Pros: Great shore excursion..it's best to be there before all the other boats arrive
Cons: Nothing I can think of except that it was over too soon
When we first planned our recent cruise and I knew Grand Cayman Island was to be one of the ports we would be visiting, my mind started to whirl
What excursions would we take? And, which would be best suited for us and the small limitations I have now since some surgery I had this year...
I had heard about Stingray City from my daughter, a friend of mine, who had been there recently and Poprocks, who wrote a review about his cruise this year, so I wrote him to ask what he thought about my situation he assured me that the exertion level was pretty easy and as long as I could swim and climb in and out of boat, I should be fine he was right on..besides, I knew I'm a strong swimmer so that would be no problem.
We booked the excursion that combined a visit to Stingray City with a snorkeling excursion over the "Coral Gardens Reef Formation" where the water is just 8-10 feet deep and though small, the fish are usually abundant and very colorful we were supposed to go to the reef first but our tour boat captain took us to visit the Stingrays first, which proved to be the right decision since we were the first boat to arrive that morning in that beautiful aquamarine, crystal clear water.
A Little History
Stingray City is located inside at natural channel of the North Sound right at the northwest corner of Grand Cayman Islands .this channel passes through a barrier reef which is the reason for all the shallowness of the water. In the mid eighties local fisherman would go to these shallow waters to filet their catch and throw what they couldnt use overboard, nobody noticed except the Stingrays These very strange, prehistoric looking creatures, who naturally live in shallow waters with sandy bottoms, discovered this new treasure trove of a feeding ground for them and made this channel their home...after all, fish guts were quite a delicacy for them Time went by and some local divers noticed that there were quite a lot Stingrays in these waters and, when in the water with them, neither were afraid of each other they experimented and fed them some kind of fish scraps which were eaten right out their hands..
In 1987, Skin Diver magazine heard about it and sent one of their reporters to explore this new discovery, the rest is history ..Stingray City was on every divers must do list when in the Caymans.
Just as our boat arrived and set anchor, we could see shadows and movement in that beautiful clear water coming right towards us. Large circular beings, like in a science fiction movie our guide explained what we would be encountering and how to mingle with them without any problem. Someone did ask about what happened to Steve Irwin, when he as attacked by one, and they told us that these particular rays were so used to humans that there was nothing to be worried about, actually I don't know why I never even thought of that dreadful incident myself...We just had to remember that these are still wild animals who are free to come and go as they wish and they wish to be there since they are smart enough to know they will be fed. On any given day there can be up to a 100 rays eager to get a morsel or two. The guide went into the water and held a ray out for us to see...he showed us where the stinger is and the mouth, to make sure we offered the food in the right direction I guess.
Climbing out of the boat was no problem for me, and before I knew it I was in the shallow water...My heart pumped a bit harder than usual when the first ray touched my foot. Then another and another, before I knew it, I was surrounded Since we were the first boat there they were hungry...almost like cats and dogs who haven't been fed yet. They had buckets of cut up squid and gave us all a piece, but first demonstrated the right way to react when the rays approach. Dont throw the food at them we were told, just hold the piece in the palm of your hand and the ray will come right for it I dropped my first piece and watched as the ray went after it in the sand. I was more successful with the second piece of slippery squid as one big guy came right up to my outstretched hand and sucked the piece right off, like a vacuum. It was slightly strange sensation but nothing to be fearful of.
I looked around and the rays were everywhere and different sizes too...most of the people around me seemed to be having a good time except for one lady who freaked out and went back in the boat. I had an underwater camera with me and took pictures of all this excitement, hubby had one too and we took great shots of each other in action later, when all the food was gone, one of our guides took pictures of us holding and touching the rays and rubbing their bellies...then he put one on my back and head....a picture postcard memory. By the way, the rays skin felt like velvet, so very smooth the touch. Then I noticed them swim off in the other direction...other boats had arrived. By the time I got out of the water, there were many boats and no more rays in our location. Fickle Stingrays!
This whole experience was one I will never forget. These gentle creatures, living out in the wild, have learned to co-exist with man visiting them in their own environment...They choose to mingle with us on their own turf, or should I say surf. You just have to know what to expect and treat them with the respect they deserve. I hope one day to visit them again Stingray City, what a city that is!
Happy And Safe Travels