I have just returned for my second stint in the Cayman Islands after eighteen months away. It’s a lot greener than I remember.
Some strange-looking new buildings too. I first arrived here from the UK late in 2004 and found an island recovering from the devastation caused by the might of Hurricane Ivan. I was the first post-Ivan recruit in my firm. The resilience of the people and their ability to recover was astonishing. Cayman has a healthy habit of bouncing back.
Maitland opened its doors here in September of last year. Since then it has been all hands to the pumps to get the office up and running and build our legal advisory business in these challenging times. As the only man in an office of nine, I was, of course, the natural choice to be put in charge of furniture and décor for our new premises in George Town, the island’s capital. Despite philosophical differences over the subject of rugs, our small team has quickly gelled into a friendly and proactive unit with everyone willing to muck in.
Cayman – emphasis on the second syllable please – can take you unawares. Look behind the hordes of cruise-shippers and the excesses of the Seven Mile Beach strip (or don’t if that’s what you like) and you’ll find a small, diverse and welcoming community enjoying the highest standard of living in the Caribbean. Look beyond the palm trees and casuarinas and you’ll find one of the most innovative and successful financial industries in the world.
My commute into work from my apartment along the South Sound coastal road takes ten minutes on a bad day. At the end of the week, I often break up the journey home to watch the sun go down with a mojito in my hand at Sunset House, a lively bar and divers’ hangout with stunning views over the emerald waters of the Caribbean Sea. I am determined to visit the beach more often this time around – you sometimes tend to ignore it when it’s right on your doorstep. I should go diving more often too. Sue, my wife, is a devoted scuba-diver and spends most weekends underwater “blowing bubbles” around the coral reef amongst the turtles and kaleidoscopic array of fish.
I paint in my spare time – large-scale acrylic abstracts. Spearheaded by our National Gallery, Cayman is home to a vibrant artistic community which punches far above its weight. The Prospect Playhouse stages regular dramatic performances, and a multi-screen cinema sprang up in my absence at the new Camana Bay development. I particularly look forward to attending the monthly gatherings of the crypto-subversive Better Read Than Dead play-reading circle.
The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park is my favourite place on the Island. It was ravaged by Ivan, but the staff have lovingly recreated this beautiful tropical garden which is also home to the breeding project for Cayman’s native blue iguana. Sunday afternoons spent strolling in the sanctuary of the colour gardens or along the woodland trail are my time for thinking and reflecting on the issues of the week.
Everyone needs to get off the island once in a while, whether it be for some shopping in Fort Lauderdale or to live it up on Miami’s South Beach, to relax in a spa in the Jamaican Blue Mountains or to roam the backstreets of Havana’s old town; each destination is within an hour’s flight of Grand Cayman. It is also a great springboard for travelling down to South America (we’ve been three times).
Cayman has more than its fair share of world-class restaurants but the true taste of the islands is found in the small local eateries: jerk chicken and pork from Tony’s Jerk Shop, rich goat curries from Singh’s Roti Hut, fish fry out at East End or any of the myriad delights cooked up in Miss Vivine’s Kitchen. Wash it down with baba root or mannish water, mysterious potions reputed to aid virility – but never make the mistake of asking what goes into them.
David Pytches is a trusts partner at Maitland Cayman.