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Cayman Turtle Farm

Along with Stingray City, the Cayman Turtle Farm is one of the island's top attractions. It's the only farm of its kind in the world and for over 30 years this site has offered visitors the chance to get up close and personal with green sea turtles. Allow about 45 minutes to tour the farm.

The turtle farm displays the life cycle of the green sea turtle from birth through the breeding stage. A nursery shows where the eggs, which are laid by the big breeder turtles on a sand beach at the farm, are incubated. The hatchlings live in tanks and are fed a high-protein pelleted diet similar in appearance to dog food. This accounts for the rapid growth of the farm's turtles compared to their relatives in the wild.

The self-guided tour of the turtle farm takes you past many tanks filled with turtles in various life stages. A special tank contains turtles that you may pick up and hold, an excellent photo opportunity. Reach down and clutch the turtle's body just behind his front flippers. He'll flip and flap around, trying to swim away in mid-air, unless you hold him vertically.

You'll also see land residents of the Cayman Islands in several exhibit areas. Along with the American crocodile, check out the agouti or the Cayman "rabbit" in one area. These rodents, who make their home in the eastern districts of Grand Cayman, have long, thin legs with hoof-like claws. Once a food source, today it is rare to spot an agouti.

The last stop on the walk-through of the farm is the extensive gift shop. You might be shocked to see turtle steak and turtle shells for sale in the shop. Remember, however, that this is a working farm.

Many turtles are released into the sea every year, although others find their way onto Cayman dinner tables. The turtle plays a role in the Cayman diet and culture much like a turkey in the United States. Much of the turtle meat served at local restaurants comes from the Cayman Turtle Farm. The farm defends its efforts and points out that by providing turtle meat, a longtime Caymanian favorite, to the local market it diminishes the need for turtle hunting. Also, the survival rate at the farm is much higher than in the wild (here, nine out of every 10 turtles survive, as compared to one out of 10 in the sea).

Remember, you cannot bring turtle products back through US Customs. They will be confiscated.

Location: West Bay

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