Family Breaks: Let's go and play with the Cayman stingrays

Long a favourite with divers, these Caribbean islands also have much to offer families, says Amar Grover

For years, the Cayman Islands have largely sold themselves as one of the world's premier diving destinations. But that niche is widening, with visitors now lured by romantic getaways and the cruise market.

Eager to break new ground, my four-year-old boy, Amrik, and I have discovered another option the family holiday. We arrived on Grand Cayman in the evening, tantrum-free, and promptly fell into bed. "Tomorrow," I told him, "we'll see some monsters." That is no way to talk about blue iguanas the world's rarest but it has a certain appeal that "botanic park" simply hasn't, the first stop on our family-friendly tour.

Next morning we met the monsters face to face courtesy of the Botanic Park's Blue Iguana Recovery Program, which aims to save the blues, as they are known, from dogs, rats, cats, cars and a meagre gene pool. We watched little ones in cages and big chaps sunning themselves in pens. Amrik was transfixed by their size, texture, creepy eyes and exotic hue.

We sang goodbye to the blues and headed for the beach. Amrik has done a few beaches in his time but the volleyball at Seven Mile Beach was new to him and rather more fascinating than its immense golden sands. For a more intimate Caribbean vibe, we made for Rum Point at the far tip of North Sound where the beach shelves reluctantly and even adults can enjoy childish pleasures by hiring tractor-styled pedalos.

Next stop, Stingray City. "What's a stingray?" asked Amrik a little nervously as we boarded a catamaran. Sting really isn't a child-friendly word so I let the fun of the boat trip work its magic. Having become habituated to fishermen discarding scraps, schools of stingrays gather in the shallow waters to sidle up alongside visitors and be fed. Amrik leaned over the gunwales and delighted in tracking their dark outlines. There were "mummy", "daddy" and "baby" ones, and soon it was easy to coax him into the water.

However, for most of the younger children and even some squealing adults, these were encounters where fear and fascination ran in parallel. The stingrays' profound weirdness and flicking tails became a little too much, so we ignored them and instead pretended to be frolicking dolphins.

For an altogether more thoughtful approach to nature, I took Amrik along to the Ambassadors of the Environment. Developed by Jean-Michel Cousteau (son of Jacques) as an offshoot of his Ocean Futures Society, this educational programme is new to Grand Cayman. It aims to give children an understanding of and respect for the environment the sea in particular.

One morning we joined other young "ambassadors" to sail across North Sound towards the protected Central Mangrove Wetlands and into a calm inlet. Two of our onboard naturalists demonstrated how resistant mangroves are to hurricanes, and how they thrive in salty water. One then popped into the sea and carefully brought aboard an upside-down jellyfish. We learned how it floats head down and tentacles up, and so farms algae, its own food. Moving on to an isolated stretch of beach, we found (and fondled) an auburn sea star between bouts of fish chasing.

Amrik's firsts were clocking up fast. At Boatswain's Beach, a new complex comprising Caymanian culture, marine park and turtle farm, he was entranced by the breeding pond. It usually heaves with green sea turtles wolfing food pellets. At the small touch tanks containing endearing yearlings, children can carefully hold young ones by their flippers an option Amrik declined.

We even managed to get away from it all. The two-mile jungly Mastic Trail isn't an obvious child-friendly choice, but Amrik can walk when he's in the mood. It's a largely straightforward trail outside the wet season, yet it immediately feels like another, more remote place thick with tamarind trees, parrots and lizards.

"Daddy," he whispered, "where are the crocodiles?"

"Extinct," I replied. "All gone." And that, it seemed, was the only disappointment in our fun-filled week.

How to get there

BA Holidays (0870 243 3406; ba.com/ caribbean) offers seven nights at the four-star Sunshine Suites, Grand Cayman, from 1,198 per adult and 594 per child departing January 2008. The price includes return BA flights from Heathrow, resort transfers and b&b.

Further information

The Ambassadors of the Environment (aote.org) operates out of the Ritz Carlton Hotel (ritzcarlton.com) on Grand Cayman. Prices for morning or afternoon activities range from $65-$120 (32-59). Book in advance.

Cayman Islands Department of Tourism (020-7491 7771; cayman islands.co.uk).

News
The Edge and his wife, Morleigh Steinberg, at the Academy Awards in 2014
peopleGuitarist faces protests over plan to build mansions in Malibu
Sport
Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Real Madrid
football
News
i100
News
The comedian, 42, made the controversial comment following the athlete’s sentencing to five years for the culpable homicide of Reeva Steenkamp on Tuesday
peopleComedian's quip about Reeva Steenkamp was less than well received at music magazine awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Junior Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    IT Systems Analyst / Application Support Engineer (ERP / SSRS)

    £23000 - £30000 per annum + pension, 25days holiday: Ashdown Group: An industr...

    SCRUM Master

    £30 - 50k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a SCRUM Master to joi...

    Franchise Support Assistant

    £13,520: Recruitment Genius: As this role can be customer facing at times, the...

    Day In a Page

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

    A crime that reveals London's dark heart

    How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
    Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

    Lost in translation: Western monikers

    Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
    Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

    Handy hacks that make life easier

    New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
    KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

    KidZania: It's a small world

    The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
    Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

    'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

    The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

    From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
    Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

    Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

    A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
    The 10 best smartphone accessories

    Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

    Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

    Liverpool v Real Madrid

    Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
    West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

    Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
    Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

    A new American serial killer?

    Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
    Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

    Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

    Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
    Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

    Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

    Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
    Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

    Wildlife Photographer of the Year

    Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
    Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

    Want to change the world? Just sign here

    The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?