The Mastic Trail

The Mastic Trail cuts through the interior of untouched areas in the island’s eastern districts, a dense forest that is centuries old. In the hush of the forest, and in the sunlight flickering through the trees, you can experience the native flora and fauna of the island first-hand.

The trail is said to have been cut over a century ago by Caymanian William Steven Watler, who built a mahogany log and rock causeway across a mangrove wetland at what is now the southern end of the path. Before modern roads were constructed the trail was used as thoroughfare to cross the island but fell into disrepair until the 1990s when workers and volunteers cleared the path.

The trail is now part of the Mastic Reserve, an area of natural woodland habitat managed by the National Trust for the Cayman Islands to safeguard the diversity of wild plants and animals.

The two-mile walk along the trail takes around two and half to three hours and is quite strenuous. However, the experience is unlike any other attraction in Cayman as you are totally immersed in an environment that has been evolving, undisturbed, for two millennia.

Even many island residents have never experienced this part of the interior where, aside from the mastic trail, the growth is dense and often impenetrable. It’s the largest area of untouched old-growth forest left on the island and home to animals and plants unique to the Cayman Islands.

As well as the mastic tree, after which the reserve and trail is renamed, there are trees such as cedar and mahogany which are now rare following extensive logging in previous centuries. There is also a variety of bird life, including the Cayman parrot, the West Indian woodpecker and the shy Caribbean dove, which you may encounter along the way. Walkers should look out, too, for butterflies, frogs, lizards and huge hermit crabs.

It’s best to go with a guide, not only so that you can be sure to complete the trail in safety, but to make the most of local knowledge. A guide can be organized through the national trust and will be able to tell you about the trees, flowers and animals which are found in the reserve.

Many of the plants were traditionally used for medicinal purposes and your guide can explain how they were prepared and what ailments they helped. Some plants or trees, such as the maiden plum, should not be touched as they can cause a skin irritation.

The Mastic Trail is for hiking only and dogs, horses and bicycles are prohibited. Sturdy walking shoes are essential for the hike and wear a hat, apply plenty of sunblock and take lots of water with you. Be advised: the trail is not suitable for children under six, the elderly or infirm or anyone with physical handicaps.

And take it from us, if you start at the southern end of the Mastic Trail off Frank Sound Road, it’s a good idea to arrange transportation to pick you up since the route ends in North Side.

To arrange a guided tour, or request a self-guide pamphlet, contact the National Trust for the Cayman Islands: t. (345) 949 0121 e.

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