Posted by: MummyTravels | April 14, 2012

Swimming with stingrays

I’ve managed to pack in quite a few adrenaline rushes during my travels – all pre-pregnancy of course. Post-bump, even the mildest of adventures seem to be forbidden, restricted or very much not recommended. Until I found one thing to get my heart racing a little, without stepping into too much danger… swimming with stingrays off Grand Cayman.

The rays, which lurk undisturbed in the sand near the Cayman Trench, wait for the rumble of boat engines to signal company and squid. Originally drawn to the spot by fishermen who’d clean their nets and catch at the shallow sandbar decades ago, it’s one of Cayman’s biggest tourist draws, with over 100 rays congregating at Stingray City at busy times.

Free to come and go as they please, the fish are as friendly as cats expecting to be fed, winding around your ankles as if you were being mobbed by inquisitive supersize Portobello mushrooms.  And being stung is very rare as the velvety rays happily float in your arms, hoovering up bits of conch before optimistically moving on to the next person.

To be on the safe side, the sandbar is closed during high winds to reduce the chance of accidents in choppy water – if you can’t see the rays, there’s more chance you’ll step on one accidentally, which understandably they’re not so keen on.

The biggest danger for me was uncontrollable laughter and being mobbed by a flotilla of squid-happy fish.

To make sure you don’t have to share the experience with boatloads of cruise ship passengers, aim to get there at weekends or before 10am or after around 2.30pm when the tenders depart. The Port Authority’s website lists cruise arrivals to help check when you’re likely to get the rays all to yourself.

And if that’s still a bit too exciting, there are reefs nearby where you can spot everything from angel and parrot fish to neons and barracuda exploring the branch and brain coral in the sheltered channels.

Or snorkel the fascinating USS Kittiwake, sunk deliberately in 2011 to create an artificial reef and now home to silvery jacks and zebra fish, swimming in such clear water that you get an incredible view even if you can’t dive.

Best of all, the calm waters (and friendly fish) are great for kids as well – which gives me the perfect excuse to go back again before too long.

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Responses

  1. OMG. I want to go! We fed Stingrays on Disney’s Castaway Cay island – little fish finger-sized bits of fishy jelly 🙂 I loved it. Next stop Grand Cayman, then! (in my dreams) x

  2. Was amazing – so much fun! Definitely one to do, you’d love it

  3. I was worried about it being too touristy but it was a great experience – I was a bit freaked out by the giant rays but it was fab – I loved the snorkelling en route back to the island too… Happy Days! Not sure about going with baby – perhaps with a 5 year old?

  4. I think it can be touristy if you time it when there’s a cruise-load of tourists but we had them to ourselves. And probably not for a baby – will have to wait a few years


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