Grand Cayman’s Flip Flop Tree

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A flip-flop tree grows in Cayman

By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor

It started with just one flip-flop.

But now there are hundreds, joined by assorted sneakers, slippers and even flippers, nailed to a casuarina tree bordering the coastal road that runs through Grand Cayman’s South Sound.

The “flip-flop” tree has become a must-do for selfie-snapping tourists and even has its own Facebook page with more than 2,600 likes. But internet fame was never the point.

Instead, Wolfgang Brocklebank and his girlfriend Giovanna Inselmini started nailing the random flip flops they found washed up on the island’s beaches to the dead tree to draw attention to the garbage polluting Grand Cayman’s shores and to encourage recycling.

In a series of clandestine overnight missions back in 2008, they nailed weeks’-worth of flip-flops they’d been collecting to the tree’s trunk, which, the next morning, attracted curious stares of local drivers.

Over time, the collection has crept more than 15 feet up the trunk, and is now rapidly migrating to a neighboring tree.

And while visitors eager to memorialize their visit come every day to add their own slides and sandals or to snap a pic of the casuarina’s strange fruit, few know the real story behind it.

So although Brocklebank and Inselmini have since departed the island’s shores, we’d like to see their message remain: Come to the Cayman Islands (and the Caribbean). But when you leave, take your garbage with you.