There’s nothing quite like a close encounter with marine creatures, whether it be a colorful school of fish off the islands of Raja Ampat or floating in the presence of enormous whale sharks in Cancun. But, in the Caribbean’s Grand Cayman sea life is all about swimming with stingrays in Stingray City. At least it was for me.
What is Stingray City?
Picture standing on a sandbar in the shallow turquoise-blue waters of Grand Cayman, surrounded by dozens of southern stingrays. Sounds like a pretty fantastic bucket list encounter, doesn’t it? Well, it gets even better. Also, imagine being able to interact with them—that’s what the Stingray City experience is all about.
In reality, this ‘city’ is a collection of sandbars off the Grand Cayman island, where a flourishing community of stingrays calls the crystal-clear waters home. It all started many years ago when fishermen would throw the remains of their catch into the shallow waters drawing in hungry stingrays for a feast. Over the decades, these stingrays have become accustomed to the presence of boats and humans, creating a remarkable symbiotic relationship.
For me, Stingray City became an unmissable highlight of a popular cruise excursion, although you don’t necessarily need a cruise to participate in this adventure; booking a tour independently is just as accessible.
Top Tours to Stingray City
There are plenty of choices for tours to Stingray City in Grand Cayman, so do your research well before selecting a tour. Some of them offer the main Stingray City experience where you can interact with stingrays while others include activities like snorkeling, diving or sailing as well. Although there are tours available through the daytime, if you wish to avoid the crowds, go for an early morning tour.
Some popular and highly rated tours:
- Stingray City Experience Plus Two Snorkeling Stops on Grand Cayman
- Starfish and Stingray City Fun Tour with Reef Snorkeling (3 stops)
- Starfish Point, Stingray City and Coral Garden
Highly rated tour companies:
About Grand Cayman
Islands in the Caribbean have an amazing appeal with their crystal-clear waters and natural attractions. With so many islands in the region, there are several things to see, do and experience. The Cayman Islands is located in close proximity to Cuba and is very popular with tourists.
Consisting of three islands–Grand Cayman, Cayman Brac and Little Cayman–it is an ideal place to relax and also have some bucket list worthy adventures. Of the three, Grand Cayman is the largest island dotted with many places of interest including the capital George Town.
A major hub on the island is the Seven Mile Beach with its beautiful sandy beach, many swanky hotels, resorts and shops. George Town is a stop for cruise liners arriving from various places, with passengers looking to have a good time on the island. While it attracts the wealthy, it is also a magnet for tourists who want to enjoy snorkeling, diving, kayaking, parasailing or a cruise on a catamaran. Due to its rich marine life, coral reefs, and places like Stingray City, Grand Cayman is a favorite with travelers.
My Experience Visiting Stingray City
For me, heading out on a tour to Stingray City wasn’t just the average run-of-the-mill touristy affair—it was a wild journey. On my tour, we had a 15-minute boat ride from the north end of the island to our destination.
The experience wasn’t your average swim with the fishes—here, it’s an interactive adventure with southern stingrays, the true rockstars of the waters.
To start about twenty of us entered the water for our and formed a circle as if we were going to play ring around the rosie. For a second I was afraid that there would be no stingray to swim with, but, that was not the case. The ray swarmed us as if they were killer bees and we were dipped in honey.
These creatures who are accustomed to humans, glide beneath the surface and right next to you—it’s quite a thrill! But the real kicker? Feeding them. Picture this: you, knee-deep in the water, hand outstretched, feeling the sleek slide of a stingray swooping in for a snack. It’s not your typical marine meet-and-greet! Just be careful not to step on one.
For those of you concerned about motion sickness, I did not see one passenger get sick throughout the tour (thank God!) and even my husband, who gets crazy car sick, only felt slightly queasy…once.
If you are looking for a unique wildlife activity, an up close and personal encounter with stingrays on a tour to Stingray City is a must. Friendly stingrays, beautiful waters and the best of island life–I couldn’t ask for more!
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