The walk gave us a chance to explore the landward side of Grand Cayman. I enjoyed it a lot – I always like scrambling about the interior of Caribbean islands. While most tourists will stick firmly to the beaches, resorts and towns, these patches of woodland are the last remnants of how these islands must have looked in the pre-Columbus era. Particularly in these drier islands, the vegetation has a fragility which is all too easily disturbed, but get down in amongst it and you see the resilience and adaptability of species for coping with irregular rainfall, thin soils and on ferociously incised geology. I loved Ghut running in BVI – the temporary river channels up and down the mountain were often the best ways to walk through the forest, the periods of heavy rain flushing aside the soil and vegetation to make a clear path in the dry season.
But of course, what one thinks of when you hear the word Caribbean is sand sea and sun, and for our final night on the island, we were taken on a sunset cruise across the North Sound. Most of the delegates boarded two catamarans and headed out into the open water. It was your traditional booze cruise, we’d help ourselves to a cocktail or beer and settle down on the benches or on the net straddling the two hulls. Everyone was so relaxed and chatty the time passed quickly. Here, rarely in the Caribbean, we were at sea but almost surrounded by island and the sun sank below the mangroves to our west, picking out the straggly branches of their canopies. The mangroves had been bashed about by the hurricane that had made me evacuate the year before and , like many trees on Cayman, were taking time to regenerate.
In semidarkness we alighted at a dock close to one of those magical restaurants that exist across the Caribbean. A welcoming building opens up on to the sand, the tables perfectly set on the beach (how come they never get sand on every item), lights wound up the tree trunks and set out on poles in the shallows to shimmer against the darkening surface. We had a great party there. Then it was socks and shoes or sandals off again and wade back to the boats. We sat glowing as the catamarans chugged us back over to the hotel; no better way to spend a night in the Caribbean.