Feeling the sting
By Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon
CJ Travel Editor
Of all the wet and wild adventures you can have in the Caribbean, swimming with stingrays has got to be one of the most fun. Who doesn’t want to cavort with the captivating sea creatures in warm, crystal-clear sea?
And while Grand Cayman’s Stingray City is the best known, there are actually two other open-water spots where you can interact with the rays. Read on for the lowdown on our three favorite Caribbean places to catch some (sting)rays.
Cayman Islands Visiting this sandbar in Grand Cayman’s North Sound is a hugely popular diversion that’s delivered a shot of soft adventure to tens of thousands of visitors over the past 60 years. Operators such as Red Sail Sports ferry curious day-trippers to the shallows about three miles from Georgetown, where, as the boats approach, an armada of Southern Atlantic rays (some weighing as much as 190lbs) converges, eager to enjoy the chum brought by the sailors, as well as human company. Slip into the water and guides will teach you how to safely pet the rays so you can feel for yourself their sandpaper-like topside and velvety underbelly. And if you’re brave enough to kiss one, you can look forward to seven years good luck. (For the best experience, time your visit for after 2pm or on weekends, when the cruise ships are long gone.)
Turks and Caicos Islands If you’re looking for more intimate stingray experience, head to Gibbs Cay. Oasis Divers offers excursions that combine snorkeling with a once-in-a-lifetime encounter with about two dozen stingrays who live near the islet, which is about 15 minutes by boat from Grand Turk. The inquisitive creatures will swim right up to you, brushing your calves and ankles as you stand in the island’s waist-deep shallows. The family of rays here is so small that guides have named most of them, so look out for Freckles and Princess. And tell tail-less Stumpy that CJ sent you.
Antigua Curiously, these Southern rays can be found in the waters off Antigua’s northeast coast. Hop Stingray City’s speedboat, and in five minutes you’ll pull up to a floating dock, where your ray encounter will begin. Standing in chest-high water you’ll be shown how to feed the silent swimmers (taking care not pull away from their powerful suction grip and risk a “stingray hickey.”) Or you can grab a mask and fins and simply snorkel among the diamond-shaped swimmers in the sandy shallows. Either way, be sure to get your photo taken as you hold one of the surprisingly weighty fish.