at Cayman Kai,
Rum Point Beach
Grand Cayman, B. W. I.
Click on picture or web address to go to Naturecayman your guide to the ecology of Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, including birds, reptiles, animals, fish, vegetation and geology. This site also contains information on island history, culture, events.
They say middle kids always get the least attention, but not so for Cayman Brac. Hardly bigger than nearby thumb-sized Little Cayman, the Brac, as locals call it, has the same splendid tranquility as her little sister, with a touch of the "big" island - a modern airport with a real runway and a hotel with telephones and satellite TV. While Cayman Brac isn't exactly overloaded with shopping, fine dining, and nightlife (in fact, there is none), you won't mind because you'll be rising and setting with the sun like everyone else.
The attractions here are simple: wind-rustled palm fronds at twilight, hammocks on an untouched beach, and the ubiquitous diving and snorkeling.
Even the most Jaws-Phobic tourist will find their fears fade once they catch sight of a ruby-red sea star or poke their masks into the bowl of a pink barrel sponge. If you're not certified divers, you can become so in four days. True novices should try a resort course that includes a shallow dive.
For those who prefer lightweight touring, a mask and fins will reveal some of the finest snorkeling anywhere. Beginners should reserve at least a couple of days to explore the Buccaneer's Inn site and Helen's Reef, where the coral nearly reaches the ocean surface. (Plan to rent a car or scooters; there are only three taxi's on the island.)
Take another day to scout the 10-mile long isle. The caves that dot the bluff wall near Spot Bay make fine hurricane havens - see if you can screw up your courage to visit Bat Cave. At day's end, the main road that unrolls past flowery Ocean side cemeteries and the airy porches of traditional Caymanian homes quickly carries you back to your hammocks by the sea
History and Background
Cayman Brac, commonly referred to simply as the Brac, has a total land area of 14 square miles (approximately 1 mile wide by 14 miles long) with a distinguishing cliff, or bluff ("Brac" is Gaelic for "Bluff") running through the center. This bluff starts at sea level on the west end of the island, and rises to about 140 feet at the eastern tip of the island. It was this prominent bluff that allowed Cayman Brac to be the first of the Cayman Islands sighted by Christopher Columbus in 1503. It was Columbus' fourth and final voyage to the Americas when he stumbled across the islands he named "Las Tortugas" (The Turtles). The ship's log stated that they were in sight of land surrounded by turtles, both on land and in the water, so-much-so that it was for that reason the islands were first named "Las Tortugas." For years afterwards the islands remained uninhabited, visited only by passing ships or pirates seeking to hide their treasure. Later, the mistaken identification of the large numbers of local iguanas for alligators, resulted in the islands being renamed the Cayman Islands (after the Caymans alligator). The first settlers in the islands were deserters from the British navy, stationed in Jamaica. Up until the turn of the century, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman grew in population leaving their larger sister relatively undeveloped. The Cayman Islands produced some of the world's finest seamen. While the men were off at sea, the women essentially ran the islands. The strong role of women is still evident in the islands today. In the 20th century, Grand Cayman has grown up into a very popular hotel and banking center, Little Cayman has fallen back into its sleepy way of life, while Cayman Brac has developed a nice mix of both worlds.
The Brac Today
Cayman Brac has evolved slowly over the past century. E-mail, fax, cell phones, and the latest technology can all be found here, but a laid back atmosphere ensures that both locals and visitors enjoy a peaceful and relaxing island. There are no shopping malls, fast food restaurants or large business districts. Instead, Cayman Brac offers natural beauty, friendliness and some of the best diving anywhere. Each year Cayman Brac welcomes eager tourists to its shores. They come in search of spectacular diving, relaxation and an exotic destination.
Residents of the islands enjoy a high standard of living with the noted benefit of no income taxes. Unemployment is practically unheard of and with the increase in construction, and the related population growth, jobs are plentiful. Economic growth in Cayman Brac has been pushed forward with the help of the Cayman Islands Government in an attempt to promote business and tourism on the island.
Cayman Brac's greatest attraction is its surrounding waters. Marine life of all shapes and sizes abound in these clear, warm waters of the Caribbean. As such, diving is perhaps the island's most famous attribute. With so many dives and dive sites to choose from on the island, divers find themselves amazed at the variety of diving available. With the recent sinking of the Russian Destroyer in fall of 1996, Cayman Brac has further increased its underwater appeal. The Russian Ship rests in about 55 ft. of water at its shallowest and 110 ft at its deepest. The ship rises to within about 15 ft of the surfaces ensuring that non-divers can get a good look at the vessel. Dive sites such as Greenhouse Reef or Radar reef are shallow reef dives (20-60 ft) and display spectacular coral rising to within feet of the surface. On the other hand, wall dives start quite deep on the island (about 70-100 ft) and provide quite a different dive experience. In addition to stunning corals and sponges divers can expect to see a variety of marine creatures ranging from turtles, squid, lobsters and rays (of all shapes and sizes) to the occasional shark or dolphin. For non-divers, the bottom can clearly be seen at over 150 feet, so the underwater treat is shared.
Another attraction is the natural beauty of the island. The bluff, with its astounding selection of flora and fauna, is a must for nature enthusiasts. Cayman Brac is haven for many species of birds and has become a stopping point for many as they migrate back and forth. Caves, rumored to still contain pirate gold, dot the landscape and Caymanite, a stone found only in the Caymans, can be found in crevices in the limestone. Parrot trails and nature parks have been set up to help ensure that the natural environment of the island is well protected, while providing visitors and locals with a great opportunity to explore this unique facet of the island.
Though Cayman Brac's natural appeal may seem to be sufficient, the people of the island have their own appeal. Not an obvious reason, but one that should be mentioned are the people of the island. The friendliness of the locals is one the first things mentioned by any visitor to the islands. Driving down a road you'll see that everyone waves to you, whether they know you or not. This is typical of their warmth and hospitality. Unlike other Caribbean islands there are no homeless or unemployed on the island. For a unique glimpse into the island visit the museum and just ask the curator for a tour. As many of the items in the museum came from the homes of the locals, they are especially proud and happy to show you around.
Entertainment & Activities
In addition to diving, Cayman Brac offers other forms of entertainment to visitors. A sport growing in popularity is rock climbing. Rock climbing enthusiasts have touted the bluff as a great platform for sheer vertical cliff climbing. Many climbs have already been mapped out with more being added each day. In addition to rock climbing, Cayman Brac offers some fantastic fishing opportunities. There are several local fishermen who offer half or full day fishing excursions (your hotel can make all the necessary arrangements for you). Day trips to Point 'o Sand on Little Cayman are available for those who want a day on the beach and a change of pace. Lunch is provided as is a host who will ensure that you have a great time - be sure to bring or rent snorkeling gear and lots of sun block. Although there are scheduled tours available it is worth your while to look into renting a car and taking a trip to the end of the road on the South Side of the island. Here you'll see spectacular cliffs, caves, blowholes and Caymanite (to make your trip even more enjoyable bring your camera and a snack and drinks). The Public Beach is anything but what its name implies. If you've ever wanted a beach completely to yourself this is it. The facilities are well kept up and the beach is beautiful. Visiting the light house is a unique experience. The light house is situated on the east end of the island at its highest point. From this vantage point you can get a stunning view of the rest of the island and the Caribbean Sea. The island's hotels each sponsor their own entertainment for their guests, ranging from dances to contests and games.
Due to the fact that almost everything has to be imported, prices on the island are slightly on expensive side (although not as much as you'd expect). When you come, be sure to expect to pay more than you would in the US. An important note to keep in mind is that the Cayman Islands use the Cayman Islands' Dollar (CI$) which is has a fixed exchange rate with the US Dollar (CI$1.00=US$1.25). However, be sure to shop at the various stores on the island and look for some great bargains.
Cayman Brac offers some great dining experiences. Listed below are some of your choices on the island.
It must be noted that in addition to these are restaurants operated by each of the two major hotels (Brac Reef Beach Resort and Dive Tiara Beach Resort) that rate extremely high on the list. Both of these restaurants are open to the public and reservations are recommended. In addition to these are several local snack type restaurants. "Angies" is easily the most popular among locals and visitors alike. "Seaview" (locally referred to as "Blackie's") has a drive-through, but its more closely related to a drive up, park, wait 10 minutes type of service (their food and locally made ice-cream (highly recommended) is usually worth the wait though). Dominoes Pizza opened in Cayman Brac in early 1997 and is quickly becoming an island favorite. Previous to this bold step by Dominoes, Brac locals could easily be identified on Cayman Airways as the ones bringing home the pizza from Grand Cayman. One final note on food -- try patties. They are to the Caymanians, what hamburgers are to Americans. You can buy them at any of the local stores. One taste and you'll be hooked.
Quick Brac Facts
Visit the lighthouse for a sunrise. You won't be disappointed. Complement this visit with a view of the sunset from West End Point.
Visit the museum. It's small, but it's full of interesting and unique facts and objects.
Visit Little Cayman. Go with your hotel, or private charter to Point-o-Sand for a day. Often thought of as the best beach in the islands. Trips usually include plenty of snorkeling and provided lunch.
Visit the caves (on the south side of the island). Recommended caves are "Bat Cave" and "Great Cave"
Visit the southeastern tip of the island ("End of the road, south-side" as labeled by locals). Spectacular scenery and blowing holes.
Contact either Franklin Bodden (345-948-1428) or Shelby Scott (345-948-0538), both boat charter operators, and arrange for a trip to see Little Cayman Brac. If you go in the afternoon, make sure to look between Little Cayman Brac and the bluff from the east side and you'll see an Indian Chief appear. This natural rock formation has to be seen to be believed.