The perfect music to accompany the perfect day.
You could live on Grand Cayman for years and never walk the Mastic Trail -- one of the few walks through the wild forests of the island maintained for walkers by the National Trust. Recently, with the help of some like-minded and open-hearted visitors, I walked the trail.
It didn't hurt that my companions were bird experts and wildlife extraordinaries. Where normally I might have seen things and not really known what they were, Kirsty and Chris showed me everything from Caribbean Doves to Cuban Bullfinches, as well as a few snakes along the way.
This region is a reserve that protects part of the largest area of untouched, and old dry-forests remaining on Grand Cayman. Walking through the trees, parts of the trail are broken down iron-shore (a kind of elevated fossilised coral reef) and rocks while other parts are boardwalk intended to help you through the black mangrove wetland.
The 2.3 (we measured 2.5 but who's counting) miles of trail is no small expedition, especially if you're as interested in pausing to see the local wildlife as we were. But iconic royal and silver thatch palms brushing our shoulders, and a cacophony of parrots within earshot, the walk was made truly magical by that which slowed us down.
The Mastic trail is named after a tree that's indigenous to the area -- the black mastic tree -- and this forest is one of the last of its kind in the Caribbean. The tree itself is only found in Cuba and the Cayman Islands and, because of habitat loss, it's endangered. Considered extinct for over 100 years, it was rediscovered in this area in 1991.
It's easy to feel swept some 300 years back in time to when the island was first settled as you tread along the path. And one of the first things you become thankful for in these modern times is the well-cut path.
While the Cayman Islands has no poisonous snakes, some of the trees on the trail are skin irritants. The habitat of the maiden plum bush (one of the worst offenders and honestly I'm too cautious of this plant to even take a picture) seems to only exist in a few spots along the trail but without the maintenance of the national trust you'd find it hard to get by them.
I am falling in love with Grand Cayman -- and not just with the heat or friendly people, or the drier cooler clear nights you can spend down by the ocean. I'm also falling in love with its contradictions. It's a paradise island with (a few, very few) hellish plants. It's a financial and technological hub where almost nobody asks for your email.
The Mastic Trail is beautiful too, but it's no stranger to contradictions. Parking before we hiked I found myself in a car park mostly made up of abandoned cars and trailers. And then, not moments after starting our trek, we were surrounded by the most beautiful wildlife. Lush green forests and beautiful creatures blanketing you in an experience you'll never forget.