One of my favourite experiences from my Caribbean cruise was swimming with stingrays in Grand Cayman. I’ve got to say, I was a little bit nervous when I booked it but I’m so glad I did it. In this blog post I share what to expect from a Stingray City excursion and how you can book independently.
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Where is Stingray City in Grand Cayman?
Stingray City is not far from where the cruise ship tenders stop in Georgetown. It’s situated on a sandbar in the North Sound and protected by barrier reefs in the Caribbean Sea. It’s approximately 5 miles from Seven-Mile Beach.
The meeting point for Stingray City excursions are at Royal Watler Cruise Terminal. Your cruise tender will either stop at the North/South Cruise Terminals or Royal Watler Cruise Terminal. Either way the meeting point is in no more than 5 minutes walking distance.
Nearby, there are plenty of places to eat. For breakfast, before the excursion, I’d recommend grabbing a coffee and a crepe from the Cayman Creperie. Later in the day, you can enjoy the atmosphere at Grand Cayman’s Margaritaville, with views of the cruise port.
Can you visit Stingray City on your own?
You cannot visit Stingray City on your own but you can book a shore excursion through the cruise line or independently with a tour company.
I booked this as an independent excursion. There are several companies, which offer the chance to get up close to stingrays but after careful consideration I opted to book the Stingray City and Coral Garden Tour with Stingray City Grand Cayman. This allowed us to visit the sand bar to meet the stingrays AND snorkel at the Coral Garden nearby. The tour included transfers to and from the cruise port and soft drinks throughout the excursion.
The Stingray City and Coral Garden Tour is a 3-hour excursion that costs $49 for adults and $43 for children. There are two times for this daily tour: 9am and 12 noon. You should select the tour that is most suitable to accommodate the times your cruise ship is scheduled to arrive and leave.
We booked this independently but ended up joining a MSC Cruises shore excursion. This is quite common. We booked the Stingray City excursion independently but received the same benefits as the cruise passengers (we paid less as we booked it directly with the company). Remember, the cruise lines need to make a profit on their shore excursions.
Check out this guide if you are looking for an ultimate liveaboard diving experience.
A short minibus shuttle took us to a little boat, which then transported us on a 20 minute ride to the sandbar. The water is unbelievably turquoise blue.
What to expect on a Stingray City excursion
Stingray City is a natural sandbar in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, where the stingrays swim freely. Many boats congregate in a circle on this sandbar in the shallow water, which came up to my hips/waist level. The skipper handed out snorkels and we were able to hop off the boat and into the water where we saw stingrays immediately.
Everyone on our tour had the chance to hold a stingray (which was surprisingly soft and smooth to touch) and feed the stingrays with squid. The stingrays suck the food out of your hand so be careful they don’t suck a finger up with the squid. The tour guide told us exactly how to hold the squid in our fist correctly to ensure that this didn’t happen.
Is it safe to swim with stingrays?
The stingrays at Stingray City are wild creatures that come to be fed. It’s important to remember that they are friendly but should be respected. There are few things you should do to keep yourself safe on a Stingray City excursion:
- Listen carefully to any instructions given by the tour guide
- When walking on the seabed, shuffle your feet so any stingrays on the sand know you are there and you don’t step on them
- Stay calm, the stingrays can sense human emotions
- Check that there are no stingrays nearby when entering the water
Is Stingray City suitable for children?
Yes, there were children on our excursion to Stingray City. As long as children follow the instructions of the tour guide and the guidance previously mentioned they are safe to enjoy Stingray City.
Stingray City Grand Cayman require any children aged four years and under to wear life preservers during the excursion. Although the water is shallow, it is important that your child is confident in water.
Is Stingray City suitable for people with medical conditions?
It is important that you contact the tour operator about any medical conditions before confirming a booking.
Pregnant women should inform the tour and may not be allowed to take part if more than 24 weeks pregnant.
What to bring on a Stingray City excursion
I would recommend that if you have an underwater or waterproof camera, you take it along with you to capture the stingrays as they ‘fly’ under the water.
You will need swimming costumes and a towel as well as any medication required such as an asthma inhaler. Your belongings are kept on the boat when you are in the water so ensure you don’t leave your valuables on display.
Suncream is highly recommended but it’s worth buying eco friendly sunscreen or wearing a UV protective swimming top that protects you from the sun, without harming the stingrays or coral. I particularly like this one by Ogeenier, which comes in a few different colours.
The Stingray City excursion is one of the most popular things to do in Grand Cayman. I would highly recommend booking an independent shore excursion in advance to get the best deal.
It’s an unforgettable experience. Despite everyone remembering what happened to Steve Irwin, this excursion is safe to do provided you follow the safety instructions from the tour operator.