Wild Cane Cay: Then and Now (Updated!)

The original post ran 8 April, 2012. Before that time I had made two unsuccessful attempts at contacting the owner. The following is the original post; the update is below, and relates what the owner had to say after he contacted me. 

There is a collection of about 18 beautiful islands off the Caribbean coast called the Pearl Cays. Some are populated with only a few palm trees, others have houses with caretakers and not much else. Wild Cane Cay, one of the larger islands, was home to one of the most luxurious getaways in all of Nicaragua.

The owners from New Zealand renamed the island Little Eden Cay and spared no expense building their Caribbean paradise, complete with a caretaker’s house, guest house, pool, gardens and helipad. They pushed the local fisherman off and invited visitors that could pay the $14,000/week bill. Rumor has it that there was a dispute over $900 owed to the guard who was staying on the island.

The guard walked off the job.

What wasn’t hauled off was smashed and what wasn’t smashed has rusted or rotted. I haven’t spoken to the owner but I did speak to a fisherman in Pearl Lagoon who grew up catching his livelihood around the island. He said when they ran him off he begrudgingly accepted and now considers the situation has come full circle.

Little Eden Cay is now once again known as Wild Cane Cay and the fisherman have returned.

Update 8 October, 2012

Martin Thomas, the man who purchased Wild Cane Cay, recently sent me an email addressing some concerns with what I had written and the photos included in the screenshots of his website that I had posted. The images were to show the contrast between what the island looks like now and what it looked like in its former glory. I agreed to remove the then photos since they were his property, though my now photos are included below. The Little Eden Cay website has since been removed.

I welcomed Mr. Thomas’ point of view regarding the house and the hardships they faced after it was built. Regarding the dispute in payment owed to the guard who was staying on the island, he said that several payments were sent to the caretaker but were intercepted by intermediaries. The guard left and Mr. Thomas knew nothing about it. To top it off, he says that the house suffered damage from two hurricanes.

Mr. Thomas then went on to explain to me a bit of his financial situation his point of view on how he felt he was portrayed by my blog post:

I am not a wealthy man and yet I have poured everything I have into developing the Island over a period of many years. I have poured money into the local infrastructure and provided jobs for many locals. Several high end rentals of the Island and two documentaries have shown the area in a good light after the war years and promoted the area for tourism. I have paid my dues in every sense and I resent being portrayed as an unfeeling foreigner who’s only interest is to exploit the locals and make an easy dollar…

Regarding the fisherman’s claim to me that he was pushed off his traditional fishing grounds after the island was sold, Mr. Martin said:

I never ‘booted’ anyone off the Island either. I merely provided jobs for locals who lived harmoniously on the Island for many years.

Mr. Martin had a few things to say to me that I will keep private, though he was obviously very upset about the blog post and felt like it was a personal attack. One thing that I will share is his plans for the future of Wild Cane Cay:

Before the end of this year I plan to rebuild the Island house in hurricane proof materials with the help of an investor. This sort of internet content is misleading and will discourage any likely investor or tourists.

Well, since this is an informational travel blog, the last thing I want to do is mislead people, tourists or investors. I will let the tourists and investors make up their own minds. If you would like more information about island life from Martin Thomas, check out the book he wrote about his family’s adventure called Slice of Heaven: A Family on the Move.

I wish I could show the photos from the way it looked in its glory days, but since they have been removed, I leave you with a short documentary done by NZ House & Garden, a kiwi tv show about…houses and gardens. And below are the photos I took in April, 2012.

Even the roofing material is gone

Septic tank

Still has a harp. Might need some new strings, tho

Helicopter landing pad, soon to be weed bed

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16 Responses to “Wild Cane Cay: Then and Now (Updated!)”

  1. Lourdes2 November, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

    Wow! That’s sad. I’m glad you posted this. thank’s for sharing.

  2. DD13 December, 2012 at 7:03 am #

    Building and keeping anything on the Caribbean coast is extremely hard and costly. anything not nailed down and guarded will be gone in an instant.

  3. CH22 January, 2013 at 2:34 pm #

    I’m about halfway through his book now but not yet to that part where he “bought” the island. I can say it seems he is not a “super wealthy” man. In fact, I would dare say he lives at the limits or just beyond his means. He and his wife have a taste for the finest clothes, food, furnishings and lifestyle but no giant bank account to fund it. It appears after the brutal murder of his father & brother that he inherited a house in NZ. They rented the house out for some time then sold it and bought a villa in Italy. They fixed that up, rented it out for some time and then sold it. They then used funds to buy this island and built the house(s) on it. Each time he had no choice but to “make it work” because the only safety net was moving back to his family home in NZ. His wife did not come from wealth either. The greater story here is that the Nicaraguan government has been disputing the “sale” of several of these islands for years and is intent on repossessing them and returning them to the native people.

    • Casey22 January, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

      I have yet to read his book. Sounds like an interesting individual, though.

      From what I understand, the municipality of Pearl Lagoon has already laid claim to those islands. I don’t know what kind of recourse they buyers have, but I don’t think the Miskito and Creole fishermen are complaining.

  4. CH22 January, 2013 at 11:14 pm #

    Finished the book tonight. It appears they never really lived there as his wife became pregnant even though he had a vasectomy. Not wanting to birth and raise an infant on the island they left for the family home in NZ. The book ended there stating that he was hoping to sell the island and find another “project” in France. I don’t know when the video in your post would’ve been shot because she does not appear pregnant there and he never referenced it in the book. He did reference a video shoot for an American show in which he acted as the caretaker and his sister the chef for renting tenants. He traveled back to the island just for this shoot. I am curious though as to the legal status of these islands
    . I can find no information past 2006. Are the current owners of the other cays OK? I see that Pink Pearl Cay (Grape Cay), and Lime Cay are for sale. Could these be taken back by the Nicaraguan govt? I want to buy one!!! I was hoping the book focused a little more on the construction of the house ans not so much the menagerie of animals they brought to the island!

    • Casey27 January, 2014 at 10:53 am #

      The current owners…well from what I understand pink pearl has been left in the hands of the caretaker. I dont know how often (if ever) Jayne gets to the island. Crawl cay has a monstrosity of a house half built on the house and a caretaker…I haven’t seen any progress on that for a couple of years. Really its just a few caretakers, empty houses, coconuts and turtles. And local fisherman.

  5. Nas26 January, 2014 at 10:43 am #

    I met Martin in Australia a few years back and I was interested in trying to re-develop the island with him, Things didnt work but I have to say, Martin really is a lovely man and thats not something you will hear me say about many people, or even talking like that in general.

    Its horrible to see how people have slightly put him under a bad light in regards to what he did here, he is definitely some ruthless super rich business man as he seems to have been portrait , I wanted to do many things with the island which he didnt think were “pure” or respectful of the local culture, even tho I know he could have really done with the money generated from capitalizing from the island commercially.

    At the time he was a care taker for a tiny but tasteful bed and breakfast in Qld Australia, just on a regular wage, living a regular life, not what I expected when I was told about this Man who owned an island in the Caribbean. I saw dollar signs in my head and a possible investment partner but it turned out to not what I expected at all.

    After keeping in regular touch with Martin for a short time we lost touch for a few years until one day I randomly ran in to him again in an after party while being on tour for a Hiphop artist I managed. He happened to be working in the establishment across the road from what I remember.

    Seeing him again was a great joy I have to say, he is always smiling and has just a great vibe about him and is not someone who I think anyone that knows him would view in any thing but a positive light, a very kind and genuine man. (unlike my business man self these days lol) Still genuine, just maybe not so kind haha.

    I since left Australia and am not in contact with Martin anymore but from what I know, he still is very much the owner of the Island, I still actually have copies of the deed on my computer I think.
    In fact the reason I happened to come across this website is because the whole enjoyable experience with Martin and Little Eden Cay prompted my family to name our house after the island.

    I guess I should probably try and reach him to let him know lol, Im still full of business ideas so who know, maybe there is still some hope for this beautiful island and her inspiring owner.

    • Casey27 January, 2014 at 10:26 am #

      I have no doubt that Mr. Martin is a nice guy, unfortunately the only contact I have had with him (despite having tried to contact him through the now defunct little eden cay website) is a rather nasty email he wrote to me.

      All I know is that the locals I have spoken with felt like they lost what belonged to them and they patiently waited until they could reclaim it.

  6. Nas26 January, 2014 at 10:44 am #

    P.s Reading what was written about the harp and the “septic tank” is so sad, I remember him speaking so lovingly of the items. That harp was 1 of only 2 in the world and hundreds of years old. I guess I wouldnt have left it there, tbh I would have sold it LOL

    • Casey27 January, 2014 at 10:28 am #

      That island was probably the most luxurious place in the country in its heyday (heymonth?). I felt a pain in my soul when I saw that harp in pieces. Such a shame.

  7. Nas26 January, 2014 at 10:46 am #

    lol dont like the triangle with the eyes that my comments got automatically assigned as a Display Photo by the way, Im not in the Illuminati haha, If I was Little Eden Cay would be a super resort right now LOL

    • Casey27 January, 2014 at 10:33 am #

      Hahaha…not much I can do about that. And there is NO way that island could ever become a resort. The only inhabitants are the turtles and they are protected now.

  8. sara4 February, 2014 at 3:32 am #

    I recently heard from a business broker of mine in Nicaragua that Hilton have purchased a large portion of the islands in the area, including Little Eden Cay and are building 3 resorts on them, a huge 44 story one on Little Eden Cay! All set to go ahead late 2014 – early 2015!! Just looked at the planning permission documents that are available on the website, Looks amazing! The government using Law 306 is really pushing for the development of foreign investment in tourism. No Income tax for 10 years! wow! I wish I had a few spare dollars my self, Maybe I will sell my house and buy one up too! Check it out! Maybe they should rename it Big Eden Cay haha, going to look incredible when its finished. I wonder what the owner sold it for in the end. Bet he is laughing now!

  9. sara4 February, 2014 at 3:36 am #

    oh, one other good thing I guess that the locals will get a lot of jobs out of it. I know these big super chains do not pay the highest wages to locals but at least its something. My family is half Nicaraguan but on the Pacific side of the country, I know the ones still there would jump at a chance to work in a place like what they are proposing.
    How exiting, cant wait to visit Big Eden Cay :)

    • Casey26 February, 2014 at 1:12 pm #

      Hahaha…I can’t find anyone in Pearl Lagoon who knows anything about this.

  10. Hershall Sweet30 August, 2014 at 9:18 pm #

    I’m astonished by the 2012 photos! I discovered Little Eden Cay in 2009/2010. It had been listed for sale and cited health reasons as the reason for the sale. It described the mangroves and turtles. It listed power generating amenities and future plans. There were photos of trails toward out buildings. But what kept me returning to look for the listing were those wonderful open doors looking on to the water and the pool with the dining gazebo. It was a wonderful inspiration that focused my attention on the kinds of things I would like and dislike for my family’s potential island retreat.
    The sale listing didn’t last long (as I remember). It changed to an offer to rent the home by the week or short stay. Then the NZ home and garden video appeared. Every so often the topic of an island retreat would come up and I would always use Little Eden Cay as an example I treasured. My returns through Google didn’t offer anything new until tonight. What a shock!
    But the older photos should exist for a long time out on the internet. It can still remain an inspiration.

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