The Cayman Islands are one of several overseas British territories located in the Northern Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. The Cayman Islands are internationally recognized as a tourist and finance destination for European and American visitors, although they also boast a fascinating local culture. The Cayman Islands are divided into three major islands – Grand Cayman, Little Cayman, and Cayman Brac, covering a total area of just over one hundred square miles. The Cayman Islands have a total population of about fifty five thousand permanent residents, and have one of the highest per capita GDPs in the region. The vast majority of the population is concentrated in three towns – George Town, West Bay, and Bodden Town. The Cayman Islands are somewhat unusual among Caribbean Islands in that they were uninhabited before the arrival of European settlers following the Age of Discovery. The Cayman Islands were first sighted by the most famous explorer in western history, Christopher Columbus, in the early sixteenth century. During the first few decades of its inhabited history, the Cayman Islands were home to a motley crew of different settlers, including pirates, refugees, and even shipwreck survivors. The Cayman Islands were not permanently settled until the second half of the seventeenth century, when Britain formally assimilated the archipelago.
The Cayman Islands became a separate colonial territory in the year 1962, and continues to be a part of the British Commonwealth. The Cayman Islands are a relatively flat archipelago, although the underwater mountain range on which the islands are situated rise more than eight thousand feet above the ocean floor. The highest point of the Cayman Islands is The Bluff on Cayman Brac, which is only one hundred and forty feet above sea level. The Cayman Islands have impressive biodiversity, boasting two endemic Amazona parrots as well as the Blue Iguana and agouti. Human residents of the Cayman Islands have the highest standard of living in the Caribbean Sea, largely thanks to the government’s low levels of taxation and the strong tourist and finance industries. The Cayman Islands are unusual among Caribbean territories in that they are not self governing, and instead are administrated by a governor appointed by Great Britain.
The Cayman Islands are an internationally renowned destination for scuba diving and snorkeling, especially for visitors interested in diving with stingrays off of Grand Cayman and Stingray City. The heart of the Cayman Islands’ tourist industry is Seven Mile Beach, which is home to a substantial number of the archipelago’s resorts and hotels. Other notable tourist attractions in the Cayman Islands include Boatswain’s Beach, a marine theme park, Pedro St. James Castle, and the Mastic Trail. There are a number of ways to access the Cayman Islands, including several major ports and three major airports. The Cayman Islands have a strong educational system, including public and private primary schools, the University College of the Cayman Islands, St. Matthew’s University, and the International College of the Cayman Islands. The Cayman Islands have an active sports community, boasting a highly rated rugby team and cricket squad as well as soccer and volleyball teams. The archipelago has its own brand of local music, as well as other styles which cater to the large tourist audience.