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					1074                  the Caribbean, the bahamas, and bermuda



                   i g u a n a s , S t i n g r a y s , a n d B l o o d y B a y Wa l l


                       cAymAn iSlAndS
                                       Greater Antilles




C
         ayman, a mostly flat British Crown Colony that consists of Grand Cayman,
         Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac, sits atop an ancient undersea mountain
         chain. On the surface, the translucent turquoise waters are serene, but just
below you’ll find dramatic walls and drop-offs           Grand Cayman’s famous Seven Mile Beach
only feet from shore, like an underwater Grand       on the west side of the island is a gorgeous
Canyon. It’s one of the world’s best dive sites,     stretch of white sand lined with condos and
with an astonishing diversity of underwater life     plush resorts. With swimming-pool calm
residing among coral-encrusted reefs and             waters, it’s the perfect beach for nonswimmers.
walls. The finest site in the area, though, is the   The most luxurious accommodations can
6,000-foot plunging coral garden known since         be found at the family-friendly Ritz-Carlton
pirate days as Bloody Bay Wall, off Little           Grand Cayman—kids can learn about reef
Cayman’s north shore. Snorkelers can experi-         protection through Jean-Michel Cousteau’s
ence the top of the wall, and divers who go deep     Ambassadors of the Environment program
can explore the gorge, which teems with sea          while parents indulge in the pleasures of a
fans, anemones, and tropical fish.                   Greg Norman–designed golf course and a La
    Twelve-square-mile Little Cayman is rela-        Prairie spa. Blue by Eric Ripert (chef of
tively undeveloped and reigns popular among          Manhattan’s Le Bernardin; see p. 848) serves
naturalists. Iguanas far outnumber the 100           caught-that-day yellowfin tuna and seafood
full-time human residents, and a colony of           specialties. Go in January to meet Ripert (and
20,000 red-footed boobies populates the              some fellow celebrity chefs), who hosts the
Caribbean’s largest bird sanctuary. Little           Cayman Cookout, a celebration of Cayman and
Cayman is also famous for Texas-born Gladys          global cuisine on the beach.
Howard—a student of Julia Child’s—who                    When the sun goes down, Seven Mile
caters to guests’ every diving and dining need       Beach is where you want to be. The Reef Grill
at her beachside inn, Pirate’s Point Resort.         is fun and casual, serving fresh local seafood
She also offers a custom-built dive boat with a      prepared with an innovative twist. Drift over to
staff of experienced instructors.                    the cozy lounge when the soca and calypso
    Grand Cayman is larger (though still just 22     music start to heat up the night.
by 8 miles) and more cosmopolitan. And while             Visitor info: www.caymanislands.ky.
tourism is more developed here, it’s still wel-      pirate’s point: Tel 345-948-1010; www
comingly mellow. Offshore attractions include        .piratespointresort.com. Cost: $500, inclusive;
diving (over 100 sites) and Stingray City, a spot    diving extra. ritz-carlton: Tel 800-542-
where throngs of sociable large-winged marine        8680 or 345-943-9000; www.ritzcarlton.com.
creatures eat from your hand (the famous             Cost: from $299 (off-peak), from $569 (peak);
“stingray kiss”). Even though it’s a 25-minute       prix-fixe dinner at Blue $110. reef Grill:
boat ride from shore, the transparent waters are     Tel 345-945-6360; www.reefgrill.com. Cost:
shallow—3 to 12 feet—and perfect for both            dinner $50. Best tiMes: early May for
divers and snorkelers.                               Carnival Batabano; Dec for Jazz Fest.

				
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