I love trying new things on vacation. My recent cruise on Royal Caribbean’s Freedom of the Seas was no exception. In addition to scuba diving in Cozumel and laying around on the beach in Haiti, I got a chance to go swimming with stingrays in Grand Cayman! Honestly my first thought when I think of stingrays is Steve Irwin and I questioned my sanity when I chose to do an excursion where I voluntarily got close to these guys. But, I figured, what’s the worst that could happen, right? Right??
Royal Caribbean Excursions: Swimming With Stingrays in Grand Cayman
We booked our excursion through Royal Caribbean. Stingray City is located off of the northwest corner of the island. This shallow sandbar has turned into a major tourist attraction due to the dozens of stingrays that swim through this area. They are advertised as friendly and I found that to be true (as much as a sting ray can be friendly I guess.)
We were taken by bus to board a boat for the ride out to the sandbar. Once at the sandbar, we were able to get into the water to interact with the stingrays. The water is shallow – around 3′-4′ deep on average I would guess (I’m short – 5′ – and I had no problems standing in the water). There were also local guides in the water with us to get photos with the animals.
What I Liked
Being on a sandbar is really cool because it’s so shallow but you are surrounded by water. It freaked me out a bit getting in the water with stingrays all around, but I quickly became very comfortable with them. I really enjoyed going out to the edge of the crowd with my mask and snorkel to watch these guys swim gracefully by.
What I Didn’t Like
It was crowded. There were probably 3 or 4 boats full of tourists at this spot, so there were people everywhere.
The local guides that were in the water with us were holding on to a large stingray for photo ops (and of course, they are quick to sell you these photos once you are back on the boat). While the animals seemed pretty chill about the whole situation, they were sort of being manhandled. Now, they were also being fed, so maybe they are the happiest stingrays on the planet – I don’t know. It felt sort of wrong to be participating, but I don’t think it was a clear cut animal violation…it was somewhere in the middle.
Please Don’t Send Me Nasty Emails
If you are a super animal rights activist extraordinaire then you are probably really pissed at me right now. (How could that bitch blogger get in the water and get a photo with a stingray?! Gasp!) I get it. I love animals and hate to see them being abused. But, this was one of those grey areas. While holding on to the rays for photos ops seemed sort of wrong, they weren’t being harmed, and they were in their natural habitat, so it’s not a clear cut situation.
I almost didn’t want to post these pictures because I didn’t want to be accused of being an ignorant, animal abusing tourist. (If you think I am exaggerating then you don’t read the internet much) But, I participated and I’m an honest gal, so here they are. However, I am still not sure how I feel about the activity.
Overall, it was a pretty cool experience even though it was way too crowded for me. I’m glad I did it but I wouldn’t do it again. Have you been swimming with stingrays in Grand Cayman? Share your thoughts in the comment section below. Happy Travels!