Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Country in Review: Cayman Islands - “The Islands that Time Forgot”

Source: Flickr

People often think that the Cayman Islands are all about crystalline waters and white beaches. While this does justice to some aspects of the Islands (see image above), we think that there is a lot more to learn. We thought we would dig a little deeper to find out some interesting facts about what makes the Cayman Islands tick.

Source: Wikimedia

The Cayman Islands are a British overseas territory and to this day they have a Governor appointed by the UK. It is still custom to celebrate the British monarch’s birthday, despite the fact that there are just as strong ties with America and Spain who are geographically more connected to the Islands.  The Cayman Islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1503 who named them ‘Las Tortugas’ because of the number of turtles to be seen in the surrounding waters. In fact, in 1586, when Sir Francis Drake visited the Islands, he  reported that they were ‘edible’ because they were so full of the marine creatures.

Source: Flickr

Indeed, Turtles have become intrinsic to Cayman culture. In the early history of the Islands, ships would come to hunt the turtles as sustenance for their crew. Nowadays, with the number of turtles depleting, breeding farms and environmental-education centres have been set up to restore the ocean’s eco-system.  In celebration of this humble creature, the sea turtle is now the official emblem of the department of tourism.

Source: Flickr

Grand Cayman was recently made famous after it was used as a setting – under the name Tortuga - in a popular pirate film. Funnily enough, this cultural reference draws from some truth in Cayman history.  The Islands were occupied by pirates in the 18th Century who were seeking a hideout as they plundered the nearby Cuba while infamous pirates such as Blackbeard are rumoured to have used the islands to hide their treasure.  In recognition of this, the Islands host 11 days of pirate-themed festivities each November. As well as celebrating the actual pirate history, the festivities serve to boost tourism in the country’s low season. Since it was established in 1977, it has grown into a huge tourist attraction and involves everything from music, street dances, costumes, parades, sporting events and fireworks.

Source: Flickr

Are you an expat in the Cayman Islands? Make sure that the Cayman Islands get included in this year’s Expat Explorer Survey by having your say and clicking here.

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