15 posts categorized "Snorkel"

01/23/2011

What exactly is Marinated Conch?

For years, people in the Cayman Islands have been eating marinated conch. You see it on virtually every menu as an appetizer. But what exactly is this sea creature? How is it prepared? Where do you find it? 

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The Queen Conch is a large marine-living mollusk. It is a soft-body animal with a hard shell as protection. They achieve full size at about 3-5 years old, with a maximum size being about 12 inches long. They live in the sandy region near reef habitats. They start in shallow water, but then move to deeper water until it is time to lay eggs at what time they return to shallow water. They are able to move around by use of their foot, which ends in a pointed shape. This allows them to move in a leaping motion along the sea floor.

How does this relate to your trip to the Cayman Islands? When you head out on a snorkel trip, they almost all involve a stop to dive for conch. These beautiful shells are often hard to find because the bright pink side is face down and the top is often the same color as the sand and covered in algae. Once your group finds about 5 of them, the captain begins the process of marinating them for a tasty appetizer. Yes--I said marinating. Not cooking. Did I forget to mention that marinated conch is not cooked. It is perfectly healthy to eat the firm conch meat raw.

Click here for great video: Captain Gleason cleans conch meat

At this point, the captain takes a screw driver to disconnect the conch from its' shell. After disconnecting it, then it slides right out of the shell and is ready to be cleaned. (see video above). The best piece of meat to eat is the firm white meat that gets sliced into fine pieces and marinated. They say the conch is marinated in a "secret-recipe", but it seems to be a little lime juice and pick-a-peppa sauce. It is served with saltines for a real Caribbean Treat.

The only thing to keep in mind is that there is now a conch season because it is on the endangered species list. They are only able to catch and serve conch from November 1st to April 30th. So if you want to experience the marinated conch experience when you are on your snorkel trip, make sure you go down during the right time of year. It is truly a delicacy that everyone should try.

01/16/2011

Cayman Condos on YouTube.

I'm excited to introduce the new Cayman Condos on YouTube feature. While you are sitting home in the states trying to plan your next big trip, my goal is to provide you with current video footage of different aspects of Grand Cayman. The idea is that you will get a great understanding of the beautiful property you are visiting, which will make you confident in your investment. When you go on a vacation, it's important to know that you are getting your money's worth. I am open to any and all video suggestions. 

The first installment on YouTube is recent video footage of the recently renovated beach at Treasure Island Condos. This video was taken today and shows the brand new $750,000 restoration. The swimming cove between the groynes is perfect for wading, swimming, or allowing children to play. On the other side of the groynes is a beautiful reef for snorkeling with beautiful fish, lobsters, barracuda, and even stingrays, thanks to the coral reef.

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The pristine sand that was laid down as the final piece of the project will be retained thanks to the design of the project. For more information on this project please visit the prior blog:

Treasure Island Beach Restoration Project

Please let me know if you are interested in seeing videos posted to YouTube on any other aspects of Grand Cayman. This new feature should be a great way for all of our regular readers to stay in the loop on what is happening in Cayman. It will feel like you're actually there, even though you are sitting back in another blizzard. I now introduce the first video from Cayman Condos on YouTube. Enjoy!!

New Beach at Treasure Island Condo Video

12/19/2010

Photography Opportunities Endless in Grand Cayman

When you leave for a trip to the Cayman Islands, there is one thing you don't want to forget, your camera! It doesn't matter if you are a photography pro or have never taken a picture before in your life. There are many memorable moments in Grand Cayman that you will want to capture on film. Every trip to Grand Cayman I come home with about 500 pictures--oh the joys of digital cameras. So what are the best photo opportunities in Grand Cayman? I'm here to tell you.

5. 7 Mile Beach: The pictures you can take up and down the beautiful and sandy 7 mile beach are incredible. The waves, lighting, and colors are never the same. There are portions of the beach that are very quiet (by our White Sands property) which makes for uninhabited pictures of a deserted  beach with no tourists in the shots. 

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4. Nature and Wildlife: Keep the camera handy at all times because you never know when you might come across an iguana, crab, exotic bird, or beautiful palm tree. While walking over to the swimming pool, it's not uncommon to come across a friendly iguana. While sleeping, it's not uncommon to hear a crab scratching against the wall outside. Have the camera ready for these moments because you'll want to have these pictures when you return home.

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3. Underwater: If you are fortunate to have an underwater camera, make sure to bring it. However, even if you don't, I highly suggest purchasing a disposable underwater camera. Even though the quality of pictures won't be nearly as high, you won't want to miss some of the things you will see while snorkeling. On any given snorkel trip you may see a sea turtle, nurse shark, moray eel, beautiful schools of fish, colorful coral, lobster, starfish, and more. The camera makes it great for when you get back and tell people that you saw a huge barracuda and they say "yea right." You can whip out the visual proof and that's a pretty cool feeling. 
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2. Stingray City: When you make the trip to Stingray City, your camera is a must. Whether you take pictures from the boat, or take a waterproof camera into the water, you won't want to miss the photo opportunities that exist while playing with these amazing creatures. The captain will allow for great photos while holding, petting, or feeding a stingray. It's also pretty cool to take a picture from the boat as the dozens of stingray flock to the boat as it anchors. They know they are about to get fed!
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1. Sunsets: It doesn't matter if there are clouds or not, every sunset deserves attention. The colors, clouds, and sunset are never the same. This is the number one photo opportunity in Grand Cayman. These pictures make great holiday cards, framed photos for your home, or great screen savers on your computer. If you get a perfect sunset with no clouds in front of the horizon, you might even be lucky enough to see the "infamous" green flash.
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So next time you head down to Grand Cayman, make sure to pack your camera and then click, click, click during your trip for some memorable, framable moments. If you come home with any pictures you'd like to share, please e-mail them to us at joe@cicondos.com and we will post them. I hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday week, wherever you may be.

 

11/28/2010

Snorkel and Stingray City Trip

No matter whom I take to the Cayman Islands, the day trip on the Sea Fire always becomes the highlight of their trip. It never fails to be an exciting snorkel and Stingray City trip to the North Sound with Captain Gleason Ebanks and first-mate Kerry Ebanks. We often use the term “old man at the sea” to describe Gleason, but when you have been taking the same boat out for snorkel trips since 1956, it’s definitely accurate. Both Gleason and Kerry have seen it all and offer great knowledge and expertise pertaining to marine life, weather, and Grand Cayman in general. Although each trip is a little bit different, I want to take you on a typical trip on the Sea Fire. 

 7:32 AM: Alarm goes off. (Deep sigh) You wonder why you had that extra rum punch the night before and drank that rum liquor shot after dinner.

 7:42 AM: Alarm goes off again. You wonder why you scheduled a stupid boat trip while you are on vacation and why it has to be so early in the morning.

 7:45 AM: Throw together a bag for the trip including a hat, sunglasses, lots of sunscreen, and an iPod. Also throw together some food for the trip, including chips, peanuts, and cookies. Most importantly, pack the drinks for the trip, including lots of water, wine, beer, and of course rum.

 8:30 AM: Get picked up in a van by Kirk Ebanks. He helps load up all snorkel gear, towels, food, and drinks in his 15-passenger van. It is a quick 10-minute drive from Treasure Island to Safe Haven where the Sea Fire is docked.

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***Notice the changes in the Sea Fire over the years.

 8:45 AM: Greeted at the Sea Fire by Gleason and Kerry. Start to load everything onto the boat and again wonder why you had that extra drink the night before. This is when I apply lots of sunscreen. You will get a lot of sun, even on cloudy days. Head to the 2nd level of the Sea Fire to enjoy the 45 minute boat ride out to the North Sound where the first stop is Stingray City.

 9:30 AM: As we anchor, the stingrays already begin to flock towards the boat.

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Once we are all settled in, Gleason reminds us that we do not need to wear fins at Stingray City as it is a sand bar that is no more than 4 feet deep. We still take our mask and snorkel so we can see these amazing creatures as they swim all around us. Kerry accompanies us in the water so he can hold the stingrays allowing us to hold, pet, feed and take photos with the stingrays.

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He even has them trained to give back massages and it feels pretty amazing. The texture of stingrays is really indescribable until you do it.

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While, this is the highlight of the day now, it didn’t always used to be that way. As little as 25 years ago, when we were snorkeling off the Sea Fire, Gleason would blow a horn warning us that a Stingray had been spotted and everyone should return to the boat immediately. Over the years, they have been tamed and now actually enjoy the attention and love to play with people, especially when you feed them a little squid. 

10:30: After several good photos with the stingrays, it is time to dive for conch shells. These large shells contain an animal inside them called conch. They are attached to their shell, but can be detached with a screwdriver. They are then marinated in a picka-pepper sauce for a nice pre-lunch appetizer with Saltine crackers. Conch are only permitted from November 1-April 30 as the Cayman Islands Department of Environment attempts to protect them from extinction.

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10:45: Head to the beautiful snorkel reef where we see many colorful fish, nurse sharks, sea turtles, lobsters, and of course gorgeous coral. While we are out snorkeling, Gleason and Kerry are preparing an amazing lunch.

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11:30: Head to the coral garden to eat lunch. Lunch is served here, including fresh mahi-mahi, rice, Cayman-style potato salad, banana plantain, and a nice slice of watermelon for desert. After eating the best meal of the week, it is time to break out a glass of wine.

 12:02: Time for the first jump from the 3rd level of the boat into the Caribbean Sea that waits about 15 feet below. It really is thrilling to jump into the Sea from the boat.

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The coral gardens are another great snorkel opportunity to see several neat fish and even a moray eel.

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1:00: It is time to open up the “O-Bar”, which is a term we have given the floating life ring (see video below). We spend the rest of the afternoon floating in the warm water, soaking in the sun, and sipping on our favorite drink. 

O-Bar Video

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 2:30 (or whenever Gleason wakes up from his nap and tells us it’s time to go): Board the boat again and maybe make a few last jumps from the 3rd level. Then head to the seating area upstairs where we turn on some music and finish off the wine and rum.

 3:15: Arrive back at the dock at Safe Haven where Kirk is awaiting us. Say our good –byes. Take a few last minute photos. Load the van and head back to Treasure Island. Next stop? The Swim-up-bar for a rum punch or mudslide!!! The fun never ends in the Cayman Islands.

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11/21/2010

My Top 5 Cayman Islands Attractions

When someone plans a vacation, undoubtedly the first question is “What is there to do there?” The nice thing about a trip to the Cayman Islands is laying on the beach, soaking up the rays, listening to the waves, and relaxing with an island drink in hand is enough to make any vacation great. However, if you want to get some relief from the sun, here are five must-see attractions on Grand Cayman.

 #5. Head to Georgetown for Duty-Free Shopping: I will admit, I’m not much for shopping, but even I like to visit the shops downtown once per trip. The shops are all duty and tax free, which allows for some great deals not found in the United States. Shop for sunglasses, jewelry, watches, leather, souvenirs, and more. Helpful tip: Visit the shops in Georgetown on a day when there are no cruise ships. You will be able to have several shops to yourself in a small walking radius. You can find out the cruise schedule at: 

Cayman Islands Cruise Schedule

 #4. Swim with the dolphins at Dolphin Cove: While this is kind of pricey, I feel it is a once in a lifetime opportunity. You get to pet, kiss, and hold the dolphins, while learning all about this amazing creature. Plus there is no bigger thrill than floating on your stomach and waiting for two huge dolphins to swim up from behind you at full speed and push you up in the air by your feet (see picture). As a guy asked the trainer when we were there, "What happens if they miss your feet?", the trainer responded, "They won't miss." Let's hope not...

Dolphin Cove

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#3. Dine at Casanova’s By The Sea. I don’t typically consider a good restaurant a tourist attraction, but Casanova’s is always a highlight of my trip. This Italian restaurant, overlooking the Caribbean Sea, offers a wide variety of pasta, seafood, and chicken entrees. Tony Crescente, a true Italian, is the owner and prides himself on authentic food from his homeland with family recipes. The service is impeccable and they definitely make every person feel welcome, as though you are part of their family. Whether on a romantic honeymoon get-away or there with a large group, the atmosphere at Casanova's makes this a must-try attraction. Even if you are making your first ever visit to Casanova's, the staff will make you feel like Norm from "Cheers", where everyone knows your name.

Casanova Restaurant

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#2. Have a mudslide at the Wreck Bar at Rum Point: If you have ever had a mudslide in America or at any other bar in Cayman, you might think it’s pretty good. You haven’t had a mudslide until you try one from the Wreck Bar at Rum Point. The sign at the bar says it best: “How much for a virgin mudslide? Cups of ice are FREE!!” If you can find a captain to take you over via boat, that allows you to enjoy the mudslides without worrying about driving. If you have a rental car, it is about a 45 minute drive across the beautiful scenery of the Cayman Islands along the East End. Whether by boat or by car, Rum Point is a must visit attraction. Spend an afternoon here lounging on the beach and floating in the shallow water, or relaxing in a hammock after a mudslide and a mahi sandwich! Friendly tip from experience: when you are with 7 people---42 mudslides in one afternoon is about 28 too many.

Rum Point

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#1. Take a boat on a snorkel trip to Stingray City. The highlight of any trip to the Cayman Islands is a day on the Sea Fire with Captain Gleason Ebanks. However, there are several different captains that will take you out. The trip starts with a visit to Stingray City for a once in a lifetime opportunity to hold, pet, and play with these fascinating creatures. These create some great photo opportunities as the captains will feed and hold the stingrays allowing them to be held in a calm manner. The next stop is along the coral reef in the North Sound. It is here that you might see lobsters, nurse sharks, and lots of beautiful fish. After the snorkeling, a wonderful meal is served on the boat that consists of Mahi Mahi, islands style potato salad, and banana plantain. Finally a stop by the coral gardens to look at schools of colorful fish, sea turtles, and even a moray eel, ends the wonderful day. 

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While there are many things to do in the Cayman Islands, and everyone has different tastes, these five attractions are “must-see” whenever I visit!!