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May 20, 2024

Nature's Paradise: a Cayman Brac Travelogue, Part V

By Kellie Gillespie

"Due to new legislation no one is allowed to feed sharks in Cayman Waters. Believe it or not, the sharks are still there, always were and always will be - there are also ways to dive with sharks without feeding them."

By Wednesday, Lori's blisters have started to look less red and itchy and she has returned the kitchen implements that she has been using to scratch hard-to-reach places. She feels up to doing the cave exploration trip that Joe and I did yesterday, so I agree to accompany her and Dave while Joe elects to stay at the house and be a slug. He promises to have lunch ready when we return. We load the car with sunscreen, hats, water, snorkel gear and cameras, and wear our suits under our clothes. Dave and Lori want to try out a new snorkel place on our way home from the caves.

I have agreed to go caving again on one condition: I will not take one step inside any cave on this island. I am happy to show them the way, point out various hazards like rickety stairs and low ceilings, but I will not, under any circumstances, actually enter a cave. "In fact," I say, upon more reflection, "I don't even want to be near the entrance of the cave. Maybe I should wait in the car. With the windows rolled up."

Lori tells me I'm being silly. It's way too hot to roll the windows up, and I reluctantly agree to at least hover around while they explore. When we reach the first cave, Rebecca's cave, I make Dave enter first, to scout for bats. He walks around, peering into corners and other dark spaces. When he decides the premises are bat-free, I can get as far as the entrance before memories of that bat flying at me take over, and I just can't do it. I just can't go into a cave again. I walk back to the car with David's chicken cackles following me. I may be a chicken, but at least I'm in a bat-free zone, deemed safe for all of our feathered friends.

The rest of the caving expedition follows the same pattern. Chicken Kellie, as I am now called, just stands outside the caves, gazing at the beautiful foliage and the remarkable rocks that are scattered about, while Dave and Lori loudly exclaim over each cave feature while making obnoxious clucking noises for my benefit. I cannot be swayed to change my mind, however, and I eventually leave them altogether when we reach the last cave, the Great Cave. Or as I call it, "The Cave To Be Feared Above All Others." This cave is where that bat actually flew RIGHT AT ME yesterday and the memory is too traumatic for me to be anywhere near the horrible place. I tell them I will meet them on the nearby beach by the blowhole.

When they join me, sooner than I expected, Lori reports that they couldn't even enter the Great Cave. Bats were flying everywhere, she said. "All we could do was sit at the entrance and watch them swoop around in there," she tells me. "It was awesome." This news makes me shudder. Ugh. We head over to the blowhole and I wrap my arms around myself protectively and look up in the sky. You never know when one of those killer bats is going to attack.

After our beach walk, during which I manage to collect even more rocks and shells, we head to the snorkeling area Dave and Lori had discovered on one of their previous island exploration jaunts. As we drive down the road, we pass one of the "Caution: Iguana Crossing" road signs we have seen about two hundred times before, only this time Lori screams and makes David turn around.

"What is it?" I ask, squinting out the window and imagining a bat militia about to attack.

"Dave, go back," she says. "I think I saw an iguana by the side of the road."

Dave snorts. "No way," he says. "Those signs are just for the tourists."

"Yeah," I agree. "You know, so people will stop and look for them and then the locals can point and laugh."

Dave drives very slowly, and suddenly Lori practically jumps out of her seat. "There it is! Stop the car and let's get out."

Sure enough, a giant lizard is standing by the side of the road. Lori and I get out the cameras and start clicking. The iguana is not amused. Then, as we very slowly move closer, the iguana suddenly decides it is not interested in providing any more photo opportunities. It moves toward the foliage by the side of the road, much more quickly than I ever imagined an iguana could move. We get a few more shots in before it disappears into the underbrush. We look at each other in amazement. "Wow," we repeat, shaking our heads in disbelief. "There really are wild iguanas here. Too bad Joe missed it."

The snorkeling area is actually a part of the island that was blasted away to make a marina. There is an abandoned motel next to it. The story is that a developer wanted to make a hotel/marina/diving/beach area and started to dynamite the rocky shore. Only he didn't get the proper authorization to do the project, so here it sits, abandoned and half-done. It is deep enough in some spots to jump in, kind of like a giant swimming pool in the ocean, so we can dispense with the usual flopping and falling over each other we usually resort to when snorkeling. There is a narrow entrance into the almost-marina; it is tricky to navigate because of the high waves that are smashing against the rocks on either side. We safely make it through and then get down to some serious snorkeling.

The waves are pretty high and make it difficult to stay in one place. I drift away from the others and soon Dave is calling me. He doesn't like it when I go off on my own, but as I tell him, none too gently, I am a grown-up, an excellent swimmer, and know enough about safety to not let myself get too far away from my partners. I think David worries about me when Joe isn't around, so perhaps my reaction is too strong, but on the other hand, I don't need a lifeguard or a father protecting me. Unfortunately, my excellent persuasive argument is all for naught; it seems the water is too rough to snorkel properly, and we head for shore.

Joe is amazed to see our iguana images in the digital cameras; he is sorry he missed it. He has a nice lunch prepared and we snarf it down like we're all teenage boys who missed their last meal. We spend the rest of the afternoon drinking Sea Dreams Punch down on our beach and taking frequent ocean dips whenever we get hot, about every three minutes. After awhile we just give up on that and stay in the water, assigning someone go back to the house for more supplies as needed. I can't believe it when I'm hungry again. There must be something about the tropical air, or the warm salty water, or maybe just the trauma of potential bat attacks, that makes me ravenous. We all troop out of the water, gather up our things, and jump into showers. Dinner is early and we settle down for a quiet game of 31.


David's Top Ten Most Annoying Personality Traits

    (Composed by Kellie and Lori during various games of 31 over a ten day period)
  1. Deafness (from an old ear infection)
  2. Anti-shopping attitude
  3. Rudeness
  4. Argumentative
  5. Impatience
  6. Antisocial Behavior
  7. Asshole-ish Tendencies
  8. Irritating
  9. Obnoxious
  10. Bossiness


David's Best Personality Traits

    (Composed over the same period)
  1. Good dishwashing skills
  2. Good sweeper


After a morning of exploring the bluff while Dave and Lori are on a diving trip, in which our only excitement is finding a calf in the middle of a road, we have a leisurely lunch and nap. When we wake up, we discover our roommates anxiously waiting for us. They have heard about a restaurant and bar on the other side of the island that caters to a special clientele: sharks. According to some divers they met on the boat, this place overlooks the water and every afternoon is shark-feeding time. We agree this must be some sight to see, so we head over to the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail and to see the sharks.

Aunt Sha's is old, rundown and may be considered charming in certain circles that I do not travel in. The bar isn't bad, though, mostly because it's located outside and a nice breeze is blowing. We have made our way through a maze filled with closed doors and narrow hallways to discover the bar, lurking in the back like a big secret no one is supposed to know about. There is one other person sitting at the bar and a few plastic tables and chairs scattered around an outside porch of sorts. We take a seat along the wall that overlooks the ocean while Dave gets us each a beer. When he comes back, he directs our attention to a sign that is hanging in the bar. "Absolutely No Feeding the Sharks," it states, followed by a law citation. I take this to mean there will be absolutely no shark feeding, under penalty of law, but Dave nudges my shoulder and winks. "Oh, darn," he says, nudging and winking, "No shark feeding tonight. And I really wanted to see some sharks."

I don't understand this, since I am naive besides being extremely law-abiding. "Right," I say, "like the sign says." Joe leans over and whispers that the sign must be for any law officials who check for compliance, because the waitress told Dave that she will be feeding the sharks shortly. "Oh," I say. Dave winks at me again and puts his finger to his lips in the universal signal to shush.

When the waitress starts throwing chicken parts in the water, the birds are the first to arrive. They dive and pick up the pieces, some fighting over them, some gamely trying to pick up a piece that's way too heavy for its size. Then we see them: silver fins slicing through the blue water, twisting and turning around the reef to get close to shore. They must be snapping at the chicken; we can see their tails shaking and thrashing as they feed. We all sit up on the edge of the wall in order to see better. "What kind of sharks are these?" Joe asks. "Lemon sharks," Dave answers. "They are about 2-4 feet long and quite harmless." They are so close we can see their flat heads and pointy teeth as they snap at the chicken, and sometimes each other. They sure don't look harmless to me.

When the chicken runs out, the show is over. We take a peek inside the restaurant. It is dark and quiet and might be just the thing for our second to last night here. We weren't really looking forward to eating the leftovers planned for dinner, so we step inside and have a seat. We are the only ones here. The waitress brings menus and takes drink orders. Then, when she brings our drinks, she patiently explains the menu choices, since we are having some interpretation issues. Conch fritters are, as expected, deep-fried pieces of conch. The special of the day is goat. "Goat?" I repeat. "Mmmm, goat," says Joe.

The ordering process is relatively easy, much to my relief. Everything on the menu is available, and the waitress speaks an English dialect I can understand. We start with conch fritters and oysters. I pass on the oysters, since they resemble slimy pieces of snot, and carefully avoid watching the particular sucking process used to consume them. The conch fritters are quite tasty and remind me of fried clams. Lori and I have ordered fish and chips; Dave and Joe have selected the goat. We all pronounce our dinners wonderful and share cheesecake for dessert, which is only mediocre. After paying more than a hundred dollars for the bill, we waddle out to the car and drive home with all the windows rolled down, singing "Yellow Submarine" at the top of our voices.

Our last day is spent packing, rearranging what we already packed, arguing about what we have packed, and packing some more. Joe is surprised to discover I actually plan to bring home all the rocks and shells I have collected, and he tries to institute a rule whereby each of us carries our own suitcase. I think this rule stinks, but agree to it anyway, knowing that Joe won't stand by and watch me struggle with a heavy suitcase. We clean out the refrigerator and wonder if someone will use some of the leftover juice and eggs. Somehow, it seems weird to assume the cleaning people will want it, yet none of us can bear to just throw it away. In the end, we just try to eat as much as we can so it isn't an issue.

It is still dark when the alarm rings, but I am already awake. I have been worrying obsessively about waking up on time, so I haven't slept much all night and am now ready to get going. We quickly shower and dress, throw last minute toiletries into bags, and load the car. The car rental agent had instructed Lori to just leave the car at the airport with the keys in the ignition, and we are laughing about these instructions as we make the five-minute trip. Imagine doing that at the Phoenix airport, we giggle. It is still dark when we unload our bags from the car and I smile a secret smile watching Joe do all the lifting; he has already forgotten the suitcase rule. The others load up their trolleys and head inside.

"Coming, Hon?" asks Joe.

"Sure," I said. "I just want to get one more look before we go."

I can see a faint pink coming across the horizon and wish we had time to see one sunrise before we go. Then I turn and join the others inside. It's time to leave Nature's Paradise.

Article © Kellie Gillespie. All rights reserved.
Published on 2004-08-07
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