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How To Take SCUBA Stingray Tours In The Cayman Islands
If you get a chance to visit the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean you should consider taking a snorkeling or scuba tour that visits an area just offshore of Grand Cayman that has been dubbed "Stingray City". This area is a long sandbar on the backside of a sheltering reef where for years fishermen would clean their daily catch. Southern stingrays would come to eat the fish waste and over the years they became accustomed to humans and began to arrive in groups when they detected the sound of approaching boats.
Now there are several tours that depart from various points on Grand Cayman to visit Stingray City. Since the water depth is less than 13 feet most of these guided trips are snorkeling tours where visitors can interact with stingrays and after instruction can offer bits of squid, which is the food of choice used by the guides.
There are several scuba shops on the island that offer diving tours of stingray city. It has been called one of the world's best 12 foot dives with the southern stingrays as the main attraction. There are no decompression issues to worry about at that depth since theoretically you could stay down almost all day but most dive operators limit stingray tours in the Cayman Islands to about 45 minutes to ensure that all divers have enough air to complete the dive. Most stingray dive trips in the Cayman Islands are on "six pack" boats, capable of handling about six to eight divers.
Your guide will provide you with bits of squid or other food and instruct you in how to feed the stingrays safely. This involves keeping the food hidden in the fist and then opening the hand flat so the stingray's doesn't suck in your fingers. Stingrays in the Cayman Islands are neither attracted to or fearful of people. The main thing they care about is the food, for which they have been conditioned to receiving over decades. Southern stingrays do have a venomous tail appendage, as do most stingrays, hence the name, however there are no reports of them hurting people. They are gentle creatures and do not harm humans unless handled very roughly or intentionally harmed.
Stingrays don't have teeth but can leave a nasty hickey if not fed properly. The suction power of a stingray's mouth is similar to that of a shop vacuum.
Petting the rough back or smooth undersides does not bother the stingrays but they should not be roughly handled or lifted out of the water.
For a closer look and more intimate interaction, certified scuba divers may consider taking a stingray tour that involves diving. There are even SNUBA dive experiences with the stingrays that do not require diving certification. Many of these tours are available as shore excursions through the major cruise lines such as Carnival.
What To Take
Most dive operators in the Cayman Islands who do stingray city tours provide all the necessary scuba gear. You will not need a wetsuit most of the year, unless you get cold very easily. Consider renting a "shorty" wetsuit during the cooler months as the water temperature can be below 80 degrees. Bring sunscreen, hat, water and an underwater camera capable of depths of 12 feet to capture your experience. Don't bring outside food for the stingrays and only feed them the food your guide provides.
Image from Captain Crosby Watersports
Diving operators that offer scuba tours with the stingrays at Stingray City include Don Foster's
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