Spelunking in Cayman Brac



Residents and geologists are still discovering "new" caves and sinkholes in the Brac's 25- to 30-million-year-old dolomite rock. Most of these caves were formed when the sea receded after the last Ice Age as rainwater dissolved the carbonate rock over millennia through cracks made by plants rooting in the limestone. Mineral deposits fashioned fanciful formations in many caves, as well as more typical pillars, stalagmites, and daggerlike stalactites.

Buccaneers (supposedly including Henry Morgan and Edward "Blackbeard" Teach) of the 17th and 18th centuries stopped like most mariners at the Cayman Islands to restock stores of water, wood, and turtles. Many locals still believe buried treasure lies deep within the recesses of the Bluff. But more vitally, the caves served as shelter during the fearsome storms of the first part of the 20th century.

Most caves are closed to the public—even to experienced spelunkers—but several are easily accessed and considered safe. If you plan to explore Cayman Brac's caves, wear good sneakers or hiking shoes, as some paths are steep and rocky and some entrances reachable only by ladders.

Peter's Cave offers a stunning aerial view of the picturesque northeastern community of Spot Bay. The climb is easier from atop the Bluff; the other access is steep, and purchase isn't always easy even with railings. The chambers feature few formations but some pretty multihued striations. Great Cave, at the island's southeast end, has numerous chambers and photogenic ocean views. It's the least accessible yet most impressive. You won't fund Bruce Wayne or his Boy Wonder in the Bat Cave, but you may see Jamaican fruit bats hanging from the ceiling (try not to disturb them), as well as nesting barn owls. The bats play a crucial role in the ecosystem's food chain because they devour overripe fruits, thereby pollinating plants, disseminating seeds, and reducing insect pests. There are some whimsical formations, and sections cracked and crawling with undergrowth, trees, and epiphytes. Rebecca's Cave poignantly houses the graveside of an 18-month-old child who died during the horrific hurricane of 1932. A plaque commemorates her short life (“Daughter of Raib and Helena ‘Miss Missy’ Bodden”), and people still leave flowers. It's actually a ¼-mile (½-km) hike inland along a well-marked trail called the Saltwater Pond Path, which continues to the North Side. Today it's a prime bird-watching walk lined with indigenous flora like red birch, jasmine, silver thatch palms, agave, dildo cactus, balsam, cabbage trees, duppy bushes, and bull hoof plants.


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