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Hiking And Bird Watching On Grand Cayman

Jan 25, 2008
While most visitors to Grand Cayman spend much of their time enjoying the underwater sights of the Caribbean or relaxing on the beach, there are plenty of exciting activities on land for the active or adventurous traveler. Grand Cayman and its sister islands - Cayman Brac and Little Cayman - have long been committed to preserving their diverse environments and natural Caribbean beauty. One of the best ways to experience the ecological results of Grand Cayman's environmental programs is hiking through the island's interior to observe the vibrant wildlife flying overhead. In addition to being both the permanent home to numerous species and the preferred breeding ground for many more, the Cayman Islands also boast a number of protected bird sanctuaries. When you visit Grand Cayman, try to spend some time watching the sky and enjoy one of the island's simplest, but most rewarding pleasures.

One of the most exciting hikes in the Caribbean is Grand Cayman's Mastic Trail, a two-mile path through one of the region's last remaining dry subtropical forests. Besides offering tourists a glimpse at several plant and animal species unique to the Cayman Islands, this hike through the middle of Grand Cayman is also one of the island's most relaxing activities. Elsewhere on the island, visitors can find paths that wind through palm trees and mangroves or hike along the coastline and enjoy the endless Caribbean scenery. When coupling hiking with a little bird watching, you can enjoy one of Grand Cayman's favorite pastimes.

The trails of Grand Cayman can be enjoyed throughout the year for casual outdoor fun or as part of locally-guided nature and bird watching tours. During bird watching outings, you will have a chance to enjoy lush natural surroundings and ideal conditions while learning about some of the most fascinating winged creatures on the planet.

During the peak bird watching season, it is possible to see over 200 different species - some of them permanent residents and others just passing through the island.

If you choose hike through the forests of Grand Cayman's interior - including the popular Mastic Trail - you will probably have a chance to spot some of the following island landbird species:

* Bananaquit
* Caribbean Elaenia
* Loggerhead Kingbird
* Red-Legged Thrush
* Thick-Billed Vireo
* Vitelline Warbler
* Zenaida Dove

Though the summer months mark the tourism off-season for Grand Cayman, several winged visitors make their way to the island during this time each year. Among the several species that flock to the Cayman Islands as part of annual breeding rituals, here are just a few of the most interesting guests:

* Antillean Nighthawk
* Black-Whiskered Vireo
* Gray Kingbird
* White-Tailed Tropicbird

Additionally, more than 70 different species of migrating wetland birds have been spotted in the Cayman Islands - including everything from ducks and egrets to flamingos and spoonbills. However, researchers and birdwatchers alike pay a little extra attention to the wetland birds that breed on Grand Cayman and her sister islands. Some of the wetland species that fall into this special category include:

* Black-Necked Stilt
* Green Heron
* Pied-billed Grebe
* Tri-colored Heron
* West Indian Whistling Duck
* Willet
* Yellow-Crowned Night-Heron

For years, birdwatchers have also flocked to Grand Cayman and its bird sanctuaries for a glimpse of protected species in a natural habitat. The small island of Grand Cayman has seven distinct bird sanctuaries - including such popular sites as the QE II Botanic Park and the Majestic Reserve - each supporting unique winged species and an incredible variety of plant and animal life. If you make a daytrip to one of the sister islands, you will have several opportunities to observe some truly remarkable species in their protected environments. For instance, the endangered Brac Parrot can be found on Cayman Brac's extraordinary 180-acre parrot reserve, while Little Cayman's Booby Pond is home to the largest colony of Red-Footed Boobies in the Western Hemisphere.

Though Grand Cayman is known for its gorgeous beaches and incredible diving opportunities, there is much more to see than meets the eye. By setting out on foot through Grand Cayman's interior or visiting one of the island's bird sanctuaries, you will be able to experience an exciting, but too often overlooked side of this special Caribbean destination.
About the Author
This article was written by Justin Burch. Justin writes select pieces about vacationing in the Caribbean and Grand Cayman Islands for the Marriott Resorts.
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