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Stingray City Shore Excursion Tips

Stingray City; ©

A Stingray City shore excursion gives visitors a chance to swim with stingrays in shallow water. It’s one of the most entertaining family attractions in the Caribbean.

Our neighbors first told us about their Stingray City tour off Grand Cayman Island. We thought it sounded interesting. It turned out to be fantastic.

We visited Grand Cayman on one of our western Caribbean cruises. About 40 of us took the drive over to the dock where our boat was located. We jumped on board and spent about 20 minutes riding out to the sandbar where the large school of stingray lived.

The highlight of the excursion was a chance to go snorkeling with them in three feet of water.

Many sources have said that fishing boats would stop at the sandbar to dump the remains of fish they had cleaned over the side. Stingrays gathered to feed on what the fishermen dumped. Eventually, the crew got into the water and started to feed the stingrays by hand.

That’s how the stingrays got comfortable with human contact and eventually settled down to live at the sandbar.

Shore Excursion Highlights

On the day of our tour, the weather was perfect—clear blue sky and an easy sea. As the double decker boated neared the sandbar, everyone stood at the sides to watch large dark shapes glide underwater toward the boat.

Some people on the boat talked excitedly while others talked nervously.

The boat came to a stop and dropped anchor. Those of us on the top deck had to climb down stairs and temporarily lose sight of the water and the stingrays.

As we did, we started to hear screams.

When we got down to the bottom deck and looked out, we saw a number of people in the three feet of water trying to climb on top of each other. We also saw others getting back into the boat.

Stingray City petting
Visitors can actually pet the stingrays. Credit: Wikimedia Creative Commons license

But the great majority of snorkelers already in the water—both adults and children—were laughing, diving and talking with even more excitement.

Then it was our turn to get into the water with snorkeling gear. Within moments, stingray as large as six feet wide were gliding past us to see if we had any food for them. Some of them would touch our legs with their wings as they glided past.

Others would pass close by as we put our heads underwater to watch them and carefully reach out to run our own hands over their wings. They didn’t seem to mind at all.

Once is the water, we found no reason for fear, although the experience was unsettling.

Suddenly a large and heavy boy jumped on my back. It turned out to be my son, who got rubbed for the first time. He laughed uncontrollably and nervously as he tried not to get rubbed again. Eventually he settled down and got back into the water.

We have been asked if we were scared of being stung, and the answer is no.

At no time did the stingrays act aggressively or lie on the bottom in a way that would lead us to step on them accidentally. There are no guarantees of safety, but we felt quite comfortable with them.

Tour company guides joined vacationers in the water to explain how the stingrays live, feed them occasionally and, in one case, gently capture one and hold it for a minute at the water level to explain more about them.

Less than an hour later it was time to get back on the boat and return to the cruise ship. All great excursions end too soon. Stingray City is one of the 10 best Caribbean tourist attractions and a memorable experience for anyone visiting Grand Cayman.

How to Go

Most visitors arrange the Stingray City tour through the cruise ship if they are visiting by cruise or at the resort or hotel if staying on Grand Cayman.

These options are more expensive, more convenient and have a higher odds of a good tour because cruises and resorts generally don’t work with bad operators.

Prices vary greatly, but booking a tour directly may cost around $50 for an adult and $40 for a child. Prices depend on the tour operator, length of time for the trip, amenities such as food and drink, time of year, etc.

Most Stingray City shore excursions last about three hours and may include an extra snorkeling stop. Others includes visits to other attractions such as the Grand Cayman Turtle Centre, which costs more.

Scott S. Bateman is a professional journalist who has traveled widely throughout the Caribbean and the Americas. He is the author of four books about cruising in the Caribbean, Alaska and Mexican Riviera.
December 12, 2022

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