Oct
19
2010

The Cayman Turtle Farm

Besides filling the island's need for edible turtle meat, the Cayman Turtle Farm is restoring the island's turtle population after decades of over-fishing made the species endangered.

As you make your final descent into Grand Cayman, you’ll likely crane your neck to peer through the window. Below you, you’ll see a stunning blend of blue, green and turquoise waters snuggling up to the white powdery sands of a pristine coastline.

But this is not just some simple beach paradise.

Where the dreamy seascape ends, a blanket of flora, fauna and intertwined eco-systems flourish inland throughout the three islands of the Caribbean nation.

Beneath the breathtaking scenery lies an infrastructure of remarkable government initiatives that have made the Cayman Islands a comfortable home for more than 200 species of birds, an abundance of marine wildlife and the rare blue iguana, poised on the edge of extinction.

And when it comes to picking the poster child of Grand Cayman’s eco-preservation initiatives, the Cayman Turtle Farm in Boatswain's Beach is a natural choice.

Preserving Turtles

Since 1980, the Cayman Turtle Farm has released more than 31,000 green sea turtles into the surrounding waters.

Spurred on by the ban of snatching turtles from the wild, Cayman Turtle Farm balances the country’s commitment to preserving its natural surroundings with a traditional culinary desire for turtle stew and turtle soup.

One of the top facilities of its kind in the world, the Cayman Turtle Farm combines education and research programs with a natural breeding process that unfolds before the eyes of more than 500,000 annual visitors.

Approximately 60 per cent of the annual breeding production is raised for three to four years before being processed as a national delicacy, while the remaining 40 per cent are released into the wild after one year.

The facility features more than 300 breeding turtles, some exceeding 500 pounds, who breed between May and November each year.

The females come ashore to a man-made beach to bury their eggs, which are then transferred to a hatchery where visitors can monitor the progress of each year’s new generation.

After losing 75 per cent of its breeder turtles to Hurricane Michele in 2001, the Cayman Turtle Farm moved inland across the road where it has become the foundation of a 23-acre nature theme park known as Boatswain's Beach.

Located on the northwest tip of Grand Cayman, the complex is the island’s largest land-based attraction and a great place for families to spend the day.

Touch Tanks

The Turtle Farm is divided into several different tanks, including touch tanks where visitors can hold a green sea turtle in their hands.

The turtles, who adore a little rub under the neck now and then, reduce my strapping young guide to a child-like state as he coos and tickles one along our route.

I’m struck by how attached the guides are to the turtles. And then I realize it’s no wonder—most of the breeding turtles—who live up to 100 years—will outlast the park employees.

When You Go

The Cayman Turtle Farm is open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Monday to Saturday. The lagoons close daily at 2 p.m.

Turtle feedings happen at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. each day. Plan your trip around these times—it’s really cool to see.

Adult admission is US$30 for the Turtle Farm, while children can visit for US$20. (A full-day pass to Boatswain Beach is US$45 for adults, US$25 for children.)

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David Pye

David Pye is a Montreal-based freelance writer. He has hoofed across a whopping 30 countries, but he returns to the Caribbean whenever there’s a seat sale.

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