Do you wish to revel in the sheer elegance of the Cayman’s lush environment, full of an extravagant floral display? Come to the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park which – a unique blend of natural splendour, culture and history. Visit this beautiful park and spend a few hours here or even a full day to delight your senses in the lap of nature. You will surely fall in love with Cayman’s nature and cherish this memory for life!
This botanic park of the Grand Cayman was opened by Her Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II in 1994 and at the time, only the Woodland Trail was completed. Located in the district of North Side on Flank Sound Road, the grounds have now flourished and developed in to a full-grown luxuriant facility over the years. The park is jointly owned by the Cayman Islands Government and the National Trust for the Cayman Islands a non-profit, statutory body.
In 2008, the botanic park designed a Silver-award winning entry, The Heritage Garden, for the highly famed Chelsea Flower Show. The next year the ‘Cayman Islands Undersea Reef Garden’ received a gold medal in this show’s floral category and also won the President’s Most Creative Award.
The Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park’s major attractions include The Queen Elizabeth II Monument, which is made up of stone from a local quarry, decorated with fossil shells and framed by a stand of Silver Thatch palms, the national tree, whose frond is the Park’s logo. Next is the Visitor’s Centre, which is a two-storeyed building, styled in the Caymanian way with a spacious and welcoming veranda. From here, you are welcomed for a stroll in a verdant courtyard adorned with orchids and tropical plants surrounding a water feature crossed via remarkably arranged stepping stones. Moving further, the path leads to The Heritage Garden - a green area with fruit trees, traditional crops, medicinal herbs and a special cook room. Here stands a charming and traditional pink cottage surrounded by a white sand garden which represents the early 20th century life in the Cayman Islands.
Moving away, one can see The Floral Colour Garden, which is a year-round explosion of vibrant hues with a colourful walkway sectioned with pink, red, orange, yellow, white, blue, mauve, and lavender flowers, and the centrepiece is a majestic gazebo atop a serene lily pond. This place is a favourite for weddings and relaxed brunches. The next encounter is the Park’s two-acre lake and the adjoining wetlands. It is a soothing oasis which is a breeding ground for the native bird species and hence, allures bird-watchers from all over the globe. Tri-coloured Herons, Common Moorhen, Green Herons, Black-necked Stilts, American Coots, Blue-winged Teal, Cattle Egrets and rare West Indian Whistling Ducks are just a handful of the winged beauties that are frequent visitors to this section of the park.
The main path finally links to the famous Woodland Trail and a walk around this trail means a walk around the Cayman. The landscape varies every few hundred yards in just a less than a mile; you can see everything from wetland to cactus thicket, logwood swamp to humid epiphyte woodland, dry thickets on very little soil to the tall woodland with impressive Mahogany trees. It is interesting to know that factors such as the depth and kind of soil, the water table elevation, groundwater salinity, the history of human activity, and the nature of the surface rock are just a few of those that regulate the patterns of natural vegetation along the trail. Additionally, along the Woodland Trail lies the centre for the National Trust’s Blue Iguana Recovery Program. These fascinating reptiles were on the brink of extinction just two decades ago but due to the concentrated efforts made under this conservation program, the number has been revived.
If you are doing an island tour of Grand Cayman and heading toward the eastern or northern districts, we would highly recommend stopping at the Botanic Park.
That brings an end to the splendid tour of the park but not without a few more nature reference points to mention: you can enjoy looking at a magnificent variety of butterflies at the park and the breath-taking array of orchids including the national flower of the Cayman Islands – the Wild Banana Orchid.