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Cayman Islands

02 Feb, 2009

Cayman Islands

Located in the Caribbean Sea are three islands called Little Cayman, Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman. These three islands complete what is called the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands are actually British territory but ironically, you’d be amazed at how American the life on these islands is. The main island of the three is the one they call the Grand Cayman Island and is where you will find most of the commercial establishments. If you want a quieter environment, the two smaller islands of this trio, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, may suit your tastes better. All three islands are great places to visit and each one has the unique Cayman charm that a lot of people find so hard to resist.

Geography

The Cayman trio of islands is located approximately 400 miles or 650 kilometers to the south of Miami, Florida. These islands are also found Cuba and Jamaica and are situated in the western part of the famous Caribbean Sea. The largest of the three islands, the one called the Grand Cayman island, measures 197 square kilometers or 76 square miles. The two smaller sister islands, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac, have land areas of 25.9 square kilometers and 36 square kilometers respectively, making them both significantly smaller than the main island of the trio. The highest point that you can find on the Cayman Islands is found on Cayman Brac. This is called The Bluff and is said to rise 42.6 meters high or 140 feet high above sea level. These three islands are relatively flat islands and is a place where a lot of people go for a vacation due to the tropical climate and the lovely waters surrounding them.

Cayman Islands

History

The Cayman Islands were first called the Las Tortugas for the sea turtles that were found there when Christopher Columbus first discovered these islands. He happened on these islands on May 11 1503, when he went on his 4th voyage to find the New World. The name Cayman Islands came from Sir Francis Drake who came to these islands in 1586 and came from the term “caiman” meaning alligator.

The Cayman Islands was ceded to England along with neighboring Jamaica in 1670 and later became a British Overseas Territory in 1962. Before such an occurrence, Jamaica and the Cayman Islands were treated as a single colony. Jamaica was made into an independent Commonwealth realm at the same time that the Cayman Islands became an overseas territory for the British.

Cayman Islands history would not be complete without mentioning the huge number of hurricane hits this island trio has suffered in the past. One of the more notable hurricanes to hit the islands is Hurricane Ivan which hit in 2004. The territory was so badly hit that it left the islands without power, communications and water for at least a few months. Buildings suffered massive damages and the storm was said to have been then worst that the Cayman Islands ever experienced in eight decades. Since then, the island has been rebuilding and is now back to its original glory before Ivan hit.

Cayman Islands

Business and Tourism

One of the biggest avenues of income for these islands, and probably the main one, is tourism. Since the Cayman Islands is situated in an area popular for the sun and the sea, it is but natural that people come in droves to spend their vacations here. Before tourism became the biggest income earner of the territory, the islands actually focused on turtling for its economy. Tourism and other forms of business took front row in the 70s and has been its main focus ever since. The locals enjoy a pretty good life and is said to have a very high standard of living as per global standards and Caribbean standards. The currency of the Cayman Islands is the KYD or Cayman Islands Dollar. The current exchange rate of the KYD to the US Dollar is pegged at 1 KYD to 1.25 US Dollar.

Tourism is the main source of the area’s economy what with millions of visitors coming here every year to visit the notable spots on Grand Cayman and to check out the more laid back atmosphere of the two smaller islands. Scuba diving is said to be one of the main attractions here as well as snorkeling and other water bound activities. There are reefs and shipwrecks for avid divers to explore and numerous sea creatures to observe for those who are into snorkeling. One of the more popular creatures of the sea that visitors can see an abundance of here is the stingray. You don’t even need to swim in the waters to view these magnificent creatures since they can be easily seen from a boat as you and a guide go around the waters of the islands.

There are a lot of things for tourists to do in the Cayman Islands. There are hiking trails, historical sites to visit, museums, bird watching expeditions, theme parks and turtle farms to see. Cruise ships also include these islands as one of their stops. George Town, which is located on the main island of Grand Cayman, sees approximately a few thousand tourists every single week due to this particular trend. You can also find a huge number of resorts and hotels here, most of which are on the popular Seven Mile Beach, easily considered as one of the best stretches of beach in the world.

Aside from tourism, the Cayman Islands also relies on the Financial Services Industry for part of its annual GDP. These islands are, in fact, ranked fifth worldwide in terms of the largest banking centers around. There are 279 banks to be found in these islands and most of these banks operate strictly on an international basis with limited domestic operations allowed to them. The popularity of the banking industry in the Cayman Islands may come from their low tax or indirect taxation policies. Another reason that is stated is the high service level of the banks found in these islands.

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