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Grand Cayman 2023

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Day 5:  For the love of the animals

Well hello there darkness heat! It's 5am and I'm already up. I got a text from my work asking is it possible to come in and work today. Someone had called off. Ummmm...I really don't think that's possible nor would I want to. It may be hot and humid here at 5am in the morning, but I'll take that any day over work. Just saying...

As it approached 6am, I headed outside and could tell already...this was going to be the most beautiful sunrise yet! 

I headed out to the dock and the sky put on a spectacular show for me this morning.

Looking to the opposite way of the sunrise there are aways pretty clouds bouncing off the light of the sun coming up. When I seen this, I knew it was going to be good!

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It was just so beautiful. Like something you would see in a pastel painting. 

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And then she showed her beautiful face...

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It's just so amazing how quickly once you see it starting to come up that it moves quickly and the colors change just as quick. 

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I did notice that the waves seemed a lot higher than they normally do in the mornings. The dock was all wet and there were tons of snails washed up on it. You really had to watch your step walking back. Ok, time to head back to the condo and see who's up and brag about what they had all missed.

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The hubby was up at 6:30am coffee in hand and we sat on the patio enjoying...I don't know, the heat? I was really hungry and decided I just couldn't wait for Sakari to get up to eat. I headed for the cereal box and that would be breakfast today. 

Before I had left home, I made sure to print out the cruise ship schedule so that we could potentially avoid that area on those days. Today was a day that there would be a ship in port, Carnival Vista, with 3,600 people aboard. So...we had decided to avoid that area and stay on our side of the island. 

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I had mentioned to Sakari about the Parrot Sanctuary before we had left home, but the situation might have changed due to the loss of her bird right before vacation. However, she was super excited and really wanted to go...so going we are! It was also predicted to be cloudy today...at least until 3pm ish....so that would be good for a day of walking around instead a beach day.

After everyone had ate and I had packed for the day (yep, we have ice and cold drinks again thanks to the rapid response of the condo manager after we told them) we were out the door and ready to...clean the windshield as we pulled out. 

The Cayman Parrot Sanctuary is located on the East End, so it wasn't very far from us.

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The cost for the 3 of us to get in would be $52.50 US.

The first bird we came to was Sakari's favorite bird, an African Gray. She has always wanted one and after the death of Engus, she has been considering getting one. They are known to be the most talkative and quite the personality. It immediately came over to us and put it's head down to be petted. It was so sweet even though the sign said "I will talk and I will bite". Hubby took his chances. 

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We kept hearing a VERY loud noise from another bird. He was really wanting attention so we headed over that way to be greeted by him. He said "Hi Coco"...which was his name. He liked to say "hi" and dance and squawk and man was he noisy. We used to have a Cockatoo and he was such a talker and dancer but he was extremely loud if I ever left his sight. He was very possessive of me and started to attack other people in the house when they came near me. We ended up having to get rid of him because of it. 

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Moving on we would see various birds along the way: Amazon's, Macaw, Cayman Parrots, Parakeets, Ringnecks...you name it, they had it. 

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Then we came across the Cockatiel cage. We were allowed to go in this one and Sakari was so excited but yet you could see the sadness in her face. Engus was a Cockatiel. They immediately started flying to her. I thought she was going to cry but she held it together. I felt so bad for her.

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We were also told that we could go in the Conure cage and off we went to that. We were warned they are a little feisty and feisty they were. They all immediately came to us and flew to our heads, shoulders, hands and any camera's or phone's we had. They were really curious (as you will see in the video at the end). 

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We headed out and on to see more birds and animals. 

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They had different areas that catered toward smaller children. There were a few playgrounds. 

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There was a pond with a small waterfall and tiny fish, but there was also a big turtle that claimed this as home. 

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They offered to let us in an area with the "Cayman Rabbit", which is like an extremely large mouse if you ask me. But the worker called him and out he came. We were given broccoli to feed him. His fur felt weird and they said he is related to the porcupine family. He was so adorable and friendly. You can tell all the animals here are used to being around people. 

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They had some aquariums set up with different animals in them. 

Hermit crabs

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Then this....SCORPIONS!!! Yikes! I hope I never run across one of these.

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Then they ask Sakari if she wanted to hold a snake. OF COURSE SHE DOES! They had a Black Cayman Racer. She loves snakes and no, I haven't permitted one in the house yet.  So, she just catches garter snakes and gives them to her friends instead. 

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We had a wonderful time there and it put a smile on Sakari's face and hopefully helped mend her heart a little bit. There were so many beautiful birds and it gave her a lot to think about when she returns home. It would also start the beginning of her searching online every day that we were here (and after we returned) for a new bird. She knew she wanted a parrot...now, which one.

Here's a video of our day there. 

So what to do now? Well, since we were going to make this a day on this side of town exploring I let them know we were going to a botanical park to walk around. They were ok with that and off we went...but first gotta wash that windshield right?

The Queen Elizabeth II Botanical Gardens was a short drive from the Parrot Sanctuary but you circle around and head toward the North End. 

This 65 acre park opened in 1994 with a memorable ceremony by Monarch, Her Royal Highness, Elizabeth II, on her second visit to the Cayman Islands as Head of State. Upon opening, only the Woodland Trail was completed at the time. It has expanded a lot since then with all the different areas. If you didn't know already, the Cayman Islands are British overseas territories. 

The Gardens consist of 7 different areas to explore: the Floral Garden, Orchid Boardwalk, Xerophytic Garden, Heritage Garden, Woodland Trail, and the Children’s Garden and a Visitors Center. There is also a Blue Iguana Conservation. We had only seen one or two iguana's since being here but they weren't blue at all. I couldn't wait to see an iguana that was really BLUE!

 

As we pulled in, even the entrance was very nicely landscaped so I knew we were in for a treat. 

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After parking we decided it was time for a little lunch. We were going to need a little something in our bellies before starting this long journey.

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As you arrive at the Visitor Center, with extra cold a/c inside, you are greeted with a gift shop area. We paid $20/pp US to get in and they handed us a map of the park and gave us directions on which way to go. We knew we were in for a real work out today because this place was pretty big and I wasn't about to miss any of it. 

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We headed out the doors and into a beautiful area with lush greenery and ponds.

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We headed into the first area: The Orchid Park. It is home of 10 of the 28 orchids on the Cayman Islands and 4 of them are not found anywhere else on earth. They also had the Cayman's national flower: the Wild Banana Orchid. There wasn't a lot in bloom and I guess I pictured it to be a little different. They had them attached and growing from the trees in the area. There was a wooden bridge-like pathway that you walked on to get around, which was really neat and pretty. 

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But to our surprise, one of the most interesting things we found in this area was something up in the tree...and it was amazing to see!

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YES! Wild Cayman Parrots up in the tree. They were so pretty and neat to watch. 

Then we moved on to the next area, which would be the Children's Garden Development. 

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It had so many neat areas for children to play in and some really neat sculptures as well. I had read that they had a sculpture park (Davinoff's concrete sculpture park) on that end of town, but then had read that it had been moved or donated to the gardens. 

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This area had a pond with lilies, bridges and even a small water park for the kids. It had water spouts and a bucket that would fill up with water and dump every so often.

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There was a large climbing wooden play area (and I can't believe I didn't even take a picture of it) but we hung out underneath it because Sakari wanted to swing.

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This is called the Rotary Schoolhouse and was opened in 2019 by Prince Charles of Whales during his visit to the Cayman Islands. It will serve to purpose nature education and botanical science.

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Out back of the schoolhouse they had different areas that looked like a place where they maybe plant flowers to grow. We found something other than flowers back there. I believe we found our first "blue" iguana...only he wasn't very blue like I had imagined.

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There was also a neat area with little round huts (3 of them) made of large branches. Really cool area.

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It was time to move onto the next area and as we headed out, we came across....a REAL BLUE IGUANA! It was large and so beautiful!

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We headed over to the Heritage Garden. There was several small houses that were from the 20th century (restored after being brought to the park) that was owned by an East End settler, Rankine. It is surrounded by fruit trees, other trees that was used to make thatch rope to sell and trade and a medicinal garden showing various plants used to homeopathically treat illnesses and injuries. It was their very own backyard drugstore. There were plants for a chest cold, toothache, colic, colds and fevers. 

It had a traditional sand garden that traces back to the European cottage gardens. Some are kept completely free of grass to help eliminate insects and provide a place for children to play. The yards were swept with a rosemary broom every Saturday so the garden would look its best for Sunday. The white beach sand was often replaced at Christmas time although a little extra would be added during the year.

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There was an outhouse out back

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There was a separate house out back as well and it was the kitchen. Most Caymanian homes had an outside kitchen set apart from the main house in order to reduce heat and the risk of fire. The food was prepared here, dishes washed and salted meats was also kept here.

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Next up was the Xerophytic Garden that is designed with plants that prefers dry climates and are drought tolerant. It was opened in 2013.

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We headed to the COLOUR GARDEN next

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Here was a map of the area. I was getting excited because it looked like it was going to be beautiful and loaded with colorful flowers.

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The color explosion immediately hit us in the face and walking the trails in this garden was AMAZING! THIS is what I think of when I hear the word "botanical". Everything was so lush and green.

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We came across a very large tree and it was so cool because it not only went up in the air but also sideways.

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Then we started hearing a lot of noise...squawking noises above our heads. It was a bunch of Cayman birds flying around again. They were just everywhere (wait until you hear them in the video).

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With all of these flowers, there was tons of butterflies everywhere as well.

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I guess in the colorful garden there are colorful iguana's to match. Pretty cool looking.

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The trail led us to a large body of brown water and a trail. We were entering the Woodland Trail area. It was the first exhibit here in 1994 when the park opened. This lake is Kary's Pond and provides a great place for birdwatchers to sit and take it all in. The trail goes through swampy areas, dry areas and lakes. It is around a 1.5 mile loop trail and will loop around and take you to the Blue Iguana habitat.

 

For those that can't do the walk, insert the previously me emoji here, you can still get to the habitat without doing the mile walk. But, we are up for the challenge today and since walking actually improves my mobility and makes my leg feel better. I walk around 5-6 miles every day at work so this little 1+ mile walk is gonna be great! My family didn't seem as enthused. 

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The walk was pleasant despite the humidity and heat but we eventually made it to an area that had a wall around it and was blue. This was the Blue Iguana Habitat. I couldn't wait to see it!

There were a bunch of blue walls dividing the different iguana pens and each had an iguana in it with their name on the wall. There were SO many! I couldn't believe how big this place was. They had so many BLUE IGUANA'S!  They were so pretty. It reminded me of the blue lizards in Aruba. So cool. 

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They had cages for the smaller iguana's stating that they were kept in there until they grew bigger. The pens would keep them safe from predators and increase their survivability. 

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It was time to head back to the Visitors area.

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We had a great time and the grounds were beautiful. I took SO MANY pictures but of course can't share them all. I hope you liked the ones that I did share. 

Outside of the Visitors Center there was a water fountain so we stopped for a quick picture.

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As we pulled out, we seen this sign...oops, a little late for that but at least we didn't hear a "thump thump" when I pulled out. Only a swish swish of my windshield wipers. At least today I didn't take any wrong turns or circle any roundabouts several times. Well wait, we didn't go into town so maybe that's why. 

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Here's a video of our day...enjoy!

So one thing I wanted to bring up is the transportation on the island. Everyone always ask if they should rent a car when coming to the island. Or is using a taxi or the bus a better option. I guess if you are staying near the popular Seven Mile beach area you don't necessarily need a car and can use the bus or taxi's. However, if you are anything like me, I like to explore the whole island. That's what I'm here for. I need a car any place we go. I like the flexibility and I know that I can come and go at any time without waiting. Of course we always stay in the remote areas instead of the tourist areas so a car is a must for someone like us. 

So back to the buses... when I picture a public bus, this is what I picture:

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I know the buses in Aruba are big like that as well. Well, I didn't see anything like this here and kept looking. I would see bus stops here and there but they seemed a little far apart. It was about mid-week that I noticed what their actual buses look like:

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They were small mini-van type of vehicles. You would only see them every so often when out. Now me staying on the North end of the island, I of course had to have a car to get around. But if I was actually going to use the bus I'm thinking 1) Walking in the heat to the bus stop would be terrible, 2) standing in the heat wondering when the bus was actually going to come, but it does state they run every 15 minutes  3) with these small "busses" what happens if the bus is already full and now you have to wait on another to come and hope there is room and 4) the price to get everywhere I wanted....it just wouldn't be a good option. 

Here are the prices to get around:

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Here are the bus routes:

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Now if you are staying near Seven Mile and traveling to...say, Rum Point: For my family of 3 it would cost us $30 and then of course round trip would be $60. If I wanted to come back to see Queen Elizabeth Gardens or go to the Parrot Sanctuary...triple that amount if not done during the same trip. It just doesn't make much sense for me. But, you be the judge. 

We decided to head back to the condo for the rest of the day. But the day was not over and I needed some water. It was so hot out. I decided I wanted to explore the reef at our place a little more. 

When we got back, the water was still a little stirred up and the waves were a lot bigger. However, I was on a mission to accomplish this! 

I talked the hubby into bringing the kayak out and the waves were crashing into it. He was complaining and saying it really wasn't a good idea.

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Well, he was probably right because I couldn't see anything down there that's how stirred up it was today.

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We've never seen waves breaking like this since we've been here. 

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Well, this wasn't going to work out so we decided to head to the hotter than bath water pool instead. 

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Thank goodness for having these picnic tables in the shade because we made a lot of use out of them during our stay. 

We went in and grabbed the cards and some snacks. Some "Go Fish" tournaments were about to happen...game on!

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Steve was hanging out with us on his shell like always.

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So Sakari had been asking to do family pictures since before we came to the island. This time we were prepared. Kendra had brought me about 10 dresses over to pick from and take with me. Sakari had bought a dress for the occasion as well. She had been asking to do these pictures since night one. Well, the days were flying by fast and we decided tonight was going to be the night. 

We all headed in to shower and get ready. When we came out, it was a little cloudy, had been sprinkling and the weather was not the best. It looked like it was going to rain and it was really really windy out. But, we were going to give it our best shot. The sun was setting so I was hoping for some awesome sunset pictures as well. It wasn't as colorful as I had hoped, but it would have to do. 

The hubby took most of the pictures for us and only included himself in a few. 

The steps that led down to our small beach in front of the condo made a good "stand" for his phone he was using for pictures. I tell ya, the iphones today are just as good, if not better, for pictures than the camera I carry. The only issue I have with using the phone is that I have to convert every picture taken with it from HEIC to JPEG. It's such a bother but I have been using my phone a lot for pictures on vacation the last few times.

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One of my favorites of me and Sakari up against the retaining wall.

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Sakari wanted to go out in the water and take some pictures of herself. Since I had borrowed Kendra's dress, I wasn't about to get it all wet with salt water. She would have a fit considering she paid about 3x the amount I would ever pay for a dress. But Sakari had bought her dress herself just for this occasiongetting it wet on the beach.

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We walked over to the next property and they had a wall that wasn't as tall as ours. I thought it would be nice to have one sitting on the wall but all of a sudden I jumped because I seen this sitting there...

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We headed up to the condo to see if there was any picture opportunities up there. We did have a very large tree that was sideways that you could sit on.

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We encouraged daddy to get some more pictures done and he insisted he didn't need any. 

However, he did do one last pose for us...not exactly what I had pictured.

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It was thundering this entire time and some were really loud. I was hoping the pictures would turn out good in this kind of weather and I was really pleased with most of them.

We ran out of pose ideas and we were hungry so headed back to the condo to have taco's for dinner.  Then headed to bed. It was a long work out day for us. We were T-I-R-E-D!

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