Cayman Crystal Caves – From Pirate Hideout to Tourist Attraction

Grand Cayman Island.

About thirty years ago, a young man from Denmark moved to Grand Cayman and followed in his father’s footsteps. Christian Sorensen spent time searching the island for suitable caves to build a tourist attraction in the same manner as his father, Ole Sorensen, who was already successful in the development of Harrison’s Caves in Barbados. Unlike some of the cave attractions in the Caribbean that are complete with pirate “skeletons” and fake treasures, you won’t find any of that in Crystal Caves. From those early explorations, it took Christian Sorensen twenty years to purchase and develop the property into what it is today.

Given that the tallest point on the island is only 79 feet (24 m) above sea level, in a way, it’s surprising that there are caves at all. In the caves that were part of our tour, we didn’t really have the sense of going very far down, though we did walk down a spiral staircase to enter one of the caves, it was only what I would consider a single floor to the cave bottom. Many caves, like in the opening photo can simply be walked into or out of. Many of the caves had openings in the roof that let in sunlight as in the cave above.

Our cruise excursion tour started with a bus ride to the northern end of the island where we entered a rain forest area. Of course, being a rain forest, it started to rain. Our group hunkered under a collection of palapa style tables. Our tour guides had us wait a bit while they discussed a change in the tour based upon not making us walk a long distance in the rain. They took enough time that by the time we were ready to go, the rain had all but stopped. The tour modification was no longer necessary and we would get the “full tour” which meant a little longer walk to the first of several caves we would visit.

The tour guide kept it geologic and educational in nature. There was little mention of the fact that pirates did indeed use caves like this as hideouts. They were also used as shelter from hurricanes that happened to visit the islands over the years. Our tour guide was friendly and knowledgeable, he kept up a running conversation as we journeyed through three caves on our tour. Whether you are visiting the island on a cruise, or are vacationing there, if you are considering a visit to Cayman Crystal Caves, be sure to book your tour before you arrive. They do not sell tickets to “drop-in” visitors.

The darkest areas of the cave tour are well lit and the passages are wide, so you won’t have any feel for true “spelunking” on the tour. Having said that, wear clothing that will support the climate in the rain forest and wear comfortable, fully enclosed shoes. Crystal Caves gets its name because crystals within the formations shine in the bright artificial lighting installed in the caves.

The last cave on our tour is known as Lake Cave. As you enter the cave, you descend into a series of caverns that lead to a larger cavern where an underground lake awaits your cameras. The tour guide spent a lot of time taking photos of tourists at various points on the tour, but nowhere near as many photos as he captured of the guests as they stood in front of this beautifully lighted lake. The lighting system was adjusted to focus on various parts of the cave and lake during this part of the tour. The image captured above provided reflective light that allowed us to view the surface of the cave above the lake by viewing the reflection in the water.

To underscore the fact that this tour is not your typical cave tourist attraction, in 2018, Crystal Caves was awarded one of the Governor’s Conservation Awards to recognize the attraction’s achievement in historic preservation and environmental conservation in the Cayman Islands. For protecting biodiversity, wildlife, endangered species while offering environmentally friendly visitor access to nature, beauty, and outdoor recreation opportunities, Crystal Caves was awarded the Tourism Industry Conservation Award. You can learn more about their tours and make reservations on their website here. I submit for your review a gallery of images captured on our guided tour of the Cayman Crystal Caves.

John Steiner

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