Stingray City is an interesting spot. It is one of the “destinations” for many of the tourists coming to Grand Cayman on cruise ships. There can literally be hundreds of people at the sandbar in the height of the tourist season.
The Southern Stingrays that everyone comes to see are also amazing creatures. They are exceptionally graceful and very tame. The circle slowly about you and your group looking for the handout (someone to feed them).
You can either snorkel or scuba dive on Stingray City depending upon how you want to interact with the Southern Stingrays.
Stingray City Rating: 3.26 out of 5
- Visibility – moderate although sometimes can be very poor
- Access – Easy; boat only and 15 to 20 minutes from Morgan’s Harbor or Safe Haven harbor
- Current – None
- Depth to 10 ft / 3 m
- Reef health Hard / Soft Corals – Minimal
- Sponges / Plants – Minimal
- Marine species variety – Minimal
- Pelagics / Mammals / Turtles / Rays – Very good; dozens of rays up close
The snorkel boats at Stingray City go to a sand bar in the north sound and you can wade in the water and interact with the stingrays. They will swim all around you and the “guides” will help you to hold a stingray and/or touch them and feed them if you desire.
On a dive at Stingray City you get a chance to interact with the Stingrays in about 8 to 10 feet of water, typically seated in a circle and feeding the stingrays if you so desire. If you have never been with animals like this it is definitely a wonderful experience, watching and experiencing these marvelous creatures in their own environment.
So whether you choose to do Stingray City as a snorkel trip or as a dive it is a unique encounter with a very wonderful creature.
The Southern Stingray has a diamond-like shaped reminding me somewhat of a “stealth” bomber when seen from the front. The top of the body varies in color from a olive brown to green tints in adults and a darker grey for juveniles. The underside or “belly” of the Southern Stingray is a beautiful white. The wing-like fins provide propulsion through the water by using an undulating motion.
You will certainly enjoy watching these creatures glide around you. On top of the stingray you will see its eyes along with a couple of openings known as spiracles. The spiracle is where the stingray takes in water and passes the water over its gills for respiration. The gill openings are located on the underside of the ray. The location of the spiracle allows the ray to sit on the bottom buried in sand and still breath. The females can grow up to a width of about 60 inches or 150 cm while males grow up to a width of about 26 inches or 67 cm.
When you come into contact with the Southern Stingray one of the first things you will notice the softness of its underside. You will also notice that these creatures are very use to being around people and will swim easily in and around your group as long as the food (typically squid) lasts. Your guide (s) will usually move from person to person feeding the stingrays to bring them close and allowing you to interact with the stingrays. It is a great experience. You can either choose to interact a lot or simply be passive and watch as others hold and “play” with the stingrays.
The Southern Stingray has a long tail that can reach about twice the length of the stingray from its “snout” to the base of the tail. The stingray’s tail also has a long serrated and poisonous spine at the base of the tail that is used strictly for defense. The poison is not fatal to humans but can be very painful if stepped upon.
The mouth of the Southern Stingray is on its underside and has two grinding plates that crush and grind its food. The mouth also has a tremendous suction, much like that of a powerful vacuum cleaner. The stingray sucks food into its mouth and crushes and grinds the food prior to digestion. The Southern Stingray feeds on small crustaceans, such as shrimps and crabs, mollusks and bony fish. It feeds by flapping its fins like wings and stirs up the sand to expose its pray. The young are produced within the female’s “brood chamber” where the egg develops and then hatches. A litter can consist of two to ten (based upon observation of stingrays in captivity).
So if you have not been to Stingray City previously, I would highly recommend it at least once. It is a unique encounter with some very wonderful creatures.