Surface time when you are diving is the time you spend above the water between dives. When it is more than the forty minutes or so between two morning dives, we are always looking for something to do other than just sleep, read, or eat. We thought, after over 16 years of visiting the island, we had possibly seen everything but no. Just when we figured we had run out of island experiences along comes a new one.
We saw the sign, CAYMAN CRYSTAL CAVES, on our way to our usual dining spot for our first night. We are not superstitious. Just call us traditional. But Over The Edge restaurant has always been our first stop for dinner on GC. Back at our condo rental, we checked the caves out on the internet and decided that would be our new adventure for this year.
After a few days of diving and finally getting our stamina back, we took an afternoon to venture out to the new tourist spot. The caves have been an on-going project for some time now. The same people who opened Harrison's Cave in Barbados have been working on these caves in GC. It has been quite an undertaking first with the purchase of the land and then finally getting a periphery property where an entrance could be made to the cave property. After that it was a matter of getting the caves ready for visitors.
We purchased tickets at the gate and then drove to a parking lot where we boarded a mini bus that took us over the "mountain" as our guide called it. Elevation was all of 62 feet. A mountain by flat Grand Cayman standards.
Our guide Andre, Mr. Personality, gave us a timeline that extended back to the late 1990s and talked of the years it took to dig out the caves that had filled with silt and soil in order to be able to walk in them standing up. There are three caves of one hundred and five that are now open and have been deemed safe enough for visitors. They are amazing.
Andre began our almost two hour tour with a walk to our first cave, the Open Ceiling Cave, stopping several times along the way to tell us about native trees and bushes and historically how they have been used by the locals. He was quite informative as well as a great story teller. I was sorry we missed some of his patter (it ran continually) because he was truly entertaining. Our group was a little larger than usual and so being on the end of it, we missed some of his stories.
The first cave was amazing. Limestone stalactites and stalagmites were huge and at times sparkled from the salt content with the lights shining upon them. After that visit, we returned to the nicely appointed deck area where there is a souvenir shop and place to purchase water and soda. We sat for a few minutes to try to cool off. The temperature was in the lower 90F and the humidity was thick making us all look like we'd been hosed down with our shirts sticking to us and drops of sweat dripping off our hair.
The next cave was a little different and had a bunch of bats in it but the best one, the Lake Cave, was saved for last. It was also the coolest and almost felt like walking into A/C. Huge caverns opened up as we walked through. The prominent feature of course is an underground lake. The lighting was amazing in the cave and was set up in the lake to show a natural view, a view that emphasized the calcium deposits, a mirrored image view and then a dimmer view that was lit further down to show how deep the lake ran into the cave. All of which Andre demonstrated with the flick of a switch.
A few minutes later, we were walking back to the bus and being driven to our car, otherwise known as the oven on wheels. Despite the heat and humidity, we found the caves to be a wonderful diversion for our surface time. It will be interesting to see what further developments they make there.
Cayman Crystal Caves website.