At the heart of the Western Caribbean is Grand Cayman. The largest of the Cayman Islands, Grand Cayman, is fast becoming one of the Caribbean’s favorite getaways, particularly for watersport lovers. The Caymans fully deserve their reputation as a paradise for divers: Translucent waters and a colorful variety of marine life are protected by the government, which has designated a number of marine parks. Several ship-wrecks add to the underwater attractions, and the number of professional diving companies outrank those in any other Caribbean island. Diving is not the only sport here, visitors can engage in numerous other watersports, in addition to golf and tennis. The beaches are gorgeous, with white, soft sand and clear, blue-green water protected by coral reefs that ensure calm swimming. When Columbus sighted the islands in 1503, he noted that the surrounding sea was alive with turtles. Hence the original name of Las Tortugas, which was later changed to Cayman. The many caves and coves soon became a favorite hideout for pirates like Blackbeard and Henry Morgan. Many a ship foundered on the treacherous rocks - often with the help of the inhabitants who lured the vessels to shore with beacon fires. The legend of the Wreck of the Ten Sails had a lasting effect on the Caymanians. When the islanders saved everyone off a shipwrecked convoy in 1788, a grateful King George III decreed that Caymanians should forever be exempt from conscription and never have to pay taxes. Today Grand Cayman is one of the most prosperous islands in the Caribbean, boasting some 500 offshore banks in George Town, the capital of the Cayman Islands. It is a small but pleasant town that can easily be seen on foot. Duty-free stores and local souvenir shops abound. There is a small museum located in the restored Old Courts Building with exhibits that provide a good introduction to the history, plant and animal life in the Caymans. The Cayman Maritime and Treasure Museum near the Hyatt Regency features a collection of gold and silver relics from sunken Spanish ships.