An Educational Tour of Cayman’s Most Valued Ecosystem
Slow cruising through the red mangrove forest is a perfect way to end any day, as the sun begins to set. These mangroves play a vital role in our ecosystem and are essential for the islands well-being. Our educated captains will teach you and the little ones all about our ecosystem as we journey through these enchanting forests.
Plan Your Adventure
What are Mangroves?
Mangroves are groups of trees and shrubs that live in saltwater and can only be found growing along tropical coastlines. They have an intricate root system, called prop roots that look a lot like tentacles giving the trees a very exquisite look. These striking roots are often submerged in the water, while the rest of the tree lives above the water line. This structure makes for a very unique habitat for all different kinds of island wildlife.
Why Mangroves matter?
“If there are no mangrove forests, then the sea will have no meaning. It is like having a tree with no roots, for the mangroves are the roots of the sea.”
Mangroves provide the foundation for the food chain that feeds all marine life found in the Cayman Islands. They act as an important nursery area for small fish and invertebrates. The roots provide a shelter like sanctuary to protect these fish from hungry predators whilst also providing a rich source of food, creating an ideal environment for these juveniles to grow and thrive. The waters of Cayman are teeming with vast aquatic wildlife because of the essential functions these mangroves provide.
As you travel around the Cayman Islands you will find yourself surrounded by crystal- clear waters thanks to the unique and complex root system of the mangroves which filter out sediment and other pollutants. This amazing root system also helps prevent shoreline erosion, protects against coastal storms by reducing the impacts of waves and distributes important nutrients for surrounding ecosystems.
Mangrove wood is resistant to rot making it great for creating furniture, building boats, houses and fishing gear for the surrounding coastal communities. Medicinal plants can also be found within the mangrove ecosystems which communities use for their healing properties.
All plants need fresh water to live but not the red mangroves, they make it themselves! Adaptation allows them to desalinate seawater through reverse osmosis—taking in water and leaving the salt behind.
Another distinct feature of the red mangroves is that they actually grow in the water. When it comes to reproduction, mangrove trees do it like no other. The red mangroves have very large seeds which is actually a small plant with roots that are already growing. When it falls from the parent tree it can grow on the muddy sediments below the tree or float in open water for many months until the roots find a suitable spot to grow.
These grow where there is shallow water during high tides. Since they thrive in shallow waters, their roots are modified to act as snorkels to help the plants breathe since the soil is normally too thick. Unlike their red counterparts, the black mangrove does not have the salt excursion technology but passes out the salt through salt glands on the leaves. You can actually see the salt crystals forming on the upper parts of the leaves, or if you don’t have a keen eye, you can always give it a taste!
this is the distant cousin of the mangrove family since it normally grows on dry land. It grows with straight trunks with Sulphur yellow lichen which makes it appear pale at a distance.
Biodiversity in the Mangroves
After learning how this magnificent mangrove forest provides an extensive food web and shelter from predators, it comes as no surprise to discover wildlife of all kinds thriving within this environment. This complex ecosystem provides a home for iguanas, parrots, juvenile sea turtles, crabs, mussels, snails, shrimp and a variety of fish, bird and insect species. Here you will also find some of the most unique species of aquatic wildlife that include: octopi, sea horses, starfish, floating sea anemones, orange sponges and even upside down jellyfish! The mangrove forest is a dream come true for all nature and animal lovers!
These guys were absolutely amazing! They let us take as much time as we wanted at each stop and made it a really customized trip for whatever we wanted to do. Liz and Alex were very knowledgeable and made us feel like we were family! Definitely coming back to Crystal Charters!!read more
Amazing experience from Alex and Courtney. They really know the stingrays and gave us so much info. It wasn’t just a stop for us, we learned a lot about the stingrays and Grand Cayman too. The other boats just parked and the people swam around. Our guides were so knowledgeable! Highly recommend! Thanks Crystal Charters!!!read more
In Grand Cayman island we rented a boat from Crystal charters - Alex and Courtney were our guides and they were awesome! We visited stingray city, starfish point and Kaibo beach bar. They were both so patient (while we got in and out of 5he boat ; ) and we learned a lot about the marine life. I highly recommend this company - you will not be disappointed!read more
Our family booked with Crystal Charters for a half day excursion around the islands and we were so happy with the service. The booking process was easy and the captain, Sean and his mate, Rick, did their best to make sure we had a great time. It was a little pricey but once it was over we all agreed that it was worth every penny. We could have gone with a large group but so glad we decided to charter the boat for ourselves as it gave us the flexibility to do more (or less) of whatever activities liked. Going back to Grand Cayman next year and would use their service again. Jerrett Family - April 2019read more
Our crew was Alex and River and they were awesome! They took us on a 4 hour tour. We went to two snorkeling spots, Stingray City and Starfish Point. We had such a fun and memorable time. The crew were amazing with our kids ages 5, 7 and 8 as our kids were scared of the stingrays at first but they made it fun by talking to their stingray friends. Our experience exceeded our expectations and I would definitely recommend them. Alex and River were fun and friendly and the boat was very nice and clean.read more
Crystal Charters went above and beyond for our day trip to Grand Cayman! The boat was clean, stocked, our guide and hostess were so helpful and knowledgeable about the area, best spots, history etc. Our family can’t wait to return and use them again!!!read more