Thursday, March 02, 2017

Cayman Islands: Massages, a Bioluminiscence Tour, and a Snorkel Safari

Being that this was my first girl's trip since college (I graduated 15 years ago), I wasn't really sure what to expect. Thankfully I was with a friend who I knew well, and while being lazy was on both of our lists, doing fun activities was also important.

When we arrived at our hotel at noon on Friday, our room wasn't ready, so we quickly changed into swimsuits, had lunch at the onsite Tortuga Cafe, then took our pina coladas down to the beach. Not a bad way to wait.

We watched as large waves rolled in, breaking as they reached shore. We were told that the ocean was typically calm here and these waves were unusual. As a result, the water sports at our resort had been cancelled for the day and visibility for snorkeling/diving was low.

Kristalynne persuaded me to swim in the rolling ocean with her. The waves would come in and lift us up 2-4 feet. It was pretty amazing. The water was cool but not cold, and I'm glad that I got over my initial discomfort of being too cold to get wet! After our swim, our rooms were available. K took a nap and I hung out by pool to read and was able to Skype Daniel and the boys. Technology is fantastic – I was able to walk around and show them the beach and where I would be staying for the weekend.

Before dinner we watched the sun set (The Westin on Seven Mile Beach faces due west) before walking over to the Sunshine Grill for dinner. We ended up eating at the bar where we met a lovely retired couple from Montana. They were ending their vacation and we swapped stories. After dinner we walked back to our resort and crashed. I had been running all day on a measly three hours of sleep!

Which made it weird that the next morning, when I could have slept in as late as I wanted, I woke up at 5:45am and could not go back to sleep. At 6:30am I grabbed a water bottle and headed down to the beach to watch dawn arrive. By 8am I felt awake enough to participate in a yoga class on the beach before breakfast. Sun salutations on shifting sand are no joke!

Kristalynne and I had agreed that whatever else we did, we wanted to book a Waverunner Snorkel Safari excursion, take a bioluminescence tour, and get a massage. Preferably in that order. That was not exactly how things worked out...

We were able to schedule a bioluminescence tour for that night with Cayman Kayaks, but the only time available was 9pm-midnight. We asked if we could get a ride with the early group and just hang out at Rum Point – the front-desk concierge told us we could not do that and there was nothing to do at Rum Point. She then directed us to go to the water sports hut outside to book our Waverunner Snorkel Safari with Red Sail Sports. The previous day she had told us we would have to wait until this morning to book anything, she also failed to inform us that you had to book your excursion by 9am or reserve ahead of time. Thankfully we were able to snag the last 9am Snorkel Safari spot for the following day.

We then attempted to book a massage. After getting great service from the spa concierge, Sarah, she had to apologetically tell us that everything at the spa was booked for the ENTIRE weekend. Not to be deterred, she suggested we go down the street to a Touch of Thai and went above and beyond, proceeding to schedule our appointments offsite. As luck would have it, Touch of Thai only had availability for one 90-min and one 50-min massage. It was K's birthday so I said I should do the shorter massage. No big deal. Sarah told us we could still take advantage of the hot tub and saunas at the onsite spa, so we made sure to do that before getting our massages down the street. When we arrived at Touch of Thai, they offered to give us a couples massage so we could both get 90 minutes, instead of me getting the shorter massage. We laughed at the situation and promptly said, "Sign us up." It helped that we have known each other for 25 years. We just laughed at how ridiculous our "relaxing" morning had gone so far. K had a Lomi Lomi (traditional Cayman) massage while I tried the more intense Balinese massage. It was fantastic.

After our relaxing massages, we received a call from the front-desk concierge letting us know that two spots had opened up on the earlier bioluminescence tour. We accepted the 6-9pm trip, then went to grab a quick dinner at Eats across the street. As we took the hour van ride across the island, we were both thankful for the earlier availability. I don't think either of us would have been able to stay awake until midnight!

The bioluminescence tour from Rum Point was pretty cool. As the crow flies, Rum Point is about 15 miles away from our resort at Seven Mile Beach, but it took an hour to drive since the roads only go around the perimeter of the island. Three college students from Canada were on our bus and they were cracking me up with their idealism and thoughts about life. It's hard not to eave's drop when you are stuck on a small van with strangers. K and I are so far removed from college, but I vividly remember my own dreams and expectations about life when I was their age.

Our tour started on the beach at Rum Point and we were split into two groups with about 8 two-person kayaks per guide. We hugged the shoreline until we reached a bay. Unfortunately the bay is developed and most of the surrounding houses had outdoor lights on which provided a lot of ambient light that took away from the experience. Even so, we enjoyed interacting with the lights in the water. We learned that there are over 10,000 forms of bioluminescence on our planet. I knew about lightening bugs, eels, and certain types of jellyfish, but had no idea so many life forms produced light like this. To be honest, I expected that the glow in the water would be more pronounced – the brochure certainly makes it look like that. But the reality of our tour was that the water only really lit up when our paddles moved through the water or when we dipped our hands in. On our paddles it looked like lots of tiny bubbles in the dark water. On our hands it looked like little sparks or like you had dipped your hand in glitter. It was bizarre in that the water was completely dark except for where we moved paddles or hands through it. It was strange and amazing, though I wish it had been pitch black. One of the college girls was with the other group and she evidently got in the water to swim. I think that would have been a much more fascinating experience.

Sunday was my turn to sleep in a bit. When I was awake enough to get moving, I grabbed coffee and croissant from the onsite cafe before meeting up with K on the beach to watch the Red Sail guys get the jet skis in water. I will write a separate post about our Waverunner Snorkel Safari excursion next week when my photos are developed. I will say that it was amazing and one of my favorite experiences.

I will also share a more detailed blog post about our meals while in the Cayman Islands. For lunch we went to a Thai Orchid on the recommendation of our spa concierge (who we loved by now!) and then had dinner at Catch (also recommended by Sarah). After dinner we joined other resort guests on the beach to watch part of the Oscars on a big screen. After the opening I wandered down to the water to enjoy my last moments in this beautiful country.

When you have kids, your vacations become trips. While vacations for Daniel means he gets a bit of a break from work, the work of a stay-at-home-mom never ends. I adore my family, but as I mentioned before, I had been running on empty. Never taking a real break in 5 years. Never having the time to really step away. This trip was fun, but mostly it was a break that I desperately needed. I still do a fair amount of adventurous things, but compared to the me before kids, the adventuring isn't exactly the same. Getting to spend a weekend relaxing, doing fun things, and not having to worry about anything or anyone else, was just what I needed.


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