On our recent visit to the Cayman Islands, we got the chance to swim with wild stingrays! It was an amazing experience that I will never forget. There are very few places in the world where you can get up close and personal with stingrays in the wild, so close in fact that you can hold them! About a 20 minute boat ride from Seven Mile Beach (the main beach on Grand Cayman) is a sandbank now known as ‘Stingray City’. Most of Grand Cayman Island is surrounded by a coral reef, and a break in the reef has caused a sandbank to form overtime.
Years ago fishermen would stop off at the sand bank after a day of fishing to gut their fish, attracting stingrays who would return loyally everyday to feed on the fisherman’s scraps. As time went by the stingrays became quite the attraction, and today they swim with hundreds, sometimes thousands of visitors on the sand bank each day.
When we first stepped into the waist-high water, the stingrays were very welcoming, rubbing up against our legs to say hi. It was quite overwhelming at first, and I was a little nervous, but after about 10 minutes in the water, I started to to come around and enjoy the company of these beautiful creatures. You can touch the rays as they swim by, and even hold one if they are open to swimming into your arms! So, what do they feel like? The skipper of our boat described their touch as a ‘wet portobello mushroom’, and I have to say this description is quite accurate!
There are many different breeds of stingrays throughout the world, and the ones we swam with are known as the Southern Stingray, or Dasyatid.