Grand Cayman Island Nature Trails, the Quieter Side of Island Life

I’ll start with the harder of the two trails, the Mastic Trail, named for a particular kind of tree used for making ships’ masts. It’s off Frank Sound Road just south of the QE II Botanic Park but on the opposite side of the road. It’s probably 30 minutes drive from George Town and West End.

This is a true hiking trail so be sure you’re wearing proper walking shoes if you plan to go far. It isn’t necessary to hike the whole trail; you can get a good feel for how the island looked before humans re-modeled it in only a mile or so of walking. Unfortunately, it isn’t a circular route so you have to re-trace your steps if you just want to sample it.

If you’re doing the whole trail, hiking from Frank Sound Road in the south to Further Road in the north, you’ll see a swampy mangrove forest, a rocky area full of crevices from which trees and plants sprout like mushrooms, a dry tropical forested area that still has remnants of pioneer William Watler’s fruit orchards, and finally a sub-tropical meadow — the Savannah.

William Watler was the settler who built the original road over a hundred years ago to get his produce to market and, although it has now been replaced by Frank Sound Road, his achievement is still pretty impressive. It’s wilder country than you’d expect from such a small island and the underlying ironshore is as hard as… well, iron. Leveling it must have taken years.

The Mastic Trail wends its way through land owned by the National Trust and they provide guides to assist you in identifying what you’re seeing. Unless you’re an expert in semi-tropical flora and fauna, it’s probably worth going with a guide. Otherwise the only thing you’re likely to observe with certainty is that there are a lot of trees.

The Woodland Trail, on the other hand, is inside the Grand Cayman National Trust’s Botanical Park and that makes it less scary for setting out on your own. It also has the advantage of markers on the trees and pools (to tell you about what you’re seeing), rest stops along the way, and a level, groomed path so you’re ‘walking’ not hiking. Ponds along the way are inhabited by turtles but, despite the name of one of the ponds, Crocodile Hole, no crocodiles. The crocodiles, or Caymans, were wiped out centuries ago.

Halfway along the trail is the blue iguana breeding centre, where you can see iguanas of all size and ages from toddlers to teenagers. The adults are out in the Park, which may or may not be a comforting thought. They are scary-looking creatures but the good news is they are harmless. However, as with all wildlife, it isn’t a good idea to feed them.

In the Park was the only place we saw the Cayman Green Parrot, the national bird of the Cayman Islands. Unfortunately, like many living national symbols around the world, it’s been pushed to the margins of life in its own home.

Two other areas you should consider for walking are, the Nature Reserve at Malportas pond in Northside, near the northern end of the Mastic Trail, and Barkers National Park, at the tip of West End. Both have walking paths and both are pretty quiet most of the time, few visitors wander far from their resorts’ amenities.

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