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!
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.
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.
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.
And you, have you ever swam with stingrays? What did you think of the experience?
You can also pin this image to your Pinterest boards: