Stingray City

Locals say that the stingrays began gathering in the area decades ago when fisherman used to clean fish on the shallow sand bars of the North Sound. The stingrays would forget their normally shy dispositions and feast on the guts of the cleaned fish. Soon the stingrays began to associate the sound of a boat motor with food. In the late 1980s, divers started feeding the stingrays one of their favorite meals: squid. Before long, dozens of rays would show up each day to be fed, attracted by the boat engines and the memory of an easy meal. The area has evolved into one of Cayman’s most popular attractions.

Stingray City Operators

There are numerous ways to get to Stingray City by way of the numerous water sports operators who serve this tourism destination in Grand Cayman. You can book through your cruise ship, you can book through your hotel, or you can call the operators up directly - whatever you do, please do it. Stingray City may be a tourist spot but it is definitely not a tourist trap. It is one of the most awesome experiences in the Cayman Islands.

A unique, once-in-a-lifetime experience

The Cayman Islands are the only place in the world where scores of enormous southern stingrays, serenely acclimatized to the sight and smell, the noise and the crowding of people and their watercraft, navigate in and around, among and through the clusters of visitors standing waist-deep on the sandbar. Frankly, it is a little unnerving initially, but is inescapably thrilling at the same time -- and has proved perfectly safe.

Touch a stingray

As the great gray wild creatures approach, many the size of a dining table, their enormous bodies undulating in slow motion, they assume visitors will feed them. The animals expect human contact, and are perfectly at ease. One you have adjusted, you can actually gather a ray into your spread arms and lay it against your chest, as long as you keep the creature in the water. Experienced tour guides are so familiar with the creatures that they have named many of the individuals.

Feed a stingray

The technique is to close your fist around the end of an elongated piece of squid, allowing it to protrude upwards. The ray, spotting the familiar shape and movement, will swoop from a short distance, sucking it up from your hand. Oh … and, no, they never miss

Observe these beautiful, graceful creatures in their habitat

Moving easily, gracefully and swiftly through the shallow waters, these creatures are marvels to behold. Because their eyes protrude from the top of their bodies, and their mouths are underneath, they cannot see their prey, relying instead on an unerring sense of smell and electro-receptors similar to those of sharks, which belong to the same family as stingrays. Their stingers are purely defensive weapons, meaning visitors should shuffle across the sandbar, avoiding any accidental tread on the animals.

A family-friendly experience

The waters are so shallow and the rays so inured to human contact, that the entire family can unreservedly participate in the experience of Stingray City. The elderly, young children, everyone can enjoy a trip that not even Disney can top.

You don't have to be a scuba diver, snorkeler or even a swimmer

The pristine, clear, aquamarine waters of the sandbar are chest-deep at most, and usually no more than waist-deep. Climbing the short steps in and out of your shallow-draft tour boat requires no practice and little effort. Just remember to shuffle as you walk across the bottom

A beautiful boat trip

On a clear, crisp Cayman morning, little rivals the exhilaration of moving across the silent waters of the North Sound under a pristine-blue Caribbean sky. The environment alone – the sea, the headlands, the darkening waters beyond the surrounding reef and the fresh breezes -- make the trip worthwhile, and your morning among the Stingrays is still in prospect.

Stop and snorkel at the Coral Gardens along the way

Even those who are not divers, but enjoy an invigorating swim in open waters will thrill at the variety, the colour, the twisted shapes and the teeming marine life of the coral reefs that border Stingray City. Most tour operators make a brief stop for divers, snorkelers and swimmers to explore the delights of the immediate waters.

A large number of great boat operators and guides do half-day and full-day trips

You can see Stingray City in three ways: on a swimming/snorkeling trip, on a scuba-diving trip or in a glass-bottom boat. Longtime Caymanian seamen, retired after years in the fishing and shipping industries, run daily tours, watersports operators include the stingrays on their itineraries and, finally, nothing restricts private boat owners from anchoring at the sandbar for an afternoon.

Do not miss it as a fantastic photo opportunity

Your visit may well be once-in-a-lifetime -- and the stingrays are unusual, thrilling and even unique subjects. As such, the chance for video and photography of family and friends in this unmatched environment is too ripe and too rare to ignore. Tour operators -- and the rays -- are used to cameras, so do not stint your photographic efforts.