The Bluff – Highest Point in Cayman and Namesake of Cayman Brac
There are a great many uncommon attractions all over the Caribbean, as we’ve been wont to share over the years. A lot of them have odd or unusual names too. None of those names, though, inspired the official name of the destinations in which they’re located. None of them, that is, except for The Bluff.
The highest point in all of the Cayman Islands, The Bluff is located at the far eastern end of Cayman Brac, the second largest of the three Cayman Islands. The sheer cliff walls soar to a height of 141 feet above sea level. This is in stark contrast to Cayman’s overwhelmingly low-lying terrain.
In addition to its uncommon (at least for Cayman) height, The Bluff is also distinguished for its biodiversity. More than 1,000 acres of dry forest here has been designated as an Important Bird Area (IBA) by BirdLife International. Cuban amazon parrots, thick-billed vireos, vitelline warblers, Caribbean elaenias, and white-crowned pigeons are among the vibrant bird species that make The Bluff their home.
Indeed, The Bluff really stands out as the most distinctive natural wonder in Cayman. No doubt, this is why its name begat that of Cayman Brac.
How The Cayman Islands Got Their Name(s)
The Cayman Islands were originally dubbed Las Tortugas (Spanish for turtles) by Columbus in 1503. The name was in reference to the large numbers of turtles that once lived in and around the islands. Somehow, though, the name didn’t stick. By 1530, charts and maps were showing the islands under the name Caiman, the Taino word for crocodile.
While it’s true that crocs thrived in Cayman long ago as well, it’s not known how they came to usurp turtles for naming rights.
Anyway, whoever gave the Cayman Islands their forever names must not have been all that creative… At least not when it came to naming the largest and the smallest of the Cayman Islands.
As the largest and smallest of the Cayman Islands, the somewhat uninspired names for Grand Cayman and Little Cayman were no doubt determined easily.
Cayman Brac, though, would be another story.
I suppose the choice could have been Middle Cayman, along the lines of Middle Caicos. Instead, brac was selected as the distinguishing identifier separating Cayman Brac from its sister islands.
Well, brac is the Gaelic word for bluff. So, whoever made the final call on Cayman Brac’s final name surely drew inspiration from The Bluff…and had a good working knowledge of, or appreciation for classical languages.