The weather on my trip to the Cayman Islands was not too cooperative, but to my delight the yacht to Stingray City hadn’t been cancelled. Stingray City is a group of sand bars located in Grand Cayman’s north sound. Decades ago fisherman would clean their catch in the shallow water and Southern Stingrays would hang around for the food. Now they associate the sound of a boat with food and happily hang out with anyone who visits in the hope of receiving a treat.
As we left Camana Bay Harbor, we passed through a sound lined with trees that hung low over the water. To my surprise, Iguanas prefer to bask in the sun in the branches and I was able to get very close to some of the scaly little (huge) dudes that I’d been chasing most of the trip.
Venturing into open waters, a Sun Dog (halo) appeared around the sun. The captain said it happens when the moisture in the air is just right to form a full circle rainbow around the sun. They’re not easy to spot with a naked eye, but with sunglasses are more evident. And not every Sun Dog is the same, if you are standing right next to someone you will both see something different.
The water became a bright shade of turquoise as we approached the sand bars. Once we dropped anchor the guides gave a talk about the stingrays and how to handle and interact with them safely. I learned that they feel like a portobello mushroom, smooth on bottom and sandpaper on top. The larger females (up to 50″ across) prefer to stay at the surface of the water, while the smaller males (up to 26″ across) prefer stay on the sand.
With Hurricane Joaquin skirting the islands, the tide was high and the swells were rough. What was normally calm waist deep water was neck deep with large swells but I dove in anyway, excited for the experience. I don’t know if I’ve ever been so excited and scared about something at the same time in my life, except maybe giving birth to my children.
Once I swam over to the area where the rays were, I checked the sea floor and stood up. The water was rough but manageable, and the rays brushed up on me like cats waiting for a head-pat (or their next meal). They were incredibly soft and I happened to meet one who quickly became my favorite, Frisbee. She was born without a tail or stinger (less scary), but was still large and probably outweighed me by at least a few pounds.
I was able to hold her with some assistance, as they are quite strong and swim towards you when you touch them. I gave her kisses and received a Stingray Massage, which is one of the weirder sensations I’ve ever felt. If I look like I’m having a panic attack in the photos, it’s probably because I was, ha! After some time passed, we fed them all some baby squid treats in exchange for the time they spent with us and we headed on our way.
I may as well get this out of the way, but I do not like snorkeling. I don’t float. I’ve tried to learn a million times and it never, ever, ever works. I don’t know why I can’t float, because I swim well, but it just doesn’t work for me. My husband can attest to the story of my near-drowning incident on our honeymoon in Turtle Bay when I ingested some sea water while swimming above a fragile coral reef.
So after some slight laughs, the guide was happy to take my camera down at the snorkeling spot to snap a few photos for me. Aren’t the fish beautiful? I’ve promised myself to one day try scuba diving, because floating isn’t required for that.
At the end of our trip we made a stop at Starfish Point. It’s located on the North side of Grand Cayman, near Rum Cay. On a good day the shallow water is filled with starfish and you can walk around in knee deep water to see them. Although it is dangerous (for them) and illegal to take them out of the water, you can easily view them and take photos. On this day the water was murky from stronger currents and the starfish were hiding out in deeper water.
At the end of a few hours I was more than happy to be back on dry land. Rough seas and being on a boat for extended periods of time are not my favorite, even if it is for something as exciting as Stingrays. I feel like I experienced so much on this trip, I can’t wait to share more with you.
I went to stingray city with my family last week on our vacation and it was a blast. I think the most crucial determinant to having a good time is being in a relatively small groups, away from the crowds. There were some boats with over 50 people, which was ridiculous. We were lucky to go with a company called George’s Watersports which takes really small groups (never more than 12 people) and we are grateful we did it with them.
Question: does anyone here know of any other fun activities other than stingray city? I am planning a return trip in the near future!
Great tip! I have a whole Grand Cayman travel guide here. 🙂
[…] Stingray City You’ll need to take an excursion to see this, as it’s a sandbar in the water. It was one of the most exciting and scary times in my life. […]
What did you use to take such great underwater photos?! I’ve struggled to find a good camera that allows me to take clear underwater photos.
This place is beautiful and your photos prove it! So cool you got to swim with sting rays!
Amanda || http://www.fortheloveofglitter.com