Updated on February 14th, 2020
“All You Need To Know About Housesitting… in Grand Cayman. Housesitting offers travellers an opportunity to gain “free” accommodation while living as a local in locations across the world. The website puts animal lovers in touch with people who are traveling & would like someone to look after their pets.”
Grand Cayman, Cayman Islands
After 4 months in the Caribbean, I was in Antigua & trying to decide on how I was going to spend the final 6 weeks of my big adventure (to read more, see my blog post 5 Month Self Tour of the Caribbean). Over lunch with my friend Jane I was discussing my options, either keep going in the direction I was headed (east, next stop St Kitts & Nevis), or tick some islands off my Life List, namely Jamaica & the Cayman Islands. She mentioned that she had a potential for housesitting in Grand Cayman and the dates matched mine exactly. It was too good an opportunity to miss so we hatched a plan!
What do you need to know?
Jane had registered on Trusted Housesitters website. She had already been in touch with Pauline & Neil, a British couple living on Grand Cayman, who had a cat which needed looking after for 10 days while they visited their new granddaughter back in the UK. She got back in touch to say she was keen & was it OK if she brought a friend? Thankfully, they agreed!
What is Trusted Housesitters?
Housesitting offers travellers an opportunity to gain “free” accommodation while living like a local in locations across the world (but primarily the UK, USA, Canada & Australia which have lots of options). The website puts animal lovers in touch with people who are traveling & would like someone to look after their pets. There is an annual subscription for all involved of UK£89/year.
“The potential sitters can then browse locations & dates, select the ones that best suit their needs & apply. Bear in mind that if you are a potential sitter then you will need to ‘sell’ yourself, especially if the location is more sought after.”
Pauline & Neil received 10 potential sitters but selected Jane based on her application, email communication & a couple of phone calls.
- Freedom to travel, knowing their pets are cared for & happy to remain at home.
- Just a once/year membership payment rather than an expensive kennel or cattery care.
- Safe & secure verified sitters, with a review system in place similar to Airbnb.
- Vets have confirmed that this is the preferred option for animals (leaving them in their own home means less stress & disruption).
What is in it for the sitter?
- Once you pay the annual fee, accommodation is free while you are housesitting, as many times a year as you choose.
- Live like a local in the neighbourhood you’re staying. You can get recommendations from your hosts & they will often give introductions to friends etc.
- Because you are in a house, you have use of all the facilities meaning you can also save money on living costs by self-catering.
- If you’re lucky, you may also have access to transport. We were left the car & so were also able to do the airport drop off & pick up for Pauline & Neil.
- If you are looking for company on your travels, then you have a pet to share your days with!
How was my experience?
I have to admit that I am not what would readily be called an animal lover. I did grow up with 3 cats but I am allergic to some. Thankfully this was not the case with Ivy who was the most adorable, loving, sweet natured cat for us to care for. Ivy had feline HIV (no, I didn’t know that existed either!) so apart from keeping her fed & watered our mission was to never allow her to leave the house. If Ivy got out she had no immune system so the chances of her catching an infection were very high. As you can imagine this led to a lot of paranoia on our part whenever she was out of sight!
“I am pleased to report that Ivy & I bonded immediately! I was initially worried that I may have an allergy but when she brazenly came walking into my room in the mornings to demand breakfast by mewing loudly & sitting on my head, I was relieved to find out that thankfully I remained allergy free!”
Pauline & Neil were fantastic hosts. We arrived a day early which meant we had the chance to bond, put their minds at rest that Ivy & the house were in trustworthy hands and get a quick tour of the area so we could orientate ourselves & see the lay of the land. On their return, we went for a night out with them & their friends which was made even better by the fact that Jane had decided to stay, got a job & found a room to rent…it had been a productive week!
What do you need to know about the Cayman Islands?
Basically, they are beautiful! Cayman comprises of 3 islands (Grand Cayman, Little Cayman & Cayman Brac), but I only visited Grand Cayman. You can learn a lot more about the islands on the official website. Transport is easy as they have an excellent bus network which you can flag down anywhere along the route & costs KYD$2 for each trip (that’s Caymanian dollars which at the time of writing KYD$1 = UK£0.93, EU€1.05 & US$1.20).
As this is a world-renowned diving destination, one of the biggest reasons to go to Cayman is for the amazing scuba experience. Unfortunately, I didn’t dive this time but I would recommend these things…
Seven Mile Beach
This is actually ‘only’ 5.5 miles long but it’s a gorgeous, flawless stretch of white powdery sand which is the main focus of the tourist industry on the Cayman Islands. The beach is backed by West Bay Road, where you find all the main hotels & restaurants. It is a public beach, so you can make camp anywhere you choose along this beautiful stretch of sand but if you aren’t staying at any of the hotels, you, unfortunately, can’t use any of the beds. When I was there we relaxed at Hemingway’s but this has now closed. Although Seven Mile Beach is an amazing place to sit & sun yourself, don’t leave too early as the sunset views are also spectacular!
This is a must visit on any trip to Grand Cayman & I was recommended to go with Captain Marvin’s. I opted for a ½ day (3 hours), 3 stop tour taking in Sting Ray City & 2 snorkel spots at The Barrier Reef & Coral Gardens for US$45.
Stingray City is a sandbar to the north of Grand Cayman where the fishermen used to clean their catch for the day as they headed into the land. The scraps attracted stingrays which continue to hang out in the area, nowadays with all food provided by tourist boats. It is an amazing place to visit with some rays having a ‘wingspan’ of nearly 2 metres (the females are the larger ones) but there are also lots of boats & a lot of tourists.
“At the end of the day, the rays choose to be there & don’t appear to have an issue with being handled (manhandled?!) as the tour guides educate you on everything you need to know about these fascinating creatures.”
Just be careful where you’re treading as the rays brush your feet & you could easily accidentally tread on one if you don’t employ the “shuffle walking” technique they recommend.
After the spectacle of Stingray City, we went to a couple of spots for snorkelling & it was magical to see all the other marine life, feed the fish & see the stingrays majestically gliding through the water without the tourist circus surrounding them. You can see them in all their glory in my Video Diaries.
This is a weekend tradition in Grand Cayman with many hotels & restaurants offering their take on brunch. We were recommended Luca at The Caribbean Club which was an all you can eat buffet of everything you can imagine, with bottomless prosecco between 11.30am – 2.30pm. It didn’t disappoint, all for KYD$65.
One day we decided to drive up through the island to see a different aspect. Unfortunately, it was pouring with rain on the day we chose & therefore we couldn’t make the most of seeing this beautiful spot. We did stop for a lovely lunch while sheltering from the rain at Kaibo Yacht Club though.
Cayman Carnival Batabano
We were lucky enough to have our trip coincide with the Carnival Street Parade on the 1stweek in May & if you get a chance, it’s well worth a visit. We were at the northern end of the parade, where the party was situated. Everyone was in great spirits if a little worse for wear having been drinking, walking & dancing all their way from the south of the island! Great atmosphere!
Where we ate & drank
Despite cooking for ourselves at home most days, we managed to also get out & about to sample the excellent food & drink options on the island. These I can recommend:
- The Wharf – happy hour, great sunsets & salsa on a Tuesday night.
- Sunshine Grill – good quality (& huge portions) at reasonable prices.
- Peppers – popular for food & a great spot for a fun night of dancing when they have a live band playing.
- Southern Spice – if you fancy a good quality Indian meal.
- Da Fish Shack – in Georgetown & a great stop for delicious lunch
- Heritage Kitchen – at the northern end of Seven Mile Beach, this was excellent & recommended choice for our first authentic Caymanian meal. Not licensed but we bought a bottle of wine from the local store.
- Morgans – friendly bar & restaurant on the marina.
- Royal Palms – nice restaurant & great bar for happy hour, right on the beach & with sunbeds for public use.
I would love to return to Cayman to experience the other islands (Little Cayman & Cayman Brac) & definitely the scuba diving. I also loved the idea & opportunity that Housesitting offered & would thoroughly recommend this to any solo travellers as a free way to gain a unique & very local perspective on accommodation.
What do you think?
Where else would you recommend to see/do in the Cayman Islands?
Where else have you had close encounters with marine life?
What experiences do you have Housesitting & how did you find it?
To see more of my photos from The Caribbean please visit my Gallery page!