Grand Cayman’s Stingray City

By on January 30, 2013

The featured image is sourced from Flickr

Informally known as Stingray City, the shallow sand bars that surround Rum Point Beach on Grand Cayman’s northern shoreline are relatively unknown to many, but those who make the journey to the Caribbean island are rewarded with an incredible surprise: an abundance of friendly stingrays waiting to welcome visitors to the water. In fact, despite many travelers being completely unaware of the ‘city’, it has consistently proved itself to be the most popular shore excursion for those enjoying Western Caribbean cruises.

While nobody knows for sure what attracts the creatures to this particular section of the Caribbean Sea, it is believed to stem from the 1980s when fishermen would choose the calm waters of the northern bay, protected from the tides by Water Cay and Booby Cay, to clean their catches from the morning. During the process, waste products would be discarded overboard, attracting a variety of hungry sea life eager for a free dinner – particularly stingrays who enjoyed the squid. In a rather Pavlovian fashion, over time the stingrays would group in the bay at the sound of a boat engine, waiting to be fed.

From this, the popular Stingray City was born in Grand Cayman, and there are actually a few others in other parts of the Caribbean. Stingray City has given a great boost to the local economy, as the concept has encouraged an increase in tour companies, boat tours, and snorkeling and diving courses off the coast of the island, and there’s certainly demand. Stingray City encourages interaction between humans and fish in a natural yet safe environment.

There have been many reports over the years of injuries sustained from stingrays, including Australian conservationist Steve Irwin who died from a stingray barb in 2006, but stingrays are actually one of the most docile sea creatures. While it is true that injuries can be fatal, it is very unusual for an attack to be unprovoked, and stingrays are quite comfortable around crowds, especially when there’s food involved. They’re also quite fond of being handled, and for this reason, stingrays are a popular addition to touch tanks in aquariums, and are a great way of introducing children to wildlife.

The advantage of this particular Grand Cayman attraction is that it’s suitable and accessible for all, regardless of water skill level or personal preferences. Arguably the best way to get up close and personal with these attention-loving fish is to dive under the water. Stingray City is one of the Caribbean’s most popular dive sites and, with depths of between 12 and 20 feet, it’s perfect for both beginners and professionals. Those who aren’t PADI qualified can opt to swim and snorkel instead, in depths of around 3 to 5 feet. The experience may not be as intense as diving, but it’s still an excellent way to bond with nature. And for those not keen on getting into the water? Glass bottomed boats are ideal. It was, after all, the sound of the boats that maintained the attraction for the stingrays.

Stingray City is just one of Grand Cayman’s many wildlife experiences, with much more to enjoy and explore. Those who loved Stingray City should make time to check out the Grand Cayman Island Turtle Farm before heading home.

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