What’s the Difference Between an Island and a Caye?
Remember yourself as a young child in primary school drawing a flat piece of brown land that protruded gradually in the center like a baseball mound with a coconut tree right in the middle. It was surrounded with blue water that had black squiggly lines scattered everywhere to signify soft waves. In the water you drew a triangle –as a semblance of a shark fin- and somewhere much closer to that brown piece of gradually-protruding-land, you drew a stick figure of a neck and a head breaking through the water with its arms sticking out. To top it off, you drew a conversation bubble over the stick figure screaming, “HELLLLP!”
Okay, okay, so you may never have drawn the bubble, the stick figure, or the triangle. And you never knew it then, nor probably even know it now, but that piece of brown land was not actually an island. It was a . . . caye! It’s pronounced as “key,” and depending on which part of the world you’re in, it’s sometimes spelled “key,” as in the Florida Keys, or “cay,” such as the cays you find in the Bahamas. And well, let’s face it, Greenland is an island. Australia is an island, an island with an area of 7.6 million sq km (4.7 million sq miles), far from the idyllic paradise portrait you drew as children. But “size” is not so much what distinguishes between island and caye, but more so formation, makeup and elevation.
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