There are around 200 species of birds on the islands. Birds that inhabit the islands include the Antillean grackle, the smooth-billed ani, the green-backed heron, the yellow-crowned night heron and many other heron species, the snowy egret, the common ground dove, the bananaquit and the Cayman parrot. The endangered West Indian whistling duck can be seen on Grand Cayman and Little Cayman.
If you are interested in birdwatching, go to the mosquito control dykes on the West Bay peninsula of Grand Cayman, or walk to the Cistern at East End. A former Governor was a keen birdwatcher and in 1993 he set up a fund to establish the Governor Michael Gore Bird Sanctuary on 3½ acres of wetland on Grand Cayman, where you can see 60 local species. There are nesting colonies of the red-footed booby and the magnificent frigate bird on Little Cayman. There is a parrot reserve on Cayman Brac on 197 acres of land donated to the National Trust by Donald Pennie.
The Brac Parrot Reserve is the nesting ground for the endangered endemic Cayman Brac parrot, numbering about 400 birds. The reserve covers pristine ancient woodlands on a very rough and rocky terrain with a diversity of native trees, including species not present on Grand Cayman or Little Cayman. A 1-mile nature trail has been established through part of the reserve. The trail forms a loop which passes through several different types of terrain, from old farm land now under grass, past mango trees on red soil and through thickets and mature woodlands, a startling mixture of hardwoods and cacti. Signs and information boards are placed at strategic points along the trail and a brochure is available. Birds of the Cayman Islands, published by Bradley, is a photographic record; it costs £22.
Cardinal D’s Park on the outskirts of George Town, and the beginning of Seven Mile Beach, has four acres of natural lakes and woodlands. The bird sanctuary includes parrots, macaws, whistling duck and turtles. T9498855. Adults US$5, children US$2.50.
Oncidium calochilum, a rare orchid, indigenous to Grand Cayman with a small yellow flower about ½in long, is found only in the rocky area off Frank Sound Drive. Several other orchid species have been recorded as endemic but are threatened by construction and orchid fanciers. There is protection under international and local laws for several indigenous species, including sea turtles, iguanas, Cayman parrots, orchids and marine life. For a full description of the islands’ flora see George R Proctor, Flora of the Cayman Islands, Kew Bulletin Additional Series XI, HMSO (1984), 834 pp, which list 21 endemic plant taxa including some which are rare, endangered or possibly extinct.
The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park (officially opened by the Queen in 1994), is off Frank Sound Rd, Grand Cayman. A mile-long woodland trail has been cleared and an entrance garden created. In 1997 a second phase brought a Floral Colour Garden and a Heritage Garden, with endemic plants within the park. The gardens are very beautiful now that they have become well-established and are recommended for a day away from the beach even for those who know nothing about botany. Over 200 plants have been labelled so far, several of which are rare. Orchids bloom in May-June and there are breeding areas for the Grand Cayman Blue Iguana, the Grand Cayman parrot, the Cayman rabbit and the Cayman anole lizard. More gardens and sections are planned. Special events are sometimes held, such as an orchid show, with the local orchid society in February, and a mango morning in August. There is a Visitor Centre, café and giftshop and a typical Caymanian cottage and garden has been built. T9473558 (information line), 9479462, F9477873, www.botanic-park.ky. Adults US$6.25, children 6-12 half price. Daily 0900-1830, last admission 1730.
Indigenous animals on the islands are few. The most common are the agouti, non-poisonous snakes, iguana and other small lizards, freshwater turtle, the hickatee and two species of tree frog. Several animal sanctuaries have been established, most of which are RAMSAR sites where no hunting or collecting of any species is allowed. On Grand Cayman there are sanctuaries at Booby Cay, Meagre Bay Pond and Colliers Bay Pond; on Cayman Brac at the ponds near the airport and on Little Cayman at Booby Rd and Rookery, Tarpon Lake and the Wearis Bay Wetland, stretching east along the south coast to the Easterly Wetlands. The National Trust, T9490121, Email: ntr...@candw.ky, has set up a Land Reserves Fund to buy environmentally sensitive land and protect natural resources. The first priority is the mountain area in North Side where the government donated 130 acres; another 200 acres need to be bought. The Department of Tourism (T9490623) has produced a map of Cayman Brac depicting the location and full descriptions of 35 nature tourism sites as part of the Cayman Brac Development Project, funded by a grant from the European Union. The sites are either hiking trails, woodland walks, boardwalks out to wetlands, panoramic views including the Bluff and pristine beach sites, historic sites, swimming holes and areas, as well as the Brac Museum. All sites have proper signs so you do not have to hire a guide.