No subways, so historic sites, no museums,  just lots and lots of friendly fish friends—Plunge your family into the underwater adventure of a lifetime with a visit to Stingray City. 

dolphin-swim-and-stingray-city-grand-cayman-cayman-islands-11This is the unsubstantiated, but taken for true story of how Stingray City came to be: Years ago, returning fisherman would stop here on the way back to harbor to clean their catch in the calm, protected waters behind the reef. Stingrays began to congregate to the area, drawn by the  discarded nibbles of fish and squid. Soon divers tried feeding them by hand and before long, the already docile southern stingrays in the area were acting downright domesticated.

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Today, Stingray City is a major ecotourism destination. Visitors by the boatload head to this band of sandbars just off the coast of Grand Cayman islands to wade among the hundreds of rays and spend the afternoon in this living aquarium. Stingrays have always been here—rays are bottom dwellers who dig in the sand for mollusks and crustaceans to eat, so this was already prime real estate. They’re also usually solitary, nocturnal creatures but the easy feeding at Stingray City has caused these rays to flip their natural behavior (much to the worry of many naturalists). The stingrays here live in close quarters and feed at day, resting at night.

A visitor gets a stingray sidehug.

A visitor gets a stingray sidehug.

It’s a thrill to come into such close contact with these mysterious gilled gliders. Sometimes described as ‘cat-like’ in their behavior, visitors are won over by the stingray’s curiosity, playfulness and their gentle ‘hugs’  and ‘kisses’. An afternoon frolicking with the inhabitants of Stingray City isn’t just fun, it’s an exercise in interspecies relations. Considered almost alien to most people, and most often grouped with their close relative, the shark in this playground they become understandable and even downright lovable.
On a final note: Ray-related injuries are very, very low, but whenever interacting with wild animals, common sense caution is key. Our advice: keep the kids very close (or on the boat) and cameras at the ready.

Right off the coast of Grand Cayman, Stingray City makes a perfect afternoon trip.

Right off the coast of Grand Cayman, Stingray City makes a perfect afternoon trip.

Image credits: Top image and side hug, courtesy carnival.com; map courtesy scubadivingsite.com; swimming image courtesy viator.com.

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