The Cayman Islands are made up of Grand Cayman, Little Cayman and Cayman Brac. The islands are the home of turtles and the endangered blue iguana. Overview One of the world’s largest financial centres. Grand Cayman and its sister islands Cayman Brac and Little Cayman have natural attractions: beaches, coral reefs and abundant marine life make them a popular haunt for the wealthier visitor. With no direct taxation the islands are a thriving offshore financial centre. A stock exchange was opened in 1997. Tourism is also a mainstay, accounting for about 70% of GDP and 75% of foreign currency earnings. The tourist industry is aimed at the luxury market and caters mainly to visitors from North America. About 90% of the islands’ food and consumer goods must be imported. The Caymanians enjoy a standard of living roughly equal to that of Switzerland. Quick facts Status: British overseas territory Capital: George Town, Grand Cayman Area and location: 260 sq km (100 sq miles); in the western Caribbean about 150 miles south of Cuba, 460 miles south of Miami, Florida, and 167 miles northwest of Jamaica Population: 57,009 (2008); population is referred to as ‘Caymanian’. Caymanians refer to the islands as ‘the Cayman Islands’, ‘Cayman’ or ‘the islands’ but never ‘Caymans’ Nominal GDP: $2.70 trillion (2008) GDP per capita: $48,303 (2008 Inflation: 4.1% (2008) Unemployment rate: 4% (2008) Currency: Cayman Island dollar fixed exchange rate to US dollar ($1 = CI$0.80) Main exports: Fish, cut flowers Internet domain: .ky International dialling code: +345 Labour force by occupation: agriculture, 1.9%; industry, 19.1%; services, 79% (2008 est) Agriculture products: vegetables, fruit; livestock; turtle farming Industries: financial services (banking, insurance, finance) and tourism each accounting for approximately 50% of GDP. Other industries include construction, construction materials, furniture Major trading partners: US, UK, European Union and Caricom countries Source: BBC; CIA World Factbook; Cayman Islands Finance Ministry Turtles, lizards and pirates Turtles have always played a vital role in shaping the economy and culture of the Cayman Islands. The first recorded sighting of Little Cayman and Cayman Brac by Christopher Columbus, as recorded in his ship’s log on May 10, 1503 on his fourth and final voyage to the New World: “We were in sight of two very small islands full of tortoise as was the sea about, inasmuch as they looked like little rocks.” Columbus named the islands Las Tortugas after the abundant turtles. The two islands were Cayman Brac and Little Cayman. Although the name stuck only briefly, it was a theme that has remained constant in Cayman history. Today a turtle in pirate garb, dubbed Sir Turtle, is the official logo of the Cayman Islands. A 1523 map showing all three islands gave them the name Lagartos, meaning alligators or large lizards, but by 1530 the name Caymanas was being used. It is derived from the Carib Indian word for the marine crocodile which is now known to have lived in the islands. This name, or a variant, has been retained ever since. Another early visitor was Sir Francis Drake. On his 1585-86 voyage to the Caribbean he reported seeing “great serpents called Caymanas, like large lizards, which are edible”. It was the islands’ ample supply of turtle, however, that made them a popular calling place for ships sailing the Caribbean and in need of meat for their crews. This began a trend that eventually denuded local waters of the turtle, compelling the local turtle fishermen to go further afield to Cuba and the Miskito Cays in search of their catch. The first recorded settlements were located on Little Cayman and Cayman Brac during the 1661-71 tenure of Sir Thomas Modyford as governor of Jamaica. Because of the depredations of Spanish privateers, Modyford’s successor called the settlers back to Jamaica, though by this time Spain had recognised British possession of the islands in the 1670 Treaty of Madrid. Often in breach of the treaty, British privateers roamed the area taking their prizes, probably using the Cayman Islands for replenishing stocks of food and water and careening their vessels. During the 18th century the islands were well known to such pirates as Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Neal Walker, George Lowther and Thomas Antis, even after the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 was supposed to have ended privateering. Pirate caves still exist in Grand Cayman. In Bodden Town the underground caves where pirates hid their treasure has been turned into a popular tourist attraction consisting of a nature park, petting zoo and marine park. The pirate’s caves are natural limestone caves located below the southern part of Bodden Town on the south shore of Grand Cayman. The caves are said to have once extended underneath Bodden Town with openings out to the sea. Legends tell about a pirate’s treasure which still lies buried in the caves. Due to many storms over the years, the openings out to the sea have been buried and the locations of treasure troves have been entombed. The pirate sightseeing may be completed by a visit to the actual pirate’s graves in the cemetery across the street. Each year for one week pirates take over the Cayman Islands once more. The annual Pirates Week festival held in November commemorates the days when the Cayman Islands were the haunt of pirates and buccaneers. For 11 days the islands are filled with a series of events including a pirate landing, a float parade, three harbour-side street dances, the national song competition, a teen dance, a kids’ fun day, and a turtle release. Pirates Week is a major draw for tourists. Cayman was largely uninhabited until the 17th century. At that time a variety of people settled on the islands including pirates, refugees from the Spanish inquisition, shipwrecked sailors, deserters from Oliver Cromwell’s army in Jamaica and slaves. Sources: www.gocayman.ky/history; www.grandcaymansunrise.com/history; www.piratesweekfestival.com; www.caymanactivityguide.com/piratescaves; www.showcaves.com/english/car/caves/Pirate Blue iguana recovery programme The original wild population of Grand Cayman blue iguanas, also known as the Grand Cayman Iguana, Cyclura lewisi, has been reduced from a near island-wide distribution to a near-extinct remnant due to the combined influences of habitat conversion, historic hunting, the introduction of non-native species and road kill. By 2005 no young blue iguana born to the unmanaged wild population was surviving to breeding age. The Blue Iguana Recovery Programme operates under the auspices of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands with local and international partners. The conservation strategy involves generating large numbers of genetically diverse hatchlings, head-starting them to an age where survival in the wild is high and using them to rebuild a series of wild subpopulations in protected, managed natural areas. A rapid numerical increase from a maximum possible number of founders is sought to minimize loss of genetic diversity from the population bottleneck. The blue iguana is a large blue-grey lizard. Research and DNA analysis in 2004 determined this lizard to be a distinct species of iguana and not merely a subspecies of the Cuban Iguana, Cyclura nubila, as was previously thought. In addition to its distinctive colour, it has orange eyes and spines on its back running from its neck to its tail. It is one of the rarest lizards on earth and is considered critically endangered. Blue iguanas have a body length of 20-30 inches. Including the tail, males reach a total length of five feet and a weight of 30 pounds. Females are about 30% smaller. The species is mainly terrestrial but young lizards sometimes seek refuge in trees, which they can climb without difficulty. They are primarily herbivorous and eat fruit, flowers, mushrooms and leaves and opportunistically, insect larvae, crabs, slugs and carrion. Cayman’s common native snake Alsophis cantherigerus is an efficient predator of frogs, lizards and baby iguanas. Iguana hatchlings know to avoid them; they make straight for the trees, and disappear from sight. For the first year of their lives, they are almost never seen. Some hatchlings keep on moving and can disperse over considerable distances In addition to the recovery programme on Grand Cayman, which aims to build a managed population of up to 1,000 blue iguanas born in captivity and released into protected reserves, there are also off-island projects in US zoos aimed at preserving the species. Source: www.blueiguana.ky; seapics.com/feature-subject/reptiles/blue-iguana-pictures Public holidays 2012 New Year’s Day: January 1 National Heroes' Day: January 24 Ash Wednesday: February 22 Good Friday: April 6 Easter Monday: April 9 Discovery Day: May 16 Queen's Birthday: June 15 Constitution Day: July 2 Remembrance Day: November 12 Christmas Day: December 25 Boxing Day: December 26...
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