Holiday in heaven - but not in Hell by Chris Rawlins

A guidebook to Grand Cayman will invite you to “Go to Hell” but Hell is a place to avoid.

It consists of only blackened but eroded limestone rocks and three terrible gift shops. One

visit to Hell was more than enough for me.

By the grace of God, on the other side of this island, I have discovered Heaven – just off the

coast adjacent to a reef resort. Before I visited this British colony for the first time about ten

years ago, I had found out that snorkelling in clear tropical waters of the Caribbean can be

exhilarating. Here by the reef, though, I have seen Heaven on earth. One of its nicest features is that

it is entirely natural, with no noise except from one very happy snorkeller.

Mother Nature created this paradise. The ancient coral reefs are only a hundred yards

away from the coastline but shaped by centuries of fast-moving tides, currents, and winds. They

provide the natural habitat and shelter for many different fish and other maritime creatures, and

marine plants. Some large blue parrotfish chomp their strong beaks into hard corals, converting them into clean sand that helps create our sandy beaches.

 

On arrival, I rush into the water with my fins and mask, dreaming of meeting some old friends

again. Soon I am floating in Heaven, quickly spotted by a golden Queen angelfish with dark

blue skin speckled with yellow crown spots and a bright orange tail. She sees me at a safe distance

and resumes eating and swimming. I just love the feeling of being accepted into their world. As I

move over to another part of the reef, I manage to disturb a group of colourful snappers, grunts, and

groupers. They swim, feed, and return to their heavenly homes around the reef. With the waters

so calm and clear, and the sunlight so helpful for visibility, I even see a green plant later identified as

‘Green Mermaid’s Wine Glass’. I try to manage two daily visitations. On my final visit one evening, I

am surprised by the sheer number of so many different fish. I can only assume this is a farewell party they have organized for me as I prepare to leave their/my Heaven on our/their Earth!