Cayman Turtle Center

Aquarium in West Bay

This is essentially a petting zoo for sea turtles. There are lots of turtles swimming in tanks, and guests are invited to handle the young turtles (who are clearly distressed by the experience). If you pay for the 'adventure tour', there is an enclosed lagoon for swimming with the turtles, with a few additional attractions. It's not much of a 'wildlife encounter,' as it's touted: you're better off snorkeling with sea turtles in the wild at Spotts Beach.

Not so incidentally, the Cayman Turtle Center is better known as the Turtle Farm, because most of its residents are eventually sold off for meat. Considering the integral role of sea turtles in Caymanian history, culture and cuisine, we recognize the benefit of breeding turtles to meet the demand for the local delicacy and to reduce poaching of the endangered species.

The Turtle Center also supposedly tags and releases yearlings, with some early evidence suggesting that the turtles can adapt and survive in the wild. While the release program is highly publicized and celebrated, the recent numbers are next to nothing (10 to 20 turtles released per year since 2001, according to the center's own stats). So it's more of a PR stunt than an actual conservation program.