Swimming with rays in Stingray City

Stingray City

It’s not everyday you get stung by a stingray… When we were in Grand Cayman (Cayman Islands), we swam with stingrays at Stingray City. This is my account of this incredible experience!

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We took a ride on a small boat on the warm Caribbean waters. From the shore, the ride must have taken a good 15-20 minutes, so I knew we had reached the deeper ocean, where the water had changed to a darker blue.

Stingray City

Stingray City

Our captain reduced the speed of the boat and beneath the strong waves I saw that the water had became a beautiful turquoise, in shades of blue and aqua like I’d never seen (and I’ve seen plenty of shades of blue). I looked at the water and realized that we had stopped over a sandbar, and I thought that such a thing was absolutely fantastic: right in the middle of the ocean, the seabed suddenly rises to a depth of 4 feet or so, and the reflection of the light on the white sand creates that perfect hue.

I started witnessing large, dark spots in the water, which I couldn’t quite make out. Dozens of them were spread out around the boat, and it dawned on me that they were actually stingrays, swimming in the shallow waters.

‘Jump!’ yelled our captain over the sound of the crashing waves.

Surely he couldn’t mean I should jump in the middle of the ocean, right in the middle of a school of stingrays?!

Apparently he meant exactly that, so off the boat I went, reluctantly leaving my camera behind, trading it for a mask and a tuba.

Under the water was a surreal world. They don’t call it Stingray City for nothing. Dozens of stingrays glided gracefully on the seabed, oblivious to my amazement. They brushed against my skin, their own so soft. I swam under the waves for a long time, in total fascination of these weird and wonderful creatures. It was one of the most surreal and fun experiences I’ve had during my travels.

Stingray City

Stingray City

Stingray City

The Essentials:

You can’t visit Grand Cayman, the largest of the 3 islands that make up Cayman Islands, without trying out Stingray City. It is THE touristic attraction and I very highly recommend it. Yes, there will be plenty of other boats out there, and you will be surrounded by shrieking ladies, but hey, you’ll be shrieking too as they brush against you from all sides.

Stingrays are often feared upon because of their venom, used in self-defense only. Are they dangerous? Yes, they are (a sting can cause severe pain and a risk of infection, and like in the infamous Steve Irwin’s death, can pierce a vital organ) but the ones that roam Stingray City have become so used to human contact, they’re very gentle. I actually got stung in the thigh by accidentally bumping into one, and its reaction was to sting me lightly. The episode wasn’t painful at all, just a bit surprising and a reminder that these animals are tame but still wild. The fact that the waves are very strong is a difficulty. Even though you can actually stand on the sandbar, the waves are so strong that they throw you off balance every second. Simon ended up stepping on a stingray (by accident of course) but did not get stung like me.

You’ll be accompanied by a guide who’ll be the one « manipulating » the stingrays so that you can touch them and feed them. About that: your guide will give you bites of squid to feed the rays, but this usually happens at the end of the excursion as the rays become a bit frenzied and tend to lurch at you in hopes of catching a seafood morsel, and will definitely jump on your back. We’ve all seen the meme, haven’t we?

There are plenty of optiong when it comes to choosing a tour company. Tours are usually around US$40.00 per adult; I highly recommend Captain Marvin’s.

Stingray City

Stingray City

Stingray City

Say cheese!

Stingray City

Stingray City

And you, have you ever swam with stingrays? What did you think of the experience?

If you enjoyed this post, don’t hesitate to follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for more photos, tips and stories from my travels!

You can also pin this image to your Pinterest boards:

Swimming with Rays Pin

-Catherine

12 Comments

  • Reply June 12, 2015

    Danka

    OMG! Amazing!
    So first of all, the color of the water is just unreal! How does our mother nature do that? It is just gorgeous! <3 and second – you guys are really brave! I mean, it sounds very cool, and it must be an amazing experience but I dont know if I would be brave enough! I feel like the older I am the more scared I get 🙂 Maybe 10 years ago I would say, hell yeah, lets go swimming with sharks and stingrays and anything. But now, I dont know. I am very scared of open water. However, you have mentioned it is quite safe for people to swim with them, is it also safe for the stingrays? Like when you touch them or carry them, is it ok for them?
    Great post! thanks for sharing!

    • Reply August 6, 2015

      Catherine

      Hi Danka, so sorry for this late reply. The color of the water is so amazing, I know!! I too wonder how that’s even possible!! It was scary at first but I guess I felt brave that day! 😉
      I do not know if it is “ok” for the rays to interact like that with humans. They certainly seem not to mind, as they don’t rush or seem afraid or act aggressive. I did not participate in the “kiss the ray” while the guide was holding it as I wasn’t comfortable with the fact that he was doing that. At least the stingray got tons of food afterwards, lucky guy!
      Thanks for stopping by and reading my post! 🙂

  • Reply July 29, 2015

    Edith & Juan

    Wow that water is beautiful! Not sure I’d swim with stingrays but I’d love to go on the ride and see them. Husband probably wouldn’t mind the swim. 🙂

    • Reply August 6, 2015

      Catherine

      The ride itself was great and just admiring the rays in the water is magical. And that water… you can’t beat that color!

  • Reply August 15, 2015

    Erica

    Went last year as part of a cruise excitation package. Enjoyed the boat ride more than the Ray experience. The water is beautiful though.

    • Reply August 15, 2015

      Erica

      Should be excursion package..

    • Reply August 24, 2015

      Catherine

      Hi Erica! True, the boat ride is a good part of the whole experience, with the water color changing. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Reply August 15, 2015

    The Educational Tourist

    WOW! The photos are stunning! I’ve seen photos of people swimming with the rays in a very staged controlled environment near the shore. This one is just crazy awesome! Looks a like an amazing experience. Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply August 24, 2015

      Catherine

      Wow, thank you so much! It totally was an awesome experience, and just crazy to be in the middle of the ocean. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  • Reply August 27, 2015

    Janna

    I did this a few years back and loved it!! Photos look amazing

    • Reply August 28, 2015

      Catherine

      Glad you loved it Janna! Many thanks 🙂

  • Reply September 13, 2016

    Jake Whittaker

    I just went on a stingray city trip last month with my family and all I can say is it was amazing. We got there at 8am (early) and so we were the first boat there and had all the rays to ourselves. We went with this great company called George’s Watersports which took really small groups and we had just 8 other people in our group. Also, I am planning a return trip, what would you recommend for other activities?

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