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Scuba Diving At Grand Cayman Island's Stingray City
By Clint Leung, Thu Dec 8th
One of the most famous natural attractions in Grand CaymanIsland is Stingray City. This is an area in the ocean not farfrom the northern tip of Grand Cayman where tourists can get upclose to hundreds of friendly stingrays. Stingray City can getquite crowded especially when the cruise ship passengers are atport. Fortunately for us scuba divers, the masses are taken to ashallower section of Stingray City where the sandbars are highenough for tourists to stand in waist deep waters. Scuba diversare taken by one of the many dive operators in Grand Cayman tothe deeper part of Stingray City. However, this deeper sectionis still very much a shallow dive by standards. Infact, Stingray City has been referred to in the scuba divingworld as the best twelve foot or four metre dive in the world.It is believed that many years ago, sailors visiting the areathrew fish remains overboard and soon noticed the stingrayscoming for the free food. These particular stingrays becameconditioned over the years to the humans and the food handoutsunlike stingrays elsewhere in the Caribbean. If you have seenstingrays during dives elsewhere in the world, you will havenoticed that they are usually quite shy and will swim away butnot those here at Stingray City.
The dive boat took us to a designated site and indeed the depthwas very shallow as we could easily see the bottom. The siteitself was pretty barren with just the odd reef cluster around amostly sandy bottom. The divemaster gave us a briefing on how tointeract with the stingrays warning everyone that even thoughthey will appear to be friendly, they should still be regardedas wild animals. We were told not to touch them by their razorsharp tails or abuse them in any manner. A bucket filled withsquid parts was suspended in the water underneath the dive boatand this is where we fetched our supply of food to feed thestingrays.
As soon as we jumped in the water and made our descent to thebottom, we could see the first few stingrays coming towards uslike UFOs. The divemasters showed us a trick where if we heldthe squid in our closed fists and moved our arms in widecircular arcs around us, we could make the stingrays follow ourhands. It was sort of like teasing them for a bit before givingthem their treats. Their mouths were located underneath theirflat bodies and we were instructed to hold the food in our palmsflat facing up when feeding them. The divemasters haddemonstrated this on the boat using a little stuffed stingraytoy during the briefing. With their keen sense of smell, thestingrays hovered towards and over the food to
collect theirsquid snacks. It's was incredible to see how fast they couldstop in the water if they sensed food. They don't have any teethbut have these two strong structures like vise grips in theirmouths they use to chomp with. Feeding them sometimes felt likea vacuum cleaner sucking up debris on our palms. Sometimes, wefelt their vise grip mouths close up against the flats of ourpalms. This is why we were advised to keep our palms as flat aspossible in order to avoid them from closing up on our fingers.Because the eyes of the stingrays were on the top of theirbodies, they couldn't see our palms when they hovered directlyover them. They would have to guess where our palms and the foodwere.
At one instance, I was holding on to the food a little too longin order to further tease one stingray. This one missed my palmand his jaw closed down on my forearm instead leaving me with anice bruise. It was my fault since the stingray couldn't see andthought that my forearm was my palm holding the squid. I was abit careless and should have paid more attention to where thestingray's mouth was. No other diver on our boat had any otherproblems or mishaps. Some of the stingrays although notaggressive, will be all over a diver if they still sense foodbut couldn't find the palm. It was hilarious to watch some otherdivers pushed over on the sandy bottom by a stingray trying tofind the squid. One large stingray even bumped me in the scubamask but it was all fun. If the stingrays sense that a diverdoesn't have any food after awhile, they will go towards anotherdiver that does.
The Stingray City dive is a single tank trip usually done in theafternoon. It is a unique dive that is worth doing but keep inmind that the stingrays are the main and usually the onlyattractions during this dive. There isn't much else to see interms of other marine life or coral reefs at the site so itwould be advised to spend the morning doing some regular reefdives too in order to take in what Grand Cayman hasto offer.
About the author:Clint Leung is a NAUI certified Master and Rescue Scuba Diver.He is also owner of Free Spirit Activewear(http://www.FreeSpiritActivewear.com) , an online retailer anddesigner specializing in premium quality activewear withspecialty sports themes including scuba diving, skiing,snowboarding and martial arts. Free Spirit Activewear hasnumerous information resource articles on selected specialtysports as well as free eCards.