World famous Sting Ray City attracts thousands of visitors each year. It is a popular excursion from the cruise ships that visit Georgetown, Grand Cayman. The unique opportunity to interact with these amazing marine animals started many years ago before Cayman became a banking and tourist center in the Caribbean.
Fishing was the mainstay of the island many years ago and the North Bay, where there was a cut through the outer reef,
was a great place to put into in order to clean the day's catch of fish. It was a much calmer spot for the job. The fishermen would toss the fish waste over the side into the water. A colony of rays formed there where they knew that each day they would get the delicate treats.
Eventually some local divers discovered the unusual amount of rays and once in the water with them, found they could feed them by hand. In 1987, Skin Diver Magazine did an article on what was to become known as Sting Ray City.
A sandbar nearby has been the area where excursion boats can anchor and participants can get in the water and hand feed the rays with pieces of squid. I remember reading or hearing somewhere that at one time an environmental group tried to stop the feeding but the rays, who can live to be 50 years old, have grown so used to being fed that to do so just might cause more damage than keeping up the feeding.
The rays act like cats who rub up against you the minute a can of tuna is opened. As each boat pulls up, you can see them scurrying from one to another for a new source of squid. As you stand in waist deep water on the sandbar, you can form a fist around a piece of squid, lower it into the water and let a ray pass over your fish as it sucks out the squid from your hand, It all happens quite quickly but in the process you have an up close and intimate encounter with the creature.
As you stand in the water, the rays will continue to swoosh past you and rub against your legs as if they are begging for more. Or if you find yourself sitting down in the water, like our grandson did, you may just end up with one in your lap.
All in all, it is a great adventure.