Robert moved to the Cayman Islands after three years of working as an accountant in London. It was the best decision he ever made: “What’s there to miss? The freezing British winter? Commuting from Platform 10 of Clapham Junction? Here it’s tax-free so I get to keep my income.”
Favourable tax laws aren’t the only reason to move to the Cayman Islands. There’s also all the things you expect from a Caribbean destination: turquoise water, white beaches, a perma-hot climate. If you’re into diving, there are great shipwrecks to explore. One of them, the Kittiwake, was intentionally sunk after being decommissioned, having once picked up Buzz Aldrin from one of his lunar explorations. There’s also kayaking, which is best undertaken at night under the star-lit Caribbean sky. If you’re lucky, you might even see some bioluminescence.
If you don’t fancy scuba-diving, you can still explore ocean’s depths. I jumped on a submarine, which may not have descended to the depths of the Cayman Trench (the second deepest in the world after the Mariana Trench in the Pacific), but still went down 100ft below the water where hundreds of multi-coloured fish dart among the coral.
Other animal related pursuits include horse riding on the sand and catching some rays at Stingray City (best done from chartered boat company Cayman Luxury Charters), a lagoon of tranquil water where people are encouraged to get up close and personal with the flat, rubbery fish. To kiss one brings seven years of good luck (I cannot confirm if this is true, the stingray rejected my advances).
Caymanians are serious about conservation. There’s a turtle sanctuary on one side of the island and an iguana protection centre on the other. There’s also plenty of bird watching and walking to be done on the slightly less fashionable Sister Islands. Despite their unfancied reputation it’s worth setting a few days aside for them. The two islands – called Cayman Brac, from the Gaelic for cliff, and Little Cayman – are a half-hour “twin otter” engined flight from the mainland. They really are “fly and flop” destinations. You’ll be hard pressed to find anything to do apart from relaxing by the pool. If you’re planning on doing nothing, you may as well do it in style at the Southern Cross Club on Little Cayman, whose rooms have ingenious interior shutters that divide the room into whatever shape you want.
While there is scant architecture of historical significance, the Caymans have come a long way culturally: the new National Gallery has an inspiring curator in Natalie Urquhart, and even Little Cayman has its own Museum and Heritage building. The Cayman Islands are a British Overseas Dependency, and my driver was tenth generation Caymanian. The locals are an upbeat bunch. Crime rates are low (and predominantly white-collar), and so is unemployment. Tourists are barely hassled at all. Most visitors are American, but there are plenty of Brits, too. The cross-fertilization of the two cultures is interesting: the Cayman Compass, the local paper, gives you the baseball scores but not the Premier League. But Union Jacks are two-a-penny, as are portraits of the Royal couple.
The Caribbean Club, run by an engaging homesick Italian from Padua, is one of the most luxurious places to stay – the owner knows how Europeans like to eat. For those on a budget, the Kaibo Beach Restaurant, a boat ride across the bay, is both good and reasonably priced.
The exchange rate is poor for us Brits but if money is no object there’s plenty to keep you occupied; things like Cuban cigars and fine European wines. There’s also a clever wheeze called The Flavour Tour, a restaurant pub crawl for around £50 offering a four course dinner across four adjacent restaurants, the best of which is Ortanique, an essential component on any Cayman holiday itinerary.
On the western side of the island the celebrated “Seven Mile Beach” is the setting for the film The Location starring Tom Cruise. Somewhat appropriately, the film is about tax evasion. Tax is one reason people flock to the Cayman Islands, but as I discovered, there’s so much more to it than that.
GETTING THERE: EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW
Lead in prices for direct BA flights from London Heathrow T5 to Grand Cayman start from £789. BA fly four times a week with a short stop in Nassau where onward passengers remain on board. britishairways.com
The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman
Caribtours (020 7751 0660: caribtours.co.uk) offers 7 nights from £2,227 per person, based on 2 adults sharing a Garden View room, room only, including return scheduled flights and private transfers. (Based on September 2015 Departure.)
The Westin, Grand Cayman Seven Mile Beach
Caribtours (020 7751 0660: caribtours.co.uk) offers 7 nights from £1,845 per person, based on 2 adults sharing a Island View Room, room only, including return scheduled flights and private transfers. (Based on September 2015 Departure.)
Marriott Beach Resort, Grand Cayman
Caribtours (020 7751 0660 caribtours.co.uk) offers 7 nights from £1,676 per person, based on 2 adults sharing a Deluxe Room, room only, including return scheduled flights and private transfers. (Based on September 2015 Departure.)
Southern Cross Club, Little Cayman
Southern Cross Club (001 619 563-0017; southerncrossclub.com) offer a 7 night non-dive package from £1,335 per person, based on 2 adults sharing in an ocean front beach bungalow, including all meals in the club house dining room, taxes and hotel service fee, airport transfers on Little Cayman, as well as complimentary use of bicycles, beach towels, paddle boards and sea kayaks and more.
Tax fact!There is a zero per cent tax rate across the whole of the Cayman islands, so no residents pay any income or corporation tax. All public funds come through indirect taxation.