Hiking in Cayman Brac
Public footpaths and hiking trails filigree the island, with interpretive signs identifying a staggering variety of resident and nonresident bird species that call the Brac home. You'll also find reptile habitats, indigenous flora, and historically and geologically significant sites. Arguably the most scenic route traverses the eastern Bluff to the tip, where the remains of a lighthouse stand sentinel over the roaring Caribbean. This is one of the routes taken by early Brackers scaling the Bluff via the steep Lighthouse Steps up past Peter's Cave, then down the 2½-mile (4-km) Lighthouse Footpath adjacent to Major Donald Drive (aka Lighthouse Road). This was used to bring cattle to pasture, as well as to access plantations of cassava, peppers, beans, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, mangoes, bananas, and other crops. The panoramas are awe inspiring, especially once you reach the lighthouse. Even though the path along the edge is fairly even, it's not suitable for the elderly, very young, or infirm due to high winds (don't venture onto the dramatic bleached limestone outcroppings: A sudden gust could send you hurtling into the air with the brown boobies that nest in ledges and caves here). It's a compellingly desolate, eerie area, as if future spacefarers were terra-forming the moon with hardy "maypole" cacti, century plants, aloes, and wind-lashed silver thatch palms bowing almost as if in deference to nature.
Brac Tourism Office. Free printed guides to the Brac's many heritage and nature trails can be obtained from the Brac Tourism Office; you can also get the guides at the airport or at your hotel. Traditional routes across the bluff have been cleared and marked; trailheads are identified with signs along the road. It's safe to hike on your own, though some trails are fairly hard going (wear light hiking boots) and others could be better maintained. West End Community Park, west of airport, Cayman Brac, KY2-2101. 345/948–1649. www.itsyourstoexplore.com, sita.ky.
Christopher Columbus Gardens. For those who prefer less-strenuous walking, Christopher Columbus Gardens has easy trails and boardwalks. The park showcases the unique natural flora and features of the bluff, including two cave mouths. This is a peaceful spot dotted with gazebos and wooden bridges that traverses several ecosystems from cacti to mahogany trees. Ashton Reid Dr. [Bluff Rd.], just north of Ashton Rutty Centre, Cayman Brac.
Sister Islands District Administration. The administration arranges free, government-sponsored, guided nature and cultural tours with trained local guides. Options include the Parrot Reserve, nature trails, wetlands, Lighthouse/Bluff View, caving, birding, and heritage sites. You just supply the wheels and spirit of adventure. Cayman Brac. 345/948–2222 Ext. 4420.
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