>>>Pirates, caimans and other tales
Foto: Pirates Week Festival

Pirates, caimans and other tales

Its beaches tell stories of pirate crews and treasures, and once a year, its streets are filled with black flags displaying the skull and crossbones. Welcome to the Cayman Islands, pirate territory.
ou have to get lost to find unreachable destinations, or else everyone would know where they are,” says Captain Barbossa, one of the best-known characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean saga, which borrowed several Caribbean islands for its adventures, including the Caymans.
Its peaceful, turquoise waters might exude calm, but this idyllic place, located some 290 km from Jamaica, and between Cuba and Honduras, was a pirate den and sailor hang-out during the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
This year, the festival slogan is “Age of Romance”.
Foto: Pirates Week Festival

A different way of diving

One of the most enjoyable activities at the festival is hunting for underwater treasure. Participants will try to avoid ending up with their bones on the seabed. Immersing yourself in the turquoise waters of the Caribbean is part of the prize.

Christopher Columbus was the first to discover these islands, packed with turtles and crocodiles, in 1503, during his fourth journey to the Americas. But it was a privateer, the Englishman Francis Drake, who named them in 1586. Nearly a century-and-a-half later, in the spring of 1717, a small schooner was captured off the coast of Grand Cayman. At the helm of the incursion was an exiled English sailor, with a thick beard and a fearsome reputation. His name was Edward Teach, but he was better known as Blackbeard, the relentless sea dog. And his arrival was no chance occurrence.
The Cayman Islands had become a favourite base for buccaneers, colonists and filibusters, most of them English and French. A strategic enclave, it allowed them to attack Spanish galleons, while the newly established English, French and Dutch colonies were ideal for the pirates to create centres to repair their boats and gather supplies.
Before leaving the islands, go for a dive in the reefs, to swim with stingrays. The best place is Stingray City, on Grand Cayman.

The flavour of the Caribbean

On Friday 13 November, the Food Festival takes place, a culinary gathering where you can enjoy traditional island dishes, available at restaurants and street stalls. Don’t miss the turtle soup or the traditional rondón, fish cooked in coconut milk.

Nowadays, being a tax paradise is the shadow that dogs the Cayman Islands, the fifth most important financial centre in the world. The local population of just 60,000 people enjoy the highest standard of living in the Caribbean, all while championing their past as a pirate hideaway. This is why Pirates Week Festival has been taking place since 1997, attracting more than 35,000 visitors. “Nowhere else in the Caribbean can you do this. Nowhere else can you dress up for a fantasy pirate festival for more than a week. Here we also get to showcase our history, our food, and our musicians,” affirms Melanie McField, Festival manager.
Pets have their own virtual fancy dress procession: the Pirates Pooch Parade.
Foto: Pirates Week Festival
This year, the festivities will take place from 10 to 20 November. Most activities are focused on George Town, capital of Grand Cayman. On Saturday 12 November, pirates will invade from the sea and attack Hog Sty Bay port with two frigates. The tradition is to ‘capture’ the governor and take possession of the island for a week, only to then be expelled until the following year.
Children and adults dust off their costumes, don their eye patches, and, hook in hand, go out to seek adventure. The most popular outfit for men is deckhand, with hat, pirate trousers, waistcoat, white shirt and gun; while women turn into pirate girls of the high seas, with shoulderless corset dresses, fishnet tights, hat, and sword.
For ten days, the streets of the Cayman are ‘en garde’, and packed with fireworks, concerts, fancy dress competitions and parades. One of the most spectacular is the evening Illumination Parade, where participants equip themselves with luminous inflatables and march to the warm sound of music amid pastel-coloured colonial buildings. Because, as captain Jack Sparrow would say, “Treasures are not all gold and jewels.”

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