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Travel Tramps

Wading through Stingray City

by Kathleen Curry & Geoff Griffin
- Posted // 2013-01-16 - There are plenty of places you can go to swim with trained and captive dolphins in an enclosed area, pet sea turtles at an aquarium or get splashed by a whale during a show, etc. Then there’s “Stingray City” just off Grand Cayman Island in the Caribbean. Just find somebody with a boat, pull up to a giant sandbar, step out into the clear, blue, chest-deep water and before you know it, stingrays wider across than a double bed are swimming right by your legs.

The name “Stingray City” makes it sound like some sort of organized, commercial sea-life park, but it’s really just a series of sandbars in the North Sound of Grand Cayman where anybody can pull up and start looking. Fishermen used to clean their catch there and the stingrays would feed on the fish guts. Just like Pavlov’s dogs, the stingrays started to associate the sound of a boat motor with mealtime and swim up to get dinner. Snorkelers and divers found they could even feed the stingrays by hand. Today, tour operators bring squid meat to attract them.

In theory, anybody with a jet ski can head out to the sandbars to feed the rays and even pick them up to pet. If you approach a ray from the back, they could sting you, and if you’re not careful, you might step on one and hurt either you or it. We did a tour through Resort Sports, which also offers a number of other types of tours around the Cayman Islands, and had a great time.

The stingray skin is a combination of slick and rubbery. It feels weird at first but then you get used to it, and start noticing other things, like how far apart the stingray’s eyes are set and whether they are looking at you. The closer you look, the harder it seems to believe that this creature lives on the same planet with you. The mouth looks scary, and we didn’t try want to get near it, but when you feed them it just feels like a vacuum cleaner hauling the squid in.

While getting to pet a ray is definitely one of the highlights of the trip, the bigger thrill may be simply standing in clear water, looking down, and seeing rays go by right next to you, occasionally even brushing your legs. It’s a sea-life experience you won’t soon forget, and it’s with creatures who actually roam free in the sea and interact with humans, not because they have trainers cueing them, but because they’re whoring themselves out for a free meal.

Hmmm ... maybe humans and rays aren’t so different after all.

The Travel Tramps write regularly about their treks in City Weekly and host the weekly Travel Brigade Radio Show.

  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
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Posted // June 14,2013 at 05:37

“Wonderful Experience at Dolphin Cove thru Sting Ray City Quest”

Like the previous reviewer we were looking to save a little money by not doing the Carnival excursion to Dolphin Cove. I had two teenagers who wanted to experience a dolphin swim but had NO interest in seeing the stingrays. I emailed Dolphin Cove directly and they were very helpful stating that we could not book directly through them, but should book through Carnival or Sting Ray City Quest (SRCQ). When emailed, SRCQ stated they had a dolphin only tour for $105 pp. Much cheaper than the excursion price! They also charged $12 pp roundtrip tansportation. . . very reasonable. We booked 2 days before our cruise left. No problems with the connection - excellent communication. Dolphin Cove was great! Both girls had an amazing time. both were quite nervous to be in the water with these big strong animals but quickly were having the time of their lives. They were in the water for about 1/2 hour with only 4 other people in their group. Since we went along to watch - (don't bother to pay the $12pp transportation if you are only observing - no one checked to see if we had paid for that) we were able to take great photos and videos of the whole experience. (Of course we did buy the $85 photo CD also because their pictures were better than ours. ) This was the highlight of our whole cruise.

Visited March 2012

"For more info you can visit them in http:www. stingraycityquest. com"