Mastic Reserve & Trail
The Mastic Reserve on Grand Cayman protects part of the largest contiguous area of untouched, old growth dry forest remaining on the island. This area and other similar expanses of forest in Cayman are of international significance representing some of the last remaining examples of the Caribbean's dry, subtropical, semi deciduous dry forest, which have been the target of particularly intense deforestation throughout the West Indies. The area is home to a wide variety of animals and plants unique to the Cayman Islands, and also to large populations of trees which have vanished from more accessible places through logging in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
One of the principal aims of the National Trust for the Cayman Islands is to try to safeguard the survival of the diversity of native wild plants and animals on these islands. This is most effectively achieved by protecting intact natural areas. The Trust's Land Reserves Programme was set up to acquire designated high priority environmental areas for protection under the National Trust for the Cayman Islands Law, 1987. Through a combination of donations and purchases, 834 acres of the total target area of 1,300 acres is currently under the care and management of the Trust, forming the Mastic Reserve.
Although Grand Cayman is only 76 miles square, with its highest point only 60 feet above sea level, its rocky terrain and dense undergrowth makes much of the island's interior fairly inaccessible. This has proved to be both an advantage and a disadvantage for the natural environment. Without the difficulties in access, it is doubtful that any significant portion of untouched dry forest would remain. It is, however, hard for residents and visitors to appreciate the value of this natural heritage unless they are able to see it for themselves.
It was with this thought in mind that the Trust decided to re-open part of an old footpath through the area. The first origins of the trail are lost in time, but at least 100 years ago William Steven Watler and his contemporaries completed a causeway of mahogany logs and beach rocks to assist passage across a deep mangrove wetland at the southern end of the trail. This was grueling work, using only basic tools and donkeys as pack animals. For a while the trail was a major thoroughfare, but later as the coastal roads and the modern Frank Sound Road were established and upgraded, the trail fell into disuse and became overgrown.
In 1994, assisted by grants from the RARE Centre for Tropical Conservation and the Governor's Fund for Nature, work started on restoring the trail. The local Rotary Club toiled for many hours to reopen the original footpath, cutting through about 8,000 feet of fallen trees and dense shrubbery. Contracted workers followed, breaking rocks to smooth the walking surface and completing the trail clearance to reach the mangroves and the 550 foot long causeway known as the "Mastic Bridge". Rotary Central Club volunteers then took up the lead: barrow loads of crushed rock had to be brought in manually to restore the traditional causeway. Finally, on 21st April, 1995, in the presence of His Excellency the Governor, Mr. Michael Gore, the Mastic Trail - as it is now named - was officially dedicated and opened to the public. Since then, many residents and visitors to the island have taken guided tours of the Mastic Trail.
The Mastic Trail passes through a variety of habitats: Black Mangrove wetland, stands of Royal Palms and Silver Thatch Palms, abandoned agricultural land and extensive ancient dry forest. Along the trail, walkers can expect to see now rare trees such as Cedar and Mahogany as well as an exceptionally fine specimen of a Mastic tree, from which the Reserve and Trail take their name. In June, the Wild Banana Orchid (National Flower of the Cayman Islands) blooms on the trailside. A rich abundance of birds inhabit these forests too. Many are tame enough to allow a close approach. Cayman's native Parrot is at home in the Reserve, as is the West Indian Woodpecker and the Caribbean Dove - which is only ever seen in undisturbed areas. Butterflies, lizards, snakes (not poisonous), frogs, large hermit crabs and the carton nests of termites are a few of the other animals walkers may encounter.
The Mastic Trail is 2.3 miles long and the guided walk takes approximately two and a half to three hours. Walkers get the chance to experience a fascinating exploration deep into Cayman's wild interior, in an area where the woodland has been evolving undisturbed for the last two million years. Special tours for small school groups and other local organisations are also available by prior arrangement. The Trust was delighted when worldwide public recognition was received in 1995, when Islands magazine chose the Mastic Trial as a finalist in their annual Ecotourism Award competition.
Please note that the trail is not suitable for children under six years old, the elderly and infirm, or for persons with physical handicaps or conditions that may require emergency medical assistance. The Trust can accept no liability for injuries sustained on the trail.
Remember it is a criminal offence to take any plant or animal from Trust property. The trail is for pedestrian use only: it is much too rough for bicycles or horses. To protect ground nesting birds and other sensitive wildlife, dogs are not allowed on the trail. Poisonous plants such as Maiden Plum have sap which can cause serious skin reactions - so stay on the path and exercise reasonable caution!
Mastic Trail Tours
Tuesday through Friday mornings
$20 for members, $24 for non-members
Additional days and private tours may also be available.
Call 749-1121 for reservations, meeting time and directions.
For a full schedule of available tours, please check our Tours Schedule.
Last Updated: 11 Jan 2013