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Lionel’s Amazing Race

In keeping with the theme of the popular Amazing Race, each of my colleagues prepared a unique challenge to be completed during my travels. Some of these challenges will test the limits of my skills and imagination!

Clink on the link below for details of the challenges and stay tuned to track my progress!

Lionel’s Amazing Race

Boffo’s Challenge – Take a Picture of Alvin & Lionel in Scuba Gear & Speedos

We had to take some liberties with this challenge as the Cayman Islands has VERY strict laws on old guys (me) wearing speedos and Alvin is not a certified scuba diver. We did not want him to end up in the ‘dive chamber’ – for many reasons. That would have cost me the rest of my dives for my Cayman vacation +++.

Elliott’s Challenge – Take a Picture Fishing in Cayman

One would think that Lionel & Alvin, two Island boys, would  have no problem catching fish for lunch but it was not to be!  After striking out we decided to head to the East End fish fry for a sure thing.

Dive, Dive, Dive

Now that I have completed my advanced open water diver training;  I am diving as much as I can and enjoying every minute. Most days I do a two tank dive in either the morning or the afternoon.  I have logged 35+ dives over the last 5 weeks. 

I have done almost all of my diving with Don Fosters’s just outside of George Town, Grand Cayman. Their entire team is friendly, knowledgable, professional and most important me, very safety conscious. My instructors for the advanced course, Danni, Luc and  Amy were amazing and made the course interesting & fun. All the instructors continue to offer wise advise on improving my diving skills. Safety should always be the # 1 concerns for divers. I have a very hard time with divers that complain that the instructors/dive masters do too many air checks on them while they are diving.

The first dive is always the deep dive with a profile of  80 ft -100 ft and the lead ensures that everyone  stays out of the decompression zone and get back on the dive boat with at least 500 PSI.  Our second dive after a suitable surface interval is a shallow dive with a depth of approximately 50 feet. The instructors profile of the dive site before we get wet is always very through and  provides useful information.

The instructors and some of my dive buddies do a great job of pointing out interesting underwater life. This is great for me as I have become passionate about underwater photography.  We have seen  numerous sea life including, moray ells, lion fish, puffer fish, lobsters, turtles, large tarpon in swim throughs, a nurse shark and friendly angel fish to name a few.

Go Home Lionfish

The lionfish were first found in the Cayman waters in 2008.  It is not known how they arrived in this region as their natural territory is the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  One theory is that private aquariums were damaged in recent Florida hurricanes and lionfish were released into the sea.  Although beautiful, they are a menace and creating a serious problem in the Cayman Islands.

Lionfish Facts:

  • They are predators known for eating juvenile fish & crustaceans in large quantities.
  • Have no natural predators.
  • They have venomous spines to ward off predators and cause very painful wounds to humans. Other symptoms of the sting to humans may include swelling, redness, bleeding, nausea, numbness, joint pain, anxiety, headache, disorientation, dizziness, nausea, paralysis, and convulsions.
  • Lionfish produce approximately 30,000 eggs each month which makes it extremely impossible to eliminate them.

Divers must be alert especially in a wreck, cave or swim—through,  as lionfish are able to rest, upside down, on the ceilings of these features. Divers have been stung by lionfish they were not aware of.

The intestation has become so intense that the  Cayman Islands, Department of Environment now offers lionfish culling courses and license the use of Hawaiian slings to assist in capture and killing these fish.

On the positive side, they are great tasting and considered a delicacy and many local resturants now offer lionfish on their menus.

Cayman East End & Bodden Town Fish Fry

Sunday in Grand Cayman means fish fry on the beach for us. Most Sundays when we are in Grand Cayman we head to the east end of the island for lunch. This is usually a family affair with various members of the family meeting us there to eat a simple fry fish lunch at picnic tables by the ocean. There are a few local spots, our favourite one only opens on Sundays.

Fresh fish like snapper, grouper, wahoo or barracuda are served with festival (a fried dumpling made of flour, water & a bit of sugar). Typically, this is eaten with hot marinade made with vinegar, onions and Jamaican scotch bonnet peppers.

Winsome’s favourite is the whole fried snapper which she is very skilled at deboning until there is nothing left but the head and skeleton. Usually, I prefer the barracuda which has excellent taste. Many sane people believe they are poisonous to eat because they prey on smaller fish that consume vast amount of marine algae that contain poisonous toxins. Everything moves up the food chain and if toxins build up in the barracuda they can make the fish toxic to eat. Usually, locals will eat only the smaller fish and may test the fish my placing a small piece outside in the dirt – if the ants go for it, it’s safe to eat!

Havana

The pictures in this gallery were taken by Winsome & I during our recent trip to Havana. We took our cameras everywhere and tried to capture the life of this beautiful old city.

A number of the pictures are in black and white which I like for the purity of the medium. I tried to capture the locals going about their daily life in Old Havana.

Havana

January 29th – 31st

Our vist to Havana was booked at the last minute in order to obtain availability at the Parque Central hotel in Old Havana which was very highly recommended to us.  The Parque Central is a beautiful old hotel managed by the Spanish hotel chain Iberostar and is very centrally located.

We left Grand Cayman on Sunday afternoon and returned on Tuesday afternoon, which we found to be sufficient time for our first visit to Havana. On Sunday night we went to see the Tropicana show which was about a twenty minute taxi ride from the hotel. The show was enjoyable.

Winsome and I were somewhat apprehensive about the trip as we had heard mixed reviews from a number of different people about the city and the food.  The transfers between the airport and hotel were flawless and we were always met on time. The hotel was beautiful and the room was very comfortable. The people were very helpful & friendly.

We spent a lot of time walking around Old Havana which we found very enjoyable.  The cobblestone streets close to our hotel were very busy and crowded with vendors some of which were no more than a hole in the wall.

We also took an open air tour bus tour of the city which was interesting but most of the time we had no clue where we were or what building and monuments we were seeing as we could not understand the tour guide. To fill in the gaps we hired a taxi driver who drove us around again & was able to give us more insight into the attractions.

Seeing the old cars around Havana was amazing.  It is like you are in a time warp.  Many were in terrible shape but their owners somehow keep them running. We saw a number broken down on the street.  I wonder what will happen when Cuba is open to the USA , will the collectors try to take advantage of the locals and export the cars out of  Cuba.  It would be a shame!

A colleague from work, Rohit Sandhu who was vacationing in Varadero with cousins, Ranvir & Sam, and friends, Ray and Sarb, made a ‘road trip’ to Havana to see the sights.  Rohit and buddies arrived at our hotel at 10pm on Monday night and we spent a few very enjoyable hours in the lobby bar together.  It appeared that they had been having lots of fun & many late nights.  Oh, what it’s like to be young!!!!