A flamingo tongue snail. The leopard print on the shell is actually the snail surrounding its shell.
The Brac Reef Resort had a nice beach, but the snorkeling wasn't really there. Therefore, the search continued. My mom read in one of the travel pamphlets that there was a small area that someone had kind of cut out of the rock somewhere on the north shore. After a few wrong turns, we found what looked like a swimming pool cut into the rock. It was pretty calm inside the pool, but the entrance was pretty rough and there really weren't any fish (besides the fact that a lot of garbage seemed to get stuck in the pool and on shore around it). There were a few very shallow pools up on the rocks with a lot of snails and some small fish.
The coolest thing I've ever seen was in one of these pools.
When you touch this, the snail retreats into it's shell. When left alone, the snail's mantel spreads out over it's shell, causing the shell to be covered in a leopard print.
It was a snail known as a flamingo tongue snail. When I saw it, it looked like it had a leopard print on its shell. I love collecting shells so I took a picture of it and then went down to pick it up. When I touched it, the shell turned a creamsicle kind of color. Turns out that the initial coloring on the shell was the snail's mantle, which it wraps around it's shell. When "attacked," the snail pulls inside its shell, like any other snail, and in doing so, leaves its creamsicle colored shell visible. Really cool!
We soon gave up on the pool as a place for snorkeling and headed down the road to a park where my mom was told she could see endangered blue dragon iguanas. (We used to have two pet iguanas so my mom is pretty obssessed with finding them whenever we're in the Caribbean or anywhere warm enough to have them.
My sister, doing part of the Lifecourse
) There didn't seem to be much in the park when we first walked in, however, it turned out to be one of the best ideas I've seen as far as outdoor park areas go. Two years ago, the park was turned into the Lifecourse. Basically, that means that it's an outdoor gym circuit...almost. There are two different routes you can take around the park with signs and explanations at each stop. The Lifecourse starts with boxed in areas of gravel designated for stretching. In between each, is a sign with an arrow and a figure of a person running. You move clockwise around the Lifecourse, and the exercises increase in difficulty. There's a balance beam, a log balance kind of thing, uneven bars, a pull-up station, an ab crunch station, etc. It's really a neat idea.
An endangered blue dragon iguana
While wandering around the outer circuit, picking up these red and black seeds called nenes in Costa Rica and considered good luck there (but have no luck attached to them in the Cayman Islands and are called wild dog berries), I heard something move in the leaves next to the trail. When I took a look, there was a huge blue dragon iguana. It was just hanging out, staring me down (which let me get some good pictures of it). I continued on the trail until I found my mom and brought her back there. Luckily, the blue iguana didn't go anywhere, so she got to take a look at him and take some pictures, which made her day. Ah, the simple things.
Since we had spent around an hour at the Lifecourse Park, we decided it was time to head over to the Brac Parrot Preserve.
The most fish seen so far on the trip
On the way, however, we took a wrong turn and ended up finding the public beach on the north shore...where there was a sheltered area! There's a manmade concrete dock kind of thing jutting into the water and it was acting as a barrier to the waves coming in from the east. It was perfect. My dad grabbed his fishing rod (his goal was to catch a parrot fish, I think) and I got my snorkel and jumped off the dock. There weren't too many fish and the water was a little cloudy because the water overall was still very rough, but I got to see some bigger fish than I had so far ("big" referring to fish larger than maybe 3 or 4 inches long). I didn't spend too much time in there, since I knew the wind would give me goosebumps when I got out and my sister wasn't thrilled with sitting at a picnic table but I snapped a few pictures.
Enjoying sticking my head out the window of the car on a road that didn't seem to want to end
(And my dad didn't catch anything...haha.)
On to the Brac Parrot Preserve...if only we could find it. Apparently, the locals don't actually go to any of the places we wanted to go (it took us three days to find the library becuase no one had any idea how to tell us to get there). We didn't really have a decent map with us so we stopped to ask a few old men sitting on a bench outside a store. They said they weren't sure, but that we should turn around and then take a left somewhere up ahead and that that road might bring us to the parrots. (I would like to point out that there was no way to take a right since the road we were on was pretty much right on the water).
So, following their advice, we turned around and took the next left that looked like it wasn't a dead end.
The Cayman Brac lighthouse (it's maybe 20 ft tall)
We actually found the Brac Parrot Preserve, but my mom had figured out that this must be the road that leads to the Brac Lighthouse and that there was a nice walk at the edge of the bluff that she wanted to do...so we continued on, past the parrots. The road from the parrot preserve to the lighthouse ended up being the longest road EVER. We must have been driving on the same road for like 45 minutes. I'm not even sure how that was possible seeing as the whole island itself is only 12 miles long, but we did it.
We finally got to what seemed to be an end...and there was the lighthouse...well, I guess you could call it that. It looked like something built from the erector set I had when I was little. The lighthouse stood maybe 20ft tall and had a single light on top (powered by a very small solar panel).
View off the bluff
Next to the lighthouse was the watch tower that was only slightly taller. (Not really sure why I was expecting something like a lighthouse that you would see in Maine...but I was...haha.)
We started on the hike at the edge of the bluff. It was pretty cool because the bluff is like 140ft up from the water so you can look out and just see forever. It's humbling to stand and look out on the ocean, seeing the curvature of the Earth...truly amazing. Anyway, we saw a ton of huge agave plants and around half a dozen brown boobies that were nesting on the edge. Cool looking birds. The Lighthouse Footpath is around 2 miles long, but it's not a loop, so we only did around a mile of it and turned around (because really, the goal of the day was to get to the parrot preserve and it was already around 3:30/4pm).
A nesting Brown Booby
Finally, the Brac Parrot Preserve. As soon as we walked in we were greeted by a Cayman Brac Parrot that swooped down right over our heads and then perched up in a tree at the entrance to the preserve. I took a picture before it moved out of sight. Good thing, too, because that was the only parrot we saw the entire hour and a half we were in the preserve...haha. Part of the parrot preserve is on Bight Road (a hike we didn't end up doing) and the other part is a mile and a half loop. A lot of the loop was overgrown grasses, some of it was dirt...the majority of it was that sharp rock again.
Although we didn't see any parrots after the first one (which we decided was a paid employee of the tourism offices and was in charge of making people think they would see a ton of parrots), there were a ton of hermit crabs.
My dad enjoys poking at large hermit crabs with sticks
This confused us...because we were up on the bluff, and these crabs were HUGE and had very large shells that come from snails in the WATER that was 140ft below where we were. (We were told later in the week, by one of the local guys who was studying marine biology, that they actually all climb down the bluff and go to the water at least once a year to mate and that that's when they get their enormous shells.)
After the Brac Parrot Preserve, we stopped at the Christopher Columbus Gardens...which really wasn't much of a stop. There were some bridges and some plants, but it wasn't anything you couldn't see in our driveway back at the house we were renting. (Although, I've been told that at night, they light it up and play music from loud speakers and that it's actually quite nice.)