From a sunken warship of another era to a lifestyle that exists mostly in memory to water that has cradled life since the earth's beginnings-they all converge in a quiet corner of the Caribbean known as the Sister Islands.
When the plane from Grand Cayman landed on the rain drenched tarmac, I sensed something had changed. An odd feeling. Nostalgia? No, it felt too solid, too dimensional for just an abstract feeling. I looked out the port window of the plane, but all I could see were twisting, undulating images through the water pouring across my view. Without noticing, I removed my watch and stashed it in my carry-on; then stepping from the plane, I paused and let the cool rain wash over me for a moment. I'm not sure what happened-A vortex? A time warp? Something distant in my memory that Einstein had predicted? I quickly looked in the mirror. Strange. I looked the same. But, glancing around, I was sure, no I would swear, I had stepped into the Caribbean idyll I had first encountered more than 20 years ago.
Snorkeling in paradise.
The islands, the exposed pinnacles of ageless subsea mountains sprinkled along an oceanic ridge, are surrounded on all sides by a narrow, shallow shelf defined by precipitous drops into the deep cobalt blue of the Caribbean Sea. The ancient forms of life that evolved into today's lush coral growth and the broad variety of tropical reef fish, invertebrates and a fascinating variety of deep-sea and blue-water creatures, danced, fought, died and reproduced in the same waters that surround the islands today. And the diving remains as timeless and full of life as it was during my first exploratory dives.
A sponge dwelling shrimp.
|And the diving remains as timeless and full of life as it was during my first exploratory dives [20 years ago].|
The visibility was so clear that snorkelers could enjoy the experience as much as scuba divers. I quickly dropped down to 100 feet and kneeled in the sand in front of the bow. I found myself surrounded by a school of Horse-eye Jacks and marveled at the sharp lines and high point of the bow of the ship. As my mind drifted back in time, I could see this Cold War-era destroyer cutting through the pounding waves, chasing a frightening reality that never occurred. But now she's serving a far nobler purpose: home for a multitude of creatures-the finest legacy a vessel such as this could bequeath. This time capsule is only one of many found in the Sister Islands. At Anchor Wall, seeing the ancient anchor lodged in a crevice in the wall, brings to mind the days of creaking, wooden ships, tall masts and gold doubloons. The coral walls remain much as they have always been: lush and ridden with marine creatures; both sites echo the past and the future.
Touring the island by kayak.
On Cayman Brac (population steady at 1,700 to 2,000), you should visit the bluff on the east end of the island, which is the source of Cayman Brac's name (Brac is bluff in Scottish, the Scots being some of the earliest inhabitants). At 140 feet, it is the highest point in the Caymans. This limestone bluff is riddled with caves and caverns reputed to be the stronghold of pirate treasure. True or not, the top of the bluff offers another treasure-it's a reserve for the Cayman Parrot as well as many forms of orchids.
|...I could look down and see the awesome sight of this vessel...|
Visiting the two Sister Islands is like strolling down the boulevard with loved ones. Although choosing between the islands is not an easy decision, they are bound to take you steps back in time and, some may say, to a better pace of life.