Swimming with Stingrays has gotten a bad rap ever since the Crocodile Hunter, Steve Irwin, was killed by being pierced in the chest by the tail of this amazing creature. It’s a one-in-a -million fluke, but it does happen and that was enough to scare the bejesus out of me. But, apparently, not enough.
I booked the “Stingray Sandbar, Hell & Turtle Farm Experience” excursion through the Carnival cruise line for just under a hundred bucks each. Yes…I probably could have saved 20 bucks hooking up with an outside tour company, but this was way easier and I don’t mind being herded like cattle in order to have an amazing experience.
We arrived at the Grand Cayman port and were led to a waiting area…waiting for the fun to begin. I was happy to see “the Coconut Man” selling fresh nuts to the cows in the stable and I partook. It wasn’t long before our tour guide, or as we now fondly call her “the tour guide tyrant”, led us to the bus. She teased the herd with stops at the town of Hell and the Turtle Farm before landing at the dock for Stingray City. A 20 minute ferry ride, took us to our destination sandbar. For those of you concerned about motion sickness, I did not see one passenger vomit (thank God!) and even Peter, who gets crazy car sick, only felt slightly queasy…once.
We docked in the middle of shallow ocean and I was stunned by the crystal clear blue waters unlike any I have ever seen. Don’t…I repeat…DON’T pee in the agua, everyone would be sure to detect the yellow tinge. About twenty of us entered the water and formed a circle as if we where going to play ring around the rosie. For a second I was afraid that there would be no stingray to swim with, like the missing monkeys at Gumbalimba Park in Honduras due to cashew season. But, this was not the case. And then I was just afraid.
The ray swarmed us as if they were killer bees and we were dipped in honey. The guide chose one to be the guinea pig and proceeded to let each member of the group hold, pet and kiss the ‘victim’ while we were photographed. After, the second guide, gave the brave folks some squid to feed this unique fish. Plenty of folks opted out of serving lunch, but I frighteningly fed my new friend his meal. He, or she, sucked it up like a vacuum almost taking my finger with it. We spent another half hour snorkeling and admiring the unbelievable beauty of what we were seeing.
The ferry ride back to port was a giddy, enthusiastic conversation of the experience we just had. Little did we know it wasn’t over. The guides had somehow collected several Conch on our excursion and were cleaning them in front of us. After they were scrubbed and extracted from the shell, the adventurous were able to eat the freshest seafood they will probably ever taste. I stuck my hand out like I was begging for my last meal. Are you kidding? First, I am in this breathtaking body of water and then I am eating Conch directly from the shell? An absolutely amazing experience.