Eco Tour Grand Cayman
An Educational Tour of Grand Cayman’s Most Valued Ecosystem
Slow cruising through the red mangrove forest as the sun begins to set is the perfect way to end any day. These mangroves play a vital role in our ecosystem and are essential for the islands well-being. During your eco tour of the mangroves, our educated captains will teach you and the little ones all about our ecosystem as we journey through these enchanting forests.
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 while 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 – this is 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.
This is the distant cousin of the mangrove family since it normally grows on dry land. White mangrove trees have straight trunks covered Sulphur yellow lichen which makes it appear pale at a distance.
Learn about Biodiversity in the Mangroves on our Eco Tour
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!