Young explorers heading for Cayman expedition

| 04/04/2011

(CNS): Fifteen kids from the United States and Canada will be visiting Cayman this summer as members of the 2011 National Geographic Kids Hands-On Explorer Challenge Expedition Team, sponsored by the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism. Aged between 9 and 15, the kids have all demonstrated a passion for exploration and were selected from a pool of contestants from across North America. The Cayman Islands trip will be the fifth NG Kids Hands-On Explorer Challenge expedition following trips to the Galápagos Islands, South Africa, Australia and Peru. Premier McKeeva Bush said Cayman was delighted to partnerwith the magazine and was confident the young explores would find the perfect mix of biological and ecological experiences.

"We look forward to welcoming all of the explorers and are confident that our Islands will provide the perfect mix of biological and ecological experiences for the young explorers to enjoy,”  said Bush, who is also the minister of tourism.

“With three Islands to explore, we anticipate that our natural resources will serve as an unforgettable outdoor classroom that will offer the participants a deeper understanding of nature and conservation – both above and below the water. Additionally, I am particularly pleased that the young explorers will have an opportunity to visit some of our most iconic attractions and experience first-hand, some of the many elements that make the Cayman Islands a culturally rich destination."

The expedition will include boarding the Atlantis Submarine to learn about vast coral canyons and the underwater environment; a snorkeling trip to explore the ex-USS Kittiwake shipwreck and the marine life that only recently began occupying the vessel; observing plant and animal species living in the woodland ecosystem off the Mastic Trail; observing and learning about the highly endangered Blue Iguana at the Queen Elizabeth II Botanic Park, and exploring a system of caves that provided shelter for many Caymanians when the islands were first settled.

To compete for the NG Kids Hands-On Explorer Challenge, kids were invited to write an essay of 300 words or less telling of their explorations and the interesting things they have found along the way. Each applicant also submitted a photograph that they took themselves, which illustrated the subject of their essay. A panel of National Geographic experts chose 15 kids whose essays and photographs expressed the most interest in and enthusiasm for exploring, while adhering to the judging criteria.

This year’s winners include a young sailor who longs to visit distant continents; an avid swimmer and animal lover who enjoys fishing and exploring with friends; a child who monitors water quality and levels in his pond when watering his plants; and young explorers captivated by sea life. As part of their prize, all explorers will be equipped with a Nikon® D3100 camera to document their journey.

Throughout the expedition, the NG Kids Hands-On Explorers will receive tips from National Geographic and local experts on how to capture this field-trip-of-a-lifetime and their new discoveries in pictures and words.

Accompanying the winners will be National Geographic explorer Boyd Matson, host of the radio program "National Geographic Weekend"; National Geographic Kids science editor Catherine Hughes; and National Geographic Traveler magazine senior photography editor Dan Westergren.

"Daring readers to explore, National Geographic Kids magazine aims to excite kids about their world," said Melina Bellows, executive vice president and chief creative officer of National Geographic Books, Kids and Family. "The National Geographic Society has a long tradition of identifying and supporting explorers early in their research, and I can see no greater opportunity than the Hands-On Explorer Challenge to seed the next generation of explorers. The expedition to the Cayman Islands provides an unmatched hands-on learning environment that continues our mission of inspiring people to care about the planet."

The six girls and nine boys were chosen from more than a thousand entries throughout the United States and Canada. To read excerpts from the winning essays and see the winning photos, visit<>

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