The first thing you'll hear as you approach Stingray City in the Cayman Islands is the shrieking of dozens of tourists. This howling is a mixture of terror and pure excitement, as this experience brings you about as close as you are ever going to get to the very interesting (albeit very odd looking) southern stingray.
Wading through the shallow waters on a sandbar in the Caribbean Sea, visitors to Stingray City are able to swim, feed and touch southern stingrays. Making the first move to touch a ray will certainly take some audacity, but after you've done it once, you'll be maneuvering through the water to get a better view and looking for another chance to feel their velvety soft skin.
The great thing about Stingray City in the Caymans, is that the stingrays appeared here naturally after fishermen began washing and cleaning their fish in the calm and shallow waters on the sandbar. As they cleaned their catches, the guts provided a virtual feast for the stingrays, and soon, when boats arrived, so did the stingrays. It quickly became a large tourist attraction, with dozens of boats descending on Stingray City every day.
The southern stingray is common in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. They are fairly used to people and divers, and there have been very few incidents of injury—but precaution must still be taken of contact with the tail. Stingrays like to bury themselves in sand, so watch where you are walking (shuffle as you walk to stir up sand if you are worried), and if you are diving close to the sandy bottom, make sure to keep your eyes peeled.
Although there are always tons of tourists at Stingray City, this really is a great way to experience marine life at its most fascinating.
The fascinating southern rays at Stingray City can be viewed by diving, snorkeling, glass-bottom boat, or (since the water is so shallow) you can just stand and watch them as they swim past you through the crystal clear water.
Accessible year round, the best time to visit Stingray City is during the dry months, December to April. To avoid cruise ship crowds, try going early in the morning.
Odds n' Ends
There are some companies that tend to treat the stingrays a little better than others. It should be noted that stingrays are not meant to be lifted out of the water as they have a delicate cartilage structure that is supported by water pressure. It can cause them distress and suffocation if lifted out of their element. In order to keep the stingrays of Stingray City safe, it is important not to support those practices. Don't pose for photos with handlers who insist on lifting the stingrays out of the water.
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