Self-guided Grand Cayman jaunt offered some much-needed magic, starting with bioluminescent marine life


The six-unit Black Urchin complex.Handout

There was nothing magical about my first night on Grand Cayman, and not just because it was my first taste of a tropical vacation in two years.

For this aquatic baby, an evening paddling with Cayman Kayaks to one of the island’s natural wonders, a bay filled with bioluminescent marine life, touched on everything I had been missing lately. There was a problem: a few days before my arrival, Tom Watling, our guide, sent an e-mail to say that the bioluminescence was not turning on as much as usual. Did we want to make it a stargazing tour, with the chance to catch some underwater light action, or cancel?

After two years of pandemic pivots and learning to adjust expectations — not to mention the freezer I was escaping home from — the stars, sea air and a sultry evening on the water were an easy call. So we paddled out into a starry, moonless night, hoping for underwater lights but satisfied anyway.

As we approached the bay, Tom slammed his paddle against the floor of the bay, triggering bright blue shocks beneath the surface. “Disco shrimp,” he said, referring to dot-sized crustaceans that emit light during a mating ritual. “It makes me feel like Triton.”

Camana Bay Farmers and Artisans Market.Don Riddle/Handout

We flapped our oars, panting and laughing as we unleashed our own sparks. Other types of bioluminescence kicked in as we paddled further, stirring up milky streaks of what seemed to be pixie dust in our wake. When we splashed the surface of the water with our hands, white lights flew from our fingertips.

Although it sounds supernatural, bioluminescence requires the perfect balance of temperature, salt water, and plant life to thrive, and we were lucky. As my week in Grand Cayman unfolded, I was reminded that the same blend was working wonders on me too.

Just 35 kilometers long, Grand Cayman is an easy choice for chasing the sun and avoiding the crowds. With a main road that connects the island from north to south, its easy navigability makes Grand Cayman an attractive destination to get off the beaten track and access the gems of the capital, George Town: an exceptional culinary scene and Seven Mile Beach, a stretch of shoreline considered one of the most spectacular in the Caribbean.

I spent a few nights at Palm Heights, a new hotel on Seven Mile Beach with a sexy, earthy retro vibe that made me feel like I was staying in a Sade album, exploring by day and returning by night. to gorge myself on local seafood. and produce at nearby gourmet venues such as the Brasserie and Cayman Cabana.

The coconut farm of the Brasserie.Handout

Then I reached the east end of the island and its newest self-service luxury property, the six-unit Black Urchin resort. On a sunrise bike ride with ECO Rides Cayman, I cycled past colorful cottages with names like “A Wave from it All” and locals who waved good morning at me, riding down from my bike to spot shipwrecks off the coast and limestone-carved vents along the coast and to munch on June plums and wild mint.

In an alternate universe, my trip could have coincided with Cayman Cookout, a celebrity food festival founded by chef Eric Ripert, which took place every January before the pandemic (a 2023 event is already planned), long on my to-do list. things to do. But COVID continues to affect the way we travel – and for me on Grand Cayman, that meant getting out and finding new ways to enjoy the sea, sun and rich flora. It was magical all the same.

IF YOU ARE GOING TO

One-bedroom suites in Palm Heights start at US$630 a night and include a free daily cocktail and pizza hour.Handout

Westjet offers direct twice-weekly service to Owen Roberts International Airport in George Town from Toronto (Air Canada has suspended service to Grand Cayman until the end of April).

One-bedroom suites in Palm Heights start at US$630 a night and include a free daily cocktail and pizza hour. At Black Urchin, a four-bedroom condo that sleeps 12 starts from US$1,719 a night. Grocery storage, private chef service and in-suite or beach spa treatments available.

Cayman Kayak bioluminescent tour dates are scheduled according to the lunar calendar; 60 Cayman Islands dollars ($91). ECO Rides Cayman charges $80 for a sunrise bike tour, which includes bike and helmet rental, water, and a snack.

For up-to-date information on COVID in Cayman, visit exploregov.ky/coronavirus.

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