By Alexander McCall Smith, author of The Forever Girl
You might not expect the Scottish author of the The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency to be a Cayman Islands expert, but in fact he travels there every year. As a result, his latest book, The Forever Girl, is set on Grand Cayman. Here, he shares what he considers to be the island’s five essential experiences.
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1. Visit Stingray City
Swimming with stingrays at Stingray City is unforgettable. This is what everybody does, if they possibly can, but it is still such an amazing experience that it has to be recommended. There are a number of boat operators who will take you out into the sound where you may jump into the water and swim above or alongside great stingrays. The rays are interested in fish, not in you, and so it’s safe enough. Don’t touch their tails. You’ll feel very brave after you’ve done it.
2. Dine at Grand Old House
There’s a very elegant Grand Cayman restaurant and bar called the Grand Old House. This has a distinct feel of the old Caribbean and is worth a visit. Fish swim up to the edge of the deck and may be fed by patrons. It’s a good place to see wealthier locals, tax exiles, and various exotics who would never dream of going to some of the popular places along Seven Mile Beach.
3. Take a Water Taxi
Captain Richard Stein of the Water Taxi Company will take you in his boat, the Flying Scotsman, to Rum Point. There you can have dinner or a picnic. This is not a large boat, and so the experience is friendly and good fun. Captain Stein can be booked to go at any hour, but a night trip is particularly memorable.
4. Hike the Mastic Trail
There are relatively few places to go for a long walk on Grand Cayman. The only bush trail of any real interest is the Mastic Trail, which is a one-and-a-half hour trail through native bush. There are some birds to be seen and plenty of interesting plants. Look out for iguanas—these ancient little dragons are everywhere. Take bottles of water to slake your thirst.
5. Pick the Right Time to Go
The end of the year is a very good time to visit the Cayman Islands. If you go in December, you can see the most astonishing display of Christmas lights outside the home of the Bodden sisters, daughter of the late Captain Bodden. These two Caymanian ladies erect hundreds of light features in front of their house to celebrate Christmas. The result is unlike anything you will ever have seen before; it quite defies description. Ask a local for directions; everybody goes to see it.
Alexander McCall Smithis the author of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, the Isabel Dalhousie series, the Portuguese Irregular Verbs series, the 44 Scotland Street series, and the Corduroy Mansions series. He is professor emeritus of medical law at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland and has served with many national and international organizations concerned with bioethics. He lives in Scotland. The Cayman Islands are a favorite writing spot for Alexander McCall Smith, who visits yearly.