JUNE 20, 2017
Read the first part of this post here. After the drama of the past couple of hours, we land in Georgetown. The runway is so short that we had a hard landing. I was by the window this time and I looked out to see that the aircraft had come to rest at the end of the runway which led out into the sea! Ah! So, if a pilot didn’t time his braking well, na wahala be dat! We exit the plane onto the runway and walk towards the terminal. As we walked, my mum exclaimed, “This is just like Calabar airport oo.” Calabar airport of my childhood, that is, with cleanliness and flowers but with a small town feel. Owen Roberts International Airport was tinier than MMA, Lagos and Abuja airports but light years ahead in maintenance, cleanliness, tourist info and staff. I sighed as I thought of Nigeria and so many missed opportunities.
We passed through Immigration and no one asked us for “anything for the boys?” People with home training, I sighed again, thinking of Nigeria and the “presents” people usually drop for airport staff. Abeg, let me enjoy my vacation, jooo, after my morning panic. We collect our luggage and head out in search of a Bureau de Change and taxi. We exit outside and are stunned by the silence. Ah ah! We look round. No crowds, no agberos, no cars horning, nothing. I went a-hunting to change money. I had brought some Euros and a few U.S. Dollars with me; they used the Caymanian Dollar which is super strong and almost at par with the U.S. Dollar, the latter being legal tender all over the island. I found an airport staff who informed me that only banks changed money, and directed us to a taxi dispatch. We boarded a cab, gave our hotel address in Crystal Harbour on the Northern-ish end of the island and zoomed off. The roads were free, barely any traffic, and sparsely populated. Compared to Havana (my only other point of island reference), Grand Cayman was so quiet.
We arrive at the hotel, The Grand Caymanian aka Holiday Inn Resort and check in. These are the hotel views with me in a hammock and it was so windy that the palm trees had bad hair days. Lol. I begin my hunt for a bank. The hotel provides a free, hourly shuttle bus for guests going anywhere on West Bay road, which was where most hotels and resorts were, as well as Seven Mile Beach (“SMB”), one of the popular tourist beaches. The shuttle dropped us in Governor’s Square where we found Butterfield Bank. We walked past it because it was so innocuous. You wouldn’t know it was a bank as its logo wasn’t “loud” like conventional banks we all know globally. The presence of an ATM gave it away and so I entered, changed my Euros and exited. I wanted to go to Camana Bay, which had restaurants, an Observation Tower and stores. I had a schedule. One thing that struck me immediately was the absence of public transport. No okadas, no visible buses, taxis you had to pre-order and couldn’t flag down, and definitely no subway. So, how to get to Camana Bay, now? Long story short, a friendly local from Costa Rica led us to the main bus stop to Georgetown, the capital city. Their buses are danfos with air-conditioners. Yes, you read right. It cost CI$2 per person and that cool air was necessary because it was boiling hot but extremely windy. My hat kept flying off. The driver was so kind and went off his route to take us right to Camana Bay as it was obvious that we were tourists. Lol.
This is a trendy area with fancy condos, timeshares, restaurants, stores and a ferry. It was so, so, so windy! It was also extremely quiet. Very few tourists and most of the stores were closed. By this time, we were starving and needed food. We sought out a restaurant, Lola, and ordered food and drink. This is me literally holding onto my hat and keeping my balance before the wind blew my lepa self away. Lol.
The Observation Tower is clearly not tall but its interior was amazingly colourful! The steps are painted on top and below and the murals on the walls are so beautiful! It was about 3 floors and looked out over the bay. Very picturesque and so quiet and peaceful! That was my whole takeaway of the island: so quiet. The island is very popular with divers and snorkelers as the coral reefs, sunken ships and underwater creatures are even more beautiful. It didn’t have the life that Havana did probably because most tourists come for the underwater spectacles, but it’s a great escape from a bustling city.
JUNE 21, 2017
Mum’s birthday! We had a trip planned to Stingray City which is a must-see by all tourists to Cayman Islands. It cost U.S. $90 for us both and it was worth it. A shuttle arrives at 9 am to whisk us away to the ferry where we board a boat, with other tourists, to Stingray City. It’s about a 30 minute ferry ride from our departure point. I realize we’re nearing our destination when the waters suddenly change colour from a murky blue-gray to turquoise/sea-green. It was amazing! We see the stingrays swimming about and the guides tell us to hop in.
Now, I no fit swim oo, but my excitement and curiosity overrode common sense and I gingerly move to the boat’s edge to slide off. I see that it’s shallow further away but where the boats are anchored is deep. Hmmn…wahala. The tour photographer jumps in and tells me to climb onto his back for a piggy-back ride to the shallow end. Mum was given a life jacket to swim out too. The stingrays are so used to humans and are friendly. We are told that they are fifth or six generation rays, as their ancestors were the ones who first encountered fishermen that fed them squid. Since then, subsequent generations have been accustomed to human interaction. The females are huge, the males are smaller, and the babies are tiny. We are given pieces of squid with which to feed the rays. The trick is to hold the bait underwater with your thumb tucked in, like you’re making a fist. The rays just suck the bait out of your clenched fist with vacuum suction. You can feel it. If your thumb isn’t tucked in, you get a nasty hickey. Legend tells that whoever kisses a stingray gets seven years of good luck therefore I kissed one twice, like the ojukokoro Nigerian that I am. Lol.
The tour photographer took pictures of our unfiltered stingray encounters. I was initially concerned because these gentle creatures were the cause of Steve Irwin’s untimely demise (he made my Animal Planet tween years interesting. Sob.) and I no wan die oo, but we soon got comfortable. After about 40 minutes here, we hop back onto the boat for two more water stops for snorkelers. My liver no reach that one so we just stayed on the boat. I had phone reception on the high seas and was just updating my FB posts and Whatsapp status with pictures and short videos. Lol. I marvelled at such fast reception when I have to struggle with a certain internet provider’s speed back in Brooklyn.
We arrive at the dock and board the shuttle back to the hotel. I jump into the shower to scrub saltwater and sunscreen off myself. The sunscreen was so thick and made me ashy all over. They better come up with one meant for dark skin, abeg. My scalp was itching badly from the saltwater but I had to wait till I got back home to wash it as I brought no hair products with me.
JUNE 22, 2017
Down in lobby for 11 am shuttle to Georgetown, the capital, where cruise ships dock on their Caribbean route from Florida. There are the usual American and European brand stores, souvenir shops, historic buildings and the like. We lunched at Margaritaville (expensive!) in the Georgetown Shopping District and took pictures with a Jamaican guy on stilts who is also a fire breather and all round entertainer. Very nice fellow. We browsed through Bayshore Shopping Mall and bought some jewellery. I bought a Topaz stud and chain set for $30 and mum bought a Tanzanite stud and chain set for a bit more. No tax.
We took pictures outside the Elmslie Presbyterian Church with its large brown doors. It’s a tourist attraction because its ceiling is shaped like a boat’s hull, apparently, but it was locked and I didn’t get to see it. Bummer. Saw the Fort George Memorial with its cannon and beautiful murals. There are a number of really colourful buildings with what one would describe as graffiti in the West. I also, spied two Carnival cruise ships by the docks. We are told that when the ships come in, the population of the city swells by 6,000 in about 2 hours. Once they leave, the town is back to its usual quiet. There are a few other attractions to see here like the Bodden House but apart from the stores and expensive restaurants, that was it in Georgetown. The docks come alive at night with fishermen and some local entertainment but we had no time for that. There were so many attractions I wanted to see but time didn’t permit. Anyways, at 4.30 pm, we board the shuttle back to the hotel.
At the hotel, there’s a cookout at 6 pm, with grilled mahi mahi, chicken, other foods and desserts and a live band. The food was absolutely delicious and the portions are large. We saw our friend, the Jamaican stilt guy, performing here. Small island.
JUNE 23, 2017
Our last full day of activities before departure the next day. Rum Point is an island on the North Shore easily accessible by boat and it’s a must see for every visitor.
We board the shuttle to Camana Bay for the water taxi to Rum Point. It cost CI$20 per person round trip and the 30 minute ride was scenic. We passed mangrove trees where iguanas live and the ride was uneventful.
We dock at Cayman Kai with its own resorts and there’s a bus to ferry us to Rum Point, a 15 minute ride away. The island is full of empty vacation homes owned or rented by famous celebs with building lots for sale. The whole island was underwater until the 1960s when development began for homes and resorts.
We reach Rum Point, alight from the bus, and head towards the beach. There’s a Wreck Bar and Grill Restaurant with free Wifi (there’s free Wifi all over: Camana Bay, Georgetown and hotel), a water sports office for those requiring scuba diving, snorkeling or Stingray City tours, and another resort for those that prefer the solitude of a tinier secluded island. There are tours to mangroves and caves here. Had I known, I would’ve booked this tour too. No wahala. We order food and drink. I spy conch fritters and order them to try. The main local foods in Cayman are turtle, conch and lobsters with their seasons, and since no tourist restaurant sold turtle and lobster season was over, I was happy to see conch on the menu. It tasted delicious with a dip and lemon. The only snag was these annoying chin-chin birds that would steal fries off people’s plates, or boldly hop onto tables to bully people. Lol. Rum Point is a secluded beach and is actually best for families as the waters are calmer and shallow for children. I’ll just let the pictures speak for themselves.
Bus arrives to shuttle us back to Cayman Kai where we board the 3.30 ferry back to Camana Bay.
4.30 PM AND BEYOND
We arrive at the hotel via the free shuttle and begin our packing. I bought a couple of souvenirs and a stingray ring that I wear daily now. I order a taxi to the airport against tomorrow, eat, and turn in early.
JUNE 24, 2017
We check out of the hotel and head to the airport. We’re booked on a 3.55 pm Cayman Airways flight to JFK because it was free. I booked this trip (air fare and hotel) through Orbitz and the return options were this airline or the other U.S. ones for an additional couple of bucks. Again, the Nigerian in me said, “mba!”, and booked the free Cayman Airways option. As we headed to the airline desk, my panic returned slowly. After my experience of 4 days ago, all the enjoyment had made me forget about it. Now, my inner self had questions: Is it air worthy? Safe? How large is the plane? I had read reviews before booking the flight and they were all great, nary a negative one, but I was still concerned.
We board the plane, get seated and take off. All through the almost 3 hour flight, there was not one wahala. No ringing phones, no idiot walking towards the front of the plane during ascent, and most importantly, no unnecessary grunting and groaning sounds from the bowels of the plane. Even my body knew that this was a smooth flight because my tummy was very calm. I actually read a bit (which I hardly ever do on flights because of my nerves), took pictures and still prayed. Lol. I was very impressed with Cayman Airways. They even gave us cooked food which we didn’t get on the “friendly skies” airline we arrived on 4 days ago. My mum kept muttering, “See small Cayman oo with their own national airline. Everywhere is clean, officials are helpful. Chai, Naija!” I just laughed because she laments about Nigeria all the time.
We land crowded JFK, collect luggage, and I call Uber. The last time I took a yellow cab home from JFK, the fare was criminal. I complained so much that the driver gave me $10 off! I vowed to always Uber from the airport. We arrive home at past 10 pm and I just wheel my box into a corner, put my passport away, take my clothes off and jump into the shower to exfoliate and begin my skincare routine. I didn’t take my toner and scrub because of space thus I started breaking out. Add to that the humidity and saltwater and my skin was acting up. The next day, Sunday, I steamed and washed my braids of the sand and salt. My itching drastically subsided. Hallelu!
Monday was the start of a brand new job (with an income boost) for me and I needed to be mentally prepared for it. This getaway truly helped with that. I wish I could travel every month to recharge my being; it doesn’t have to be a passport destination sef. I’m going to start doing that in my neck of the woods. May God give me the abundant disposable income and great health to do that. Amen.
- The island is very expensive and a 15% gratuity is added onto food plus they expect tip on top. Haba!
- I wanted to visit local bukas for unique island food as hotel fare was too expensive but no one seemed to know any local restaurants. By local, I mean not owned by expatriates, because many Europeans live and own stores, restaurants and the like, here.
- Come with enough U.S. dollars as it is legal tender. Credit/debit cards are very useful for when you run out of cash, because you will. Even locals complained of the island being very expensive.
- You can either rent a car or ensure that your resort has free shuttle buses to the tourist spots. The latter is best as the major resorts do. Public transportation is not easy to find as buses and bus stops are not labelled. Taxis can be called from your hotel, Camana Bay or any tourist spot if you have their number.
- If you’re expecting a vibrant and bustling city, this isn’t it. If you want a quiet and easy ambience and you’re into water sports, this is definitely your island!