red-legged thrush, West Indian whistling duck and the white-tailed tropicbird. Between October and April, bird-watchers can effortlessly spot more than 50 different species. Due to the island’s geographical location, migratory species, such as egrets, ducks, plovers, sandpipers, flamingos and spoonbills are also often observed.
Visit the Department of Tourism or District Administration Office for a copy of the nature tourism brochure for common bird-watching locations, and look out for explanatory signs found along the island’s well-defined nature trails to help identify the bird species in the surrounding areas.
Bike and Kayak
Most resorts and guesthouses come equipped with bicycles and kayaks, making island exploration an easy journey.
Bike along the road’s shoulder through the many neighbourhoods of Cayman Brac where you can encounter the island’s wildlife in their natural habitat; or kayak over a reef to view the vibrant kaleidoscope of fish teeming just below the water’s surface.
Tour with a Local
Take your Cayman Brac experience to the next level with the assistance of a knowledgeable Bracka. Local guides will take visitors through all of the Island’s exciting nooks and crannies, many of which are easy to miss if you don’t know what you’re looking for. Learn the local jargon while visiting historic sites and discovering the traditional use of many common plants.
Licensed taxi and touring operators are available at a minimal cost and rates include the comforts of an air-conditioned bus. Free tours with a trained Nature Tourism Guide from the District Administration Office are also available, though you will be required to rent and drive a vehicle while you are escorted. With these two touring methods, you’re sure to be regaled with the many stories of Cayman Brac’s history and folklore, stories you may miss out on if you choose to tour on your own.
For more information about tours and guides, contact the District Administration Office at 345-948-2222 or the Department of Tourism at 345-949-0623.
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Published: Skies Magazine, March 2012