Our wedding anniversary was this past weekend and unfortunately my wife had to work. We did have lunch together and I whipped up dinner for us. We’re not big on gifts though, our philosophy is we’d rather spend our money on experiences. So, seeing as we were both off from work on Tuesday and Wednesday, we snuck over to Cayman Brac for 2 nights to see the island and do some diving. How else do you celebrate an anniversary when you live on a Caribbean island? You go to another island of course!
Of the 3 islands that make up the Cayman Islands, the “Brac” (as everyone here refers to it) is just a bit larger than Little Cayman but much larger in population. Around 180 people live full-time on Little Cayman but just under 2,000 live on the Brac (for comparison, around 55,000 live on Grand Cayman). Flights to the sister islands run daily and are easy to get last minute, which is good since I booked the flights two days before we left (actually, I booked everything last minute, refer here for more on my organizational style). Public transportation doesn’t really exist on any of the islands (there’s a “bus” service on Grand Cayman and limited taxi’s, but nothing on the other two). As a result, renting a car is kind of unavoidable.
After booking flights, a room and a dive package, I called about a car. I asked around and found the phone number to two car rental shops.
Side note: You know in the States, Canada, the UK, when you call a business, people usually answer with a “Thanks for calling XYZ Business, this is Joe, can I help you?” or something similar. Nobody really does that here.
The first call was to a rental place at the airport, the call was pretty mundane, they have cars, they’re kind of pricey, I can rent one. The second number was given to me by the hotel manager of the condo we rented; the call went something like this:
Ring ring ring
An awkward pause
Me: “Is this the car rental place?”
Me: “Great. I need to rent a car. Do you have cars available to rent on Monday?”
Him: “Yes sir”
Me: “Can you tell me how much you charge for an economy?”
Him: “You want the small car?”
Me: “Yes please”
Him: “What’s your given name sir?”
Him: “What’s your surname Mr. Donald?”
Me: “I really just need the price of the car for a 2 day rental.”
Him: “$30 CI Mr. Donald”
Me: “For 2 days?”
Him: “No, each day.”
Me: “So for 2 days I’m looking at $60 CI?”
Him: “That’s correct”
Me: “Okay, I’ll rent the car.”
Him: “You want the car?”
Me: “Yes please.”
Him: “You want an economy car?”
Me: “That’d be great”
Him: “That’s a yes?”
Him: “Okay Mr. Donald, what’s your surname?”
Him: “Okay Mr. Donald, what time do you land?”
Him: “Okay Mr. Donald, my name is Michael”
Him: “Michael, my name is Michael”
Me: “Great, thanks Michael. Do you want my credit card?”
Him: “No, my name is Michael”
Me: “I gotcha Michael, do you need a credit card to hold the car?”
Him: “No, I pick you up”
Him: “At the airport”
Me: “You’ll pick me up at the airport?”
Me: “On Monday?”
Him: “Yes, I pick you up around 6 o’clock”
Me: “Okay, I have a car, I’ll pay for it when I get there and you’ll pick me up on Monday around 6pm?”
At which point I thanked Michael and we hung up. Keep in mind, I still don’t know the name of the company, what this guy looks like, how to identify him when we land…So many conversations here are like that, kind of circular. I was trying to get directions from someone once over the phone and he kept telling me his home was near the banana tree where they are building “that house”. The guy was getting really frustrated I didn’t know what he meant. I mean, I guess if there was only one “banana tree” and one “house” under construction it’d make sense…
In any case, we flew out Monday evening and 25 minutes later landed on the Brac. The airport is what you’d expect on an island with under 2K people. We collected our bags, which consisted of our dive gear and a small backpack each for our personal stuff. Our travel experiences have enabled us to dial in our gear to a minimum. Then made our way outside to find Michael and our car.
“Mr. Donald?” Michael, as promised, was at the airport to meet us. He led us over to our economy car. His office consisted of a clip board and the hood of the car where we filled out the paperwork and traded cash for keys. Next he gave us directions to our condo. Now, the condo owner already gave me directions but I thought hearing them in person would be helpful, I was wrong. The condo owner told me two rights out of the airport and the unit was down the street and on the left. Michael began telling us to take a left out of the airport, which was contradicting the condo owner, furthermore, he was pointing right. Then he said to take another left, but he was still pointing right! I asked him again if I turn right, to which he said no, left, but still pointed right. I literally held my hands up and made the L with my left hand, maybe I was confusing my left and right?? I looked over at my wife with a look of “am I losing my mind?”
We got in the car and figured we’d follow his hand signals over his words. Sure enough, two rights later we pulled into our condo complex where the owner (who also happens to run the dive boat we’d be using the next day), greeted us.
After settling into our home for the next two days, we grabbed dinner at a restaurant next door, then grabbed some groceries for breakfast and lunch.
The next morning we got up, made french toast for breakfast and headed down to the dive boat.
We dove with Brac Scuba Shack and the diving was pretty spectacular. Our goal this trip was to dive the Tibbetts. The Capt. Keith Tibbetts wreck was a 330 ft Russian ship purpose-sunk in 1996 for scuba divers, although it’s now on its side and in two pieces due to a hurricane which split the ship in half. Sitting at a max depth of 108 ft it’s well within range of recreational scuba divers like ourselves, we really wanted to dive it. When we boarded the dive boat we asked if we could dive the Tibbetts and were told, sorry, no go, part of the group we were diving with had been there the day before. But, the boat captain told us if we could talk two more people into going, he’d bring us out in the afternoon. Susannah started working the boat. Before the morning was over she found another couple who wanted to dive the Tibbetts and we planned an afternoon dive of the wreck.
Here’s some video we shot of the Tibbetts. Check it out!
We spent day 2 driving around the island, checking out the caves and bluffs that make up the Brac. The highest point in the country is on Cayman Brac. Reportedly the climbing here is pretty good and there’s even a climbing club that flies over from Grand Cayman to practice. The caves are filled with history as they were used as shelters by locals during flooding and hurricanes as late as the mid-1900’s. One such cave, Rebecca’s Cave contains the grave of a young girl who died there during the hurricane of 1932.
Some of the best hiking is found here as well. Geographically it’s probably the most diverse of the sister islands. Definitely looking forward to going back!