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Blue Diamonds – Meet Cayman Islands’ blue iguanas

f2dd2e65-47ae-4afc-a61f-46dc7e82678f-620x372By Starwood Caribbean

There are many reasons to visit the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park in Grand Cayman. Covering about 65 acres, the park has numerous trails, a recreation of a typical Cayman residence and garden, and a beautiful orchid boardwalk. But the biggest stars of the show here have scales instead of petals. Cayman’s magnificent blue iguanas are the islands’ largest native land animal. And the best place to observe them is at the Blue Iguana Habitat at the botanic park.

The “blue dragons” are also an incredible story of survival. Driven to the brink of extinction, there were only about a dozen surviving blue iguanas on the island in 2002, making them the world’s most endangered iguana. Their precipitous decline was due mainly to destruction of their natural habitat coupled with predators (feral dogs and cats in most cases) and accidents on the roads. Thanks to dedicated conservation efforts by the National Trust of the Cayman Islands and the Blue Iguana Recovery Program, that number is closer to 800 as of 2013.

Blue iguana
The blues roam freely in the park, and while they’re shy creatures, your chances of sighting them along your walk are pretty decent. And yes, they are an incredible shade of blue, making them one of the most beautiful iguanas in the world (at least in our view!). Here’s a helpful tip: if you want to see them at their bluest, visit the park later in the day rather than first thing in the morning. As their bodies warm in the sun, their scales take on a brighter blue hue.

While you can happen upon a roaming blue at the park, for a closer look at the iguanas, take the Blue Iguana Safari. This guided, 90-minute walking tour of the park’s captive breeding facility and a few of its trails takes place daily except Sundays at 11am. A blue iguana warden leads the tour, giving you an excellent overview of the species and its history.

The Westin Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach Resort & Spa
Beyond the blues, the botanic park has plenty of gardens and exhibits worth exploring. A xerophytic garden is dedicated to cacti and other plants that require minimal maintenance; the floral color garden is divided by color, with pink, red, orange, yellow, white, blue, purple and lavender sections providing a lovely rainbow of local and exotic flora. And the Woodland Trail takes visitors to a restored turn-of-the-century Caymanian house. Around the home are plants that played an important role in Cayman’s history, including medicinal plants, root crops and traditional fruit trees.

Wherever you go, be sure to keep an eye out for a Cayman blue iguana!

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