One of the most famous attractions in Grand Cayman, Stingray City is an absolute “must-do” for any visitor to Cayman and is often described as the experience of a lifetime. Stingray City is home to approximately 90 Southern Stingrays. These wild, gentle and graceful creatures roam free in the North Sound, a 35 square mile area of ocean protected by the reef. Even the most seasoned traveller will be enchanted by these beautiful animals.
In years gone by, local fishermen would anchor their boats in the calm shallow water inside the reef in the North Sound while they gutted their catch and threw scraps overboard. Over time, southern stingrays came to realise there were free meals daily in certain spots in the North Sound and so they returned day after day. Today dozens of stingrays continue to visit the two sites, although nowadays it is divemasters and boat captains who are feeding them squid. These incredibly friendly creatures will brush past you with their silky wings, eat from your hand and even allow you to lift them up.
There are in fact two separate sites: Stingray City lies in 12 feet of water, so is ideal for snorkellers and divers; indeed, it is often billed as the best 12 foot dive in the world. Stingray City Sandbar is where the majority of visitors are taken. Here the water is just 2-4 feet deep, so even non-swimmers can safely stand in the shallow water, surrounded by stingrays. The sandbar is suitable for all ages and offers the best photo opportunities.
Southern Stingrays are large creatures, their wingspans can reach two metres across, however, males are noticeably smaller than females. Their wings are soft and silky and feel like velvet as they brush past you. Stingrays are incredibly gentle animals and their instinct is to flee from danger. Their poisonous sting in their tail is only used for defensive purposes, mainly against sharks, which are their only predators in the open water outside the reef.
When you reach Stingray City your crew will explain how to interact with the rays and put you at ease. The rays love to be petted and you will even get the chance to feed them their favourite dish: squid. After the rays get a whiff of the squid and swim towards you, it can feel intimidating, but as they vacuum it off your hand (remember to keep your thumbs tucked in) you’ll fall in love with this amazing experience and will not want to leave the water! You may even be tempted to give your favourite stingray a kiss – if you do, you will be rewarded with seven years of good luck!
Stingray City tours are usually around three hours. You can choose from group charters, which are a cost effective option, or a private charter which is a great way to spend the day with family and friends. Trips are often combined with a snorkelling stop at Coral Gardens, Starfish Point and lunch at either Kaibo or Rum Point. Some operators offer lunch on-board, and during Conch season (November to April), the crew will dive for conch and serve this Cayman delicacy on-board.
Please respect the animals and note that lifting the stingrays out of the water is seriously discouraged. Wearing fins is prohibited and when in the water you should practice the “Stingray Shuffle”, to avoid stepping on any sleeping rays.
Stingray City Sandbar can get quite busy especially when there are a lot of cruise ships in port. If you are planning to visit during the week we recommend going after 3pm in order to miss the crowds, as passengers head back to their ships around 2pm. As cruise ships rarely come to Cayman on the weekends it is less busy.
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