Cayman Islands – a Hell of a Place

Grand Cayman Caribbean Travel Info Network
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CAYMAN ISLANDS. You might know the Cayman Islands from a famous movie line, like The Firm – starring Gene Hackman and Tom Cruise. Yes, this is probably THE off-shore banking haven outside the USA. Maybe the fact that they have more registered businesses than people (population is around 60k) has something to do with so many banks – one on nearly every street corner – here. In fact, it’s all linked – the government’s primary source of income is indirect taxation: there is no income tax, capital gains tax or corporation tax. Henceforth, based on income, Caymanians enjoy the highest standard of living in the Caribbean and every second person you meet is a banker or finance expert of some sort.

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Pic of Grand Cayman from Royalcaribbean.com

Most people find themselves in George Town – on the biggest island – when they visit Grand Cayman. The other ones are called Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, but very few people live there. Maybe you dream of living on a tropical island for a while?

So what is it like to live in Grand Cayman?, you ask. Some locals complain that there’s little to do, but we beg to differ. First off, this island was frequented by many pirates, including the famous Captain Blackbeard. If you don’t believe us, you can go scuba diving in the swimming pool-clear water of the ocean and visit many ship wrecks from this bygone era, amongst others. You can see what the ships looked like in those days and maybe even endeavor to find treasure down there, although that’ll be your own little fantasy trip, nothing we suggested… While you’re at it, you may see amazing sea turtles and stingrays in these deeps. In fact, there are some specific locations on the island where you can swim with stingrays.

 Shipwreck in Grand Cayman waters from Caribbean360.com

This is not all. The beach is 7 miles long in Grand Cayman – or so the name of the beach says, but we have heard its longer! White, sandy and undulating into clear azure waters, which we already swooned enough about above. Whatever you want to do on this beach can be done – watersports, swimming, splish-splashing, drifting in the water with a cocktail in your hand, rolling in the sand like a kid, sunbathing with your toes in the water – you get it. Considering the big island is 22 miles long and 4 to 8 miles wide, all at pretty much sea level, makes us think you can run around the island and that would mean you completed (nearly) a marathon. If you’re into that kind of thing or about to complain that there’s nothing to do on the island, that is.

Next, you can go to Hell. No, not being rude. There really is a place called Hell. It’s a sight to see – black volcanic, sharp rocks are the only landscape here. Quite different to the rest of the environment. What’s more, there is a little post office right in Hell where you can buy a “postcard from Hell” to send to loved ones to alarm them unnecessarily and cause your grandfather to preach about the evils of travel to foreign countries… But that’s thát story.

Of course, there are great restaurants and shopping on the island, even Jimmy Buffet’s Margaritaville franchise boasts a prominent spot if you want to get your or any Parrot Head doused in some rum.

Not only does this place have a Hell, it also has crocodiles. Ever heard of crocodiles found naturally in the Caribbean? Well, hear again. That is where the island gets its name from – Caimans are a specific kind from here. Wait, they have indigenous reptiles – curly tailed lizard iguanas – but also crocs and sea turtles on and around the island!? Cowabunga!

As is known, hurricane season comes every year to the Caribbean. Last year’s monster season didn’t affect the Caymans much – for a change! Unfortunately these islands have the highest record of being hit by hurricanes of all Caribbean islands. In 2004, hurricane Ivan nearly tore the main island into two with severe flooding. Amazingly the locals rebuilt it within about two years. What a nation!

Talk about nation, did you know that Jamaica and Grand Cayman were once considered one? Cayman and Jamaica were governed as a single British colony until 1962, when the Cayman islands became designated a British overseas territory, one of 14 territories under the sovereignty of the UK but not part of the UK, while Jamaica became independent.

As you can gather, this is a Hell of a place. It’s only 400 miles south of Miami, or apparently known as “South Miami” by expats, so you can swim there, ha! Pack your bags and get there before someone else occupies your perfect spot.


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Island of Your Dreams: St. Kitts

Saint Kitts Caribbean Island Travel Network
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Photo taken on the way to Cockleshell Beach, St. Kitts, at the Turtle Bay area with a view of Nevis in the background. 

ST. KITTS.  Ever thought what would comprise a true island of your dreams? For argument’s sake let’s say it is St. Kitts, because it should be the island of your dreams.

First off, there are more than enough beaches, coconut cocktails, hammocks and palm trees to fill in the picture of your dream island. But there is so much more to this piece of paradise.

It’s an island that has set aside more than a quarter of its land as a National Park, with growing rainforests rather than shrinking ones.

What’s more, it’s home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site Brimstone Hill Fortress, a centuries-old saman tree and a sleeping volcano that you can climb to the edge of and/or then down to its steaming crater.

Don’t forget to go snorkeling or diving over its reefs covered by beds of coral, flourishing with fish of many type and color.

Oh, and doing watersports along it’s golden beaches or just lounging in the sun are obligatory, of course.

Kittitian History
Centuries ago, the Carib Indians who inhabited the beautiful island of St. Kitts named their home Liamuiga, which means “fertile land” and called Nevis, the neighboring island, Oualie, or “land of beautiful waters.”

Columbus came to these islands in 1493 but never landed. There is speculation that is was he who named the islands St. Christopher (nickname St. Kitts) and Nevis (because the cloud-capped dormant volcano reminded him of snow and the Spanish word for snow is “nieve”).

The island was originally inhabited by Carib Indians, who were wiped out by French and British settlers at, what is now called, Bloody Point. Once the English and French had St. Kitts to themselves, they established sugar and tobacco plantations, fought each other for control of the island and brought in African people to works as slaves. And so the seeds of St. Kitts’ rich culture were sewn, influenced by people from Africa, Europe and the Caribbean itself.

About St. Kitts and Nevis
Capital City: Basseterre – St. Kitts; Charlestown – Nevis.
Language: English, but filled with regional idioms.
Size: St. Kitts: 69 square miles, Nevis: 36 square miles.
Population: +- 50 000 with about 80% in St. Kitts.
Topography: Volcanic, with mountainous interior regions and gentle, rolling coastal plains. Highest points are mount Liamuiga at 3792 feet in St. Kitts and Nevis Peak at 3232 feet.
Climate: Pretty much perfect year-round.
Currency: Eastern Caribbean (EC) dollar. US dollars are accepted just about everywhere on the islands while other currencies van be changed for EC dollars at any bank.
Business hours: Banks are open Monday to Thursday from 8am to 2pm and on Fridays they are open until 4pm. Other business places are normally open from Monday to Friday from 8am to 4pm and 8am to 1pm on Saturdays.
Dress: Mostly casual but clothing that is too revealing isn’t appropriate in their towns and villages. Going topless on the beaches – a no-no.
Getting around: Rental cars are readily available as well as taxis.
Water: safe to drink.

Fun fact: The daughter of Canadian-Portuguese singer, Nelly Furtado, was born in Nevis and named after the island.

Some Personal St. Kitts Experiences
This is one of the neatest islands we have seen in the Caribbean or actually anywhere in the world. I mean, when you drive around the island you see grass neatly cut all along its roads – which takes a lot of sweat and effort to pull off. Kudos to the Kittitian municipality!  And driving around the island takes about 3 hours if you stop for coffee, take a stroll up to the fort and museum at Brimstone Hill and at a few beaches for some photo-ops and a swim.

You can be ‘stylin’ the drive by renting a SuperBuggy from Leroy, like we did. Just make sure you have a driver’s license and get a permit on the island, plus someone who can drive stick gears. These buggies are something else with some nice torque and good looks. We got a lot of comments and waves driving around in these.

Or you can book a fun tour to Reggae Beach through Liz Perreira Tours. She is very friendly and meets you at the pier to take you to an open-air taxi that stops at some great viewpoints for photo’s and vendor’s goods. Lots of fun to be had at Reggae Beach where there is a restaurant, bar, watersports like SUP, kiteboarding, fly boarding, jet skiing, kayaking. And, of course, you don’t have to rent the ocean for a lovely swim in clear, cool water.

All in all, fun and kindhearted people live here and the streets are clean and neat. St. Kitts & Nevis is a Caribbean destination like no other. No wonder this island is called the “Jewel of the Caribbean”.

For Super Buggy rentals or tours: PereiraTours.com lizpereiratours@yahoo.com

Discover Pig Beach, BAHAMAS – Where Pigs Rule (and Swim)

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You’re stuck in your office, surfing the web for just about any getaway to sunny shores and you come across this story about pigs living it up on their own island in the Bahamas. WTF!? – as in Modern Family’s Phil’s acronym – Why The Face? Well, stop making a face and start reading this. For if pigs can swim in the Bahamas, so can you!

Picture from Instagram.com/theswimmingpigs

You can even visit and swim with them, these porkers. There are about 20 pigs and piglets on Pig Island, also known as Major Cay, Big Major Cay or just Pig Beach. The island is uninhabited and located in an area that comprises more than 300 islands in the Bahamas, called Exuma. They are not the only animals there, there are some goats and stray cats to be seen too.

How did they get there and how do they survive, you ask? For one thing, in order for any living being to survive, they need water. Lucky for these porkies, there are three fresh water springs on the island. What about food then? Currently they are fed by locals and tourists – a big attraction in the Bahamas.

But how these hogs got to the island is somewhat of an urban legend. There are various theories and speculations, one being that the boars were brought to the island as part of a business venture to create a tourist attraction. Another, and the most “famous” one, is that sailors brought some sows to the island with the intention to eat them at a later stage. But they never returned. Then there is the story that the swine survived a shipwreck and swam to the island to save themselves and survived on food dumped from passing ships. A last theory is that the pigs escaped from a nearby islet – and decided to rule their own island, named after themselves.

If you want to stay near Big Major Cay where the hogs are cohabitants, according to Angie Away, “your best option is itty-bitty Staniel Cay, which offers a sizable marina, several small hotels (EMBRACE Resort is my favorite) and an airstrip. From there, you can rent a small boat or hire a local guide to whisk you over to Pig Beach. From Staniel Cay Yacht Club, it’s only about 10 minutes to the pigs.”

If you do decide to visit Pig Beach, be respectful, remember these are wild-ish animals you’ll encounter and that its their island, for goodness sake! Reminds me of Animal Farm – “where all animals are equal, some are just more equal than others…”

Pigs are very clever and cute but their bite can be very serious – when you try to take selfies they might think your camera is food, or even your face! (to quote an observation by Angie Away).

So, take care and be safe on Pig Beach – it will certainly be a very different getaway story to tell when you get back home.

Continue reading “Discover Pig Beach, BAHAMAS – Where Pigs Rule (and Swim)”

Elon Musk Willing to Power Puerto Rico

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By Lizpiano

Picture of Elon Musk by Getty Images.

That is, if given the green light to go ahead. Elon Musk has helped many smaller islands, like Ta’u Island in Samoa, with his solar power devices and tweeted this yesterday:

“The Tesla team has done this for many smaller islands around the world, but there is no scalability limit, so it can be done for Puerto Rico too. Such a decision would be in the hands of the PR govt, PUC, any commercial stakeholders and, most importantly, the people of PR.”
@elonmusk

Above is a video about the SolarCity created with Tesla’s Microgrid Solar Power in Samoa.

In response to this, Puerto Rico Governor Ricky Rossello showed interest, tweeting “Let’s talk” to Musk, saying “PR could be that flagship project.”

Musk has already done his part for Puerto Rico. Hurricane Maria left the island’s power grid in tatters, so Tesla reportedly sent hundreds of Powerwalls — battery systems designed to store energy — along with employees to install them in an effort to restore power.

Powerwall batteries can be paired with solar panels to help restore the grid. According to Fortune.com “the Powerwall, which was first introduced in April 2015, is a battery designed for homes that store the energy generated by solar panels.”

Musk also donated $250,000 of his own money to the relief effort.

In the meantime, President Donald Trump said on Fox News in an interview with Geraldo Rivera, “the island’s debt will have to be wiped out.” Puerto Rico owes over $70 billion to creditors while the total storm cost is between $45 and 90 billion dollars.

Continue reading “Elon Musk Willing to Power Puerto Rico”

Remembering Virgin Gorda, BVI, post-Irma and Maria

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VIRGIN GORDA, BVI. There was a saying on the island of Virgin Gorda that you should leave the key in the ignition of your car as someone might need it. Sadly, the British Virgin Islands, BVI, and the wonderful people who would create such a saying suffered a double blow with hurricanes Irma and Maria this year.

I’ve visited the island of Virgin Gorda, the smaller of the two most famous BVI islands. Tortola is the capital of the BVI and the biggest one.

The former beauty of Virgin Gorda lay not only in its spectacular scenery, but also in its friendly, peace-loving people and, consequently, also how safe it was to stay there. There weren’t any lock and keys on the doors of the house we stayed in – island people asked us: “why should there be?”

Photo of the Baths in Virgin Gorda
Virgin Gorda Baths (image from weddbook.com)

There were no traffic lights in Virgin Gorda, just some speed bumps. These included, it would still take you about 45 minutes to drive from one end of the island to the other. The resorts and beaches were spectacular, especially the signature  swimming pools formed naturally in rocks, called the Baths, and its nature reserve.

You may note this blog speaks of Virgin Gorda in the past – that is because many of its houses, businesses and resort hotels are no more.

Virgin Gorda after effects from Hurricane Irma and Maria
Virgin Gorda after Hurricanes Irma and Maria (image from Caribbean Buzz Helicopters)

But our good memories of this island are not gone – crystal blue oceans, pristine beaches, seafood dining on the ocean, yachting and diving, meeting some celebrities in a night club (which often does happen here), cute donkeys that rove the island and even a personal near-death experience involving a ‘Death Tree’ on a beach.

Now, after hurricanes Irma and Maria, it was BVI resident and Virgin Group owner, Richard Branson, who tweeted that we should act now and help restore it to its former glory:

@richardbranson: “As Mother Nature is so clearly telling us, we need more resilient, safer community planning. The time to act is now.

Fischers Cove Beach Hotel in Virgin Gorda’s Facebook post on September 25 reads: “Fischers Cove received substantial damage from Hurricanes Irma and Maria but all of our staff members survived the storms. We have limited rooms available and are on limited generator power. Our Terrace restaurant is open from 11-5:30pm with a daily special as well as our famous pizzas and wings. Sorry no phone service yet! We thank everyone for your kind thoughts and blessings.Fischers Cove Beach Hotel Continue reading “Remembering Virgin Gorda, BVI, post-Irma and Maria”

Hurricane Maria: Power Outage in All of Puerto Rico

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By Lizpiano

From Instagram @whatereverpuertorico

It is with sadness and awe that one watches The Weather Channel today after hurricane Maria struck the Virgin Islands and also Puerto Rico.

According to the mayor of San Juan, PR, Maria’s power surge on the island will take 4 to 6 months to repair as electricity outages are recorded on the whole island. Yes, no electricity in Puerto Rico except for those who had their own generators.

Although the worst of the hurricane has passed the island, the storm is not over yet. Storm surges are still dangerous and record flooding of the river Rio de la Plata, south-west of San Juan, is a big problem for people in the region. FEMA rescue teams are being deployed to the island today.

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