I Kissed a Ray, and I Liked It

ray-3Circling back to my #mostepicadventure in Grand Cayman, I share with you one of the coolest experiences of my trip: visiting Stingray City.

In actuality, Stingray City is a sandbar. In the middle of the ocean. It’s not an enclosed habitat where all the creatures have been trained to be around humans. It’s a place where stingrays happen to hang out. And while most are used to having humans stop by, they’re still wild, most still have their barbs and they’re freaking HUGE.

For this particular excursion, I chose George’s Watersports as my tour company. And I’m SO glad that I did. They keep the groups small (12 or less), and our guides were nothing short of fantastic. Their love of the ocean and knowledge of all things Grand Cayman were readily apparent. They were focused on ensuring that we had an awesome experience, and I never felt like just a number to them.

So on the third day of my trip, I found myself on a boat with six other adventurers and two guides, heading out into the ocean blue for a five-stop tour around the island.

We stopped at Sting Ray City first so we could beat the crowds that would inevitably descend once the cruise boats docked in George Town. As soon as we approached the sandbar, I could see these large dark spots in the water.

Rocks? Nope. Coral? Nope. Big ass stingrays? Check.

After a quick safety chat (SHUFFLE YOUR FEET!), we hopped off the back of the boat and swam over to where we could stand on the sandbar, and the rays immediately joined us. I quickly learned they didn’t respect personal boundaries.

The rays would bump up against you – your legs, your waist, pretty much anything that was in the water. They knew enough to know that humans usually equalled a nice little snack of squid.

The only thing I could keep repeating was “they’re HUGE.” Because they were.

One of our guides, Price, grabbed “Frisbee,” a 35 year old ray (they usually only live to around 20 years or so). Aptly named, Frisbee was missing her tail, so that made her a great one for us to handle. Price and our other guide, Matt, taught us all about the rays, the legend of Stingray City and how to feed them.

We each got to give Frisbee a snack, and everyone got to hold her, kiss her, get a quick sting ray massage (thanks, girl!) and take the ubiquitous “ray face” photo. As we patiently waited our turn, these glorious creatures swam round us. My emotions oscillated between fear and amazement, all while I tried my best to keep my feet planted firmly in the sand amidst the currents.

They were bigger than any rays I had ever seen, and their grace in the water was unequaled.

Every island has its own unique attractions. Some are super touristy, and this one may well be. But it is not to be missed when you visit Grand Cayman. How you chose to experience it matters, and I highly recommend going with a smaller group.

-jz

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