Mastic Trail, Grand Cayman

Mastic Trail Guided Tours Grand Cayman

A great deal of Grand Cayman is difficult to penetrate. However, the Mastic Trail, stretching for 3.2km (2 miles), provides a rare chance to experience a fascinating journey into Grand Cayman's wild interior, an area where woodland has been left virtually undisturbed for 2 million years. Guided tours along the length of the trail take 2 1/2 to 3 hours.

Mastic Trail is home to a wide variety of plants and animals unique to the Cayman Islands. Fauna includes the stripe-headed tanager, along with various other species of birds, the Cuban tree frog, and the racer snake. The Mastic Trail is also home to large populations of trees that have vanished from more accessible places in Grand Cayman due to logging in the 18th and 19th centuries. You will be walking through one of the last remaining examples of the Caribbean's dry, subtropical forest. Throughout much of the West Indies, these types of forests have been the victims of particularly intense deforestation.

One part of the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman goes through a black mangrove swamp. The highlights of this part of the trail are the mastic trees, from which the Mastic Trail takes its name. This type of tree is famous for the veins on its self-peeling bark, and there is both a black mastic tree and a yellow one on the trail. Near the end of the trail, you'll reach the highest point in Grand Cayman, a hill -- locals call it "The Mountain" -- that rises 18m (60 ft.).

Birders will find that the ideal time to walk the Mastic Trail is from October to early December, when you will be able to observe the seasonal migrations of various birds. If you want to see the tree orchids, visit the trail in June or early July. Guided tours of the Mastic Trail offer much to see year-round. Avoid the trail when it's raining intensely since the route is subject to flooding.

Don't be deceived by the shortness of the Grand Cayman Mastic Trail. Along the way you'll pass through difficult terrain, especially in the boggy wetlands. Most of the soil lies on karst rock, which can be unkind to hikers. Before setting out, learn to identify the innocent-sounding "maiden plum," a species of tree with purplish fruits that tends to grow close to the path. The sap from this tree can cause a nasty rash.

Although it isn't necessary to tour the Mastic Trail on Grand Cayman with a guide, taking guided tours is highly recommended, because guides can spot and identify the various flora and fauna. Geddes Hislop, who used to work for the National Trust, and his wife, Janet, conduct the best guided tours along Mastic Trail. Excursions are booked through their company, Silver Thatch Excursions (tel. 345/945-6588; www.earthfoot.org/places/ky001.htm), and cost CI$36 (US$45) per person.

 

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