The Cayman Islands’ turquoise waters and white-sand beaches epitomize the Caribbean’s allure as an incentive destination. By Sandra Eagle, September/October 2008
The turquoise waters and white-sand beach of the Cayman Islands epitomize the allure of the Caribbean as an incentive destination. Grand Cayman and its two sister islands, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, were originally called La Tortugas by Christopher Columbus, named for the abundance of turtles on the island. Grand Cayman is the largest island of the three and features the stunning Seven Mile Beach.
On Little Cayman, divers from around the world head for the famous Bloody Bay wall and Jackson Point. Bloody Bay Marine Park is one of the world’s truly legendary dive sites: the sheer coral wall begins at 20 ft. and plunges to 6,000 ft. Sea turtles, wavering sea coral and colourful tropical fish await the adventurous.
The Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort offers 273 guestrooms and 22 suites and features a meandering waterway where the aforementioned turtles bask amongst tropical foliage and a sunny secluded courtyard. The resort has 4,000 sq. ft. of meeting space – the Orchid Ballroom, with a maximum capacity of 550, and six meeting rooms, all with wireless Internet access. I took advantage of some downtime to snorkel over the sunken dive balls in front of the resort, happily dog-paddling behind various schools of fish, and came face-to-face with a silvery barracuda lurking near the sand bottom. I think he thought I was a lot bigger than he was, but I remained motionless just observing him. I was in his element, after all, and wasn’t ready for an all-out race to the beachfront.
Further down the Seven Mile Beach are the Westin Casuarina Resort and the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman. The Westin features 343 rooms, seven breakout meeting areas and the Governor’s ballroom, which seats 650 theatre-style or 480 for banquets.
The Ritz-Carlton occupies over 144 acres stretching sea-to-sea from the Caribbean to the North Sound. This AAA Five Diamond resort features 365 guestrooms and suites; Blue Tip, a Greg Norman-designed, nine-hole golf course; Silver Rain, a La Prairie spa; 13,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and the island’s largest ballroom.
Besides the siren call of the sun and sand, a popular activity for groups would have to be the Stingray City sandbar. A leisurely catamaran sail to the area was a highlight. Local guides and groups can walk the sandbar, where groups of stingrays gather for free handouts of cut-up cuttlefish. These graceful animals – some the size of large coffee tables – flutter in and allow guides to hold them. Touching them feels like petting a sleek, wet, massive portobello mushroom.
For those who prefer to observe, rather than participate one-on-one with sealife, a group tour in the Atlantis XI submarine might be a better choice. Departing from the duty-free shopping district of George Town, this 48-passenger submarine visits the coral canyons of Grand Cayman’s National Marine Park to depths of 100 ft.
Air Canada offers non-stop flights from Toronto to Owen Robert International Airport every week, with connections from/to Western and Eastern Canada.