Often while snorkelling or diving I see a stingray. I get a little thrill when I can watch it from a safe distance, behaving as stingrays normally behave in the wild. I’ve also been to Stingray City and sandbar about five times. If you haven’t been and you get a chance, you should go, too.
Apparently some people expect the stingrays to be captive, in a sort of pen, when they go to see them. This is definitely not the case. The stingrays are free-living, wild stingrays that just happen to be used to people.
Many years ago, the fishermen in Cayman used to bring their catch to a certain area to clean the fish. They noticed that the stingrays would come and feed on the discarded fish bits, and had become very tame and used to people.
Eventually someone decided to make money from this phenomenon and they started taking people out to see the stingrays. They would feed them and give chunks of squid to the tourists so they could feed them, too. The first time we came here with our family, everyone was given chunks of food if they wanted it.
Over the years, Guy Harvey and others became concerned with the number of visitors to see the stingrays. The rays seemed to be stressed by large numbers of people and their numbers were diminishing. By explaining to the government how valuable each and every ray was to tourism, using dollar values, they convinced the government to make new regulations regarding excursions to the sandbar. They also passed laws to protect the stingrays, eagle rays and manta rays in Cayman’s waters. http://www.guyharvey.com/stingrays-guy-harvey/
The best way to see the stingrays is probably to take a private charter or use a local operator when it’s not a cruise ship day. On our last trip, with four friends visiting, I tried to set up a private charter for six of us. Everything seemed to be going smoothly. I had three different companies giving me quotes. Our friends were arriving Saturday and we’d go out Sunday when no ships were in port. Wednesday came and I attempted to call the first charter company to confirm. I reached their voice mail and left a message. I also sent another email. Thursday, after leaving two voice mail messages, I had no reply. I called the second operator. Their voice mailbox was full. I kept trying both numbers until Saturday. The third operator never even got back to me to acknowledge my query. Things were not looking good for the private charter on Sunday.
Eventually, I decided to book with Red Sail on their “Breakfast with the Rays” trip. They leave early in the morning and provide a lovely, fresh breakfast buffet on the way to the sandbar. They have always been very good with their pre-snorkel instructions, and their crew have the utmost regard and respect for the marine park, the reef, and the stingrays. We were in the water with the rays before anyone else arrived. We had at least an hour to spend there before it started to get busy with other boats.
A couple of our friends were a little nervous at first. The stingrays were much larger than they imagined, and they swam around, brushing against our legs. The new regulations mean that we don’t feed the rays anymore, which is fine with me as I never felt inclined to feed them. Our captain was particularly good with the rays and even seemed to have a special relationship with one long time visitor(of the stingray variety) named Sophie. He recognized her by her markings. Eventually, our friends touched and held the rays and many photos were taken!
Our second stop was the barrier reef. It was a little rough, but it’s very beautiful, without the damage one sees on the reefs closer to shore. By the time we finished here and headed back into Safe Haven, the cruise ship excursions were starting to arrive at the sandbar.
I will try to book a private excursion again if I have a large group of visitors. However, I would go out with Red Sail again in a heartbeat. I think they’ve been the operator on every one of my five visits, over twelve years, and the experience only gets better each time.
I suggest you check out some of the photos on the internet:https://www.google.com/search?q=stingray+city+photos+grand+cayman&rlz=1C1CHWA_enUS632US632&espv=2&biw=1247&bih=626&tbm=isch&tbo=u&source=univ&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwjln9SjxNHJAhXLBBoKHWqVBxgQsAQINA&dpr=1
This is a fun, family friendly activity that you can’t do just anywhere. Still, I still get a bigger thrill from seeing a stingray on a random dive or snorkel. To me, it’s the same joy I get from seeing a turtle or a shark.