Today was one of those days I just know I’ll remember for the rest of my life.
It was a typically beautiful Cayman day: temps in the high-80s, slight breeze blowing off the ocean, the smell of salt in the air. A perfect day to set out on a boat to mingle with stingrays on Grand Cayman’s famous sandbar.
Stingray City is a series of sandbars in the North Sound area of Grand Cayman, not far from Rum Point. It’s crawling with stingrays, many as big as five feet across. They’re very accustomed to people, and you can interact with them in the water. This is my idea of fun.
Stingrays first began congregating on the sandbars decades ago. The sandbars lay just inside a break in the reef, and were apparently a favorite area for fisherman returning from an excursion to stop and clean their catch. They’d dump the entrails into the water, and the stingrays would happily feast on everything discarded.
Now the feeding is done by giddy tourists with fistfuls of squid, and the stingrays aren’t shy about demanding their grub. This is not for the faint of heart – mixed in amongst the sounds of waves lapping on the reef are the shrieks of terrified women, and very often the laughter of their boyfriends and husbands. (My friends were so petrified they wore life vests. On a sandbar. In three feet of water. I nearly drowned laughing so hard.)
This is an awe-inspiring experience. It’s hard to imagine if you haven’t been here. Stingrays literally swarm all over you, often as many as 8 or 10 at a time. They’re not afraid of you, they’re not going to hurt you, and if you can just relax and let them do their thing it’s an experience you will never forget. Often times you can even pick one up out of the water and pose for pictures, which I did frequently, partly because it was just too much fun, and partly because it would send my friends into apoplectic spasms when I would try to hand them one.
We sailed today with Nick, a delightful Irish chap who captains a ship for Sail Cayman. I’ve been out with these guys before, and they’ve always been terrific. Nick has been sailing these waters for near a decade, and took us to a great snorkeling spot on the reef after we left Stingray City. The Cayman Islands are renowned as one of the world’s best diving/snorkeling spots, and judging by the multitudes of brightly colored fish we saw, I certainly can’t dispute the claim.
After an afternoon delighting in some of the sea’s most beautiful creatures we were ready for a drink and a snack on the beach. We headed to Reef Grill on Seven Mile Beach and scarfed down conch fritters and tuna spring rolls while tossing back more than a few Cayman Sunset drinks. I’m not sure what’s in a Cayman Sunset, but after I’d had three I loudly pronounced them the greatest thing ever invented.
I’m a bit of a lightweight.
At this point anything anyone suggested sounded like the best idea ever, so after failing to convince some European tourists to trade us their adorable baby for a bottle of rum, we ended the night splashing around in the surf fully clothed taking pictures.
It was a perfect day in paradise.