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It’s one of Grand Cayman’s most popular destinations—Stingray City. Whether you’ve been coming to Cayman for decades or you’re planning your very first time, Stingray City offers unique joys to experience each and every visit. We've put together a rundown of the highlights to help you plan your next trip! 

The “Founding” of Stingray City

The sandbar now known as Stingray City initially attracted these alluring creatures when fishermen stopped their boats there after fishing excursions. While cleaning their catch of the day, the fishermen would often throw the scraps overboard. Before too long, stingrays began to show up to take advantage of all that free food! Over time, generation after generation of stingrays made the trek to the sandbar for a snack, and eventually they grew familiar and friendly with people. 

Nowadays it’s the tour groups who bring the tasty treats that keep the clan of stingrays coming back to visit each day. This year the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation completed their biannual “stingray census” at the sandbar, and they counted 115 stingrays—the largest number ever recorded!

All together there are two sandbars that make up Stingray City—one that is roughly three-feet deep and one that is much deeper. The shallow sandbar is the most popular destination since visitors can comfortably stand while they interact with the stingrays. The deeper sandbar offers the opportunity to dive and swim alongside the majestic creatures. If you’re a diver, you should definitely check it out to experience Stingray City from a whole new perspective.

The Full Experience

Located in North Sound, Stingray City tour-goers get to enjoy incredible open-ocean views on the boat ride there. There are usually several excursions and boats visiting Stingray City at any given time, making it a vibrant and fun atmosphere. The water in North Sound is crystal clear and stunning, so visitors will have a fantastic view of the stingrays as they swim by—some might even brush up against your leg! If you’re uncomfortable with wading out into the water, watching the rays swim by from the boat is still an unforgettable experience.

Before visitors exit their boats and enter the water, they are taught what we like to affectionately call “the Stingray City Shuffle.” Since stingrays swim and frequently rest close to the water’s sandy bottom, it is possible to accidentally injure a ray by stepping on it. While the residents of Stingray City are very friendly, stingrays do still have barbs on their tail that can sting. As a guest coming into the stingrays's home turf, it’s important to be as respectful and mindful of their natural environment as possible. Just keep an eye downwards and shuffle your feet along the sand to keep our swimming friends safe and happy!

If you visit with a tour guide who has experience on how to properly handle the stingrays, they'll help you get up close and personal with one of these incredible animals. Many long-time guides even recognize particular stingrays—several have names, so be sure to ask who you're meeting! You can gently pet the stingray's back while it's being held by a guide, and remember, if you give one a kiss, it's seven years of good luck! ;) Many tour companies also employ photographers who will take photos of you posing with the stingrays for an additional fee, so you won't have to worry about getting your personal camera wet. 

Tour Options

There are many ways to book a tour to Stingray City, from private options for small-groups to large tour excursions. Here are some more in-depth stories about a couple of our recommendations, if you’d like a place to get started on your research. 

Share Your Memories

We hope we've covered the basics of a trip to Stingray City and have you convinced it's a must-do item for your next trip. Have you already visited Stingray City? Do you have a favorite memory from your visit, or did we miss any tips you’d like to share? Are you a first-timer with some specific questions? Let us know in the comments below!

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Cayman Girls Trip

Sometimes a girls trip is just what I need to relax, make a few wonderful memories, and eat delicious food with my favorite ladies.

What better destination to do all of these things than Grand Cayman? Once we had the destination and our group finalized, we also had to plan for travel and arrival times. With 9 women arriving on 3 separate flights on the same day, this step was an absolute necessity! 

After everyone made it to the island safely, we headed to Christopher Columbus where our refrigerator was already stocked with all of our special food needs to get us through the week, thanks to Kayann Stephens of My Kayman Concierge.

Later that night, our first dinner of the week was delivered to our condo by Angelo Guizio, owner of Edoardo’s Italian Restaurant – mouth watering dishes, no prep and easy clean-up!

When day two came, we were ready to soak up some sun and feel the sand between our toes! All it took was a few steps out of our room onto CCC's private beach.  

After a full day lounging on Seven Mile Beach we were ready for dinner. Tonight's stop was Calypso Grill  in West Bay. Thanks to Marcos Ebanks and his big taxi/van for nine (almost like it was made for us), there were no parking hassles at one of the most popular restaurants on the island! After a week of delicious eating, the ladies declared Calypso Grill to be the favorite!

On day three it was time for some serious shopping! The group headed to Georgetown to hit the jewelry stores. Kirk Freeport even brought out the champagne when they saw the sales adding up! Thanks Raj and Susan. The shopping wasn’t over without a stop at Camana Bay with lunch at The Brooklyn, and a look at the island from the sixth floor observatory Tower. The beautiful underwater mosaic mural wall makes for the perfect photo background. It is a truly beautiful work of art – not to be missed. Our dinner that night at Morgans, on the water at The Cayman Islands Yacht Club, was a perfect way to end the day.

Day four was our day on and in the water, boating to Stingray City, snorkeling the coral reef, lunch at Kaibo, and a stop at Starfish Point. Kayann, our concierge, came through once again. She set us up with Captain Chris Bailey of Cayman Adventure Tours, and sent us off from the Yacht Club with a platter of fresh fruit and warm wishes for a great adventure. Captain Chris took amazing professional photos of each of us with the stingrays, and got even the most fearful comfortable enough to kiss the rays!

After an amazing day on the water, dinner was a joint effort by all back at the condo, with each of us ready to relax for the evening. This girls trip turned high school slumber party on more than one night. What better way to enjoy the company of good friends, than sitting around in our PJs, sharing stories, and drinking wine? (Well, maybe that wasn’t part of high school!)

A long standing tradition at Christopher Columbus is the beach barbecue by Chef John. The chef, now in his 80s, with help from his many family members, serves a meal of chicken, ribs, salads, rice and beans and homemade pies that would be the envy of every backyard (in this case, beachside) cook! With a picture perfect sunset photo, Lisa, our office manager, was on hand to record our last night together before four of the girls headed home the next day.

Managing our five, but missing the four who went home, we journeyed to the South Sound for another shopping/browsing stop at Pure Art. This place is a must – a bit of old Cayman with a quirky and totally charming collection of everything from fine art to fun jewelry, beach signs, and accessories for the island home. After Pure Art, the serious shoppers were still in shopping mode, so we made a stop at the tee shirt shop, Sun Dog, and the Kennedy Gallery to view more fine art. 

During this trip, we had our share of delicious island cuisine accompanied by a myriad of tropical cocktails and plenty of wine, although the best part was making memories with friends. Kayann, our concierge, came through one last time after learning our interest of the benefits of coconut water, stopped by the condo with coconuts. They were peeled and ready for a straw, one for each of us. We found they tasted best when a splash of rum was poured into each – do the health benefits still prevail? We like to think so!

The best part of our girls trip was being together in a beautiful setting, laughing, sharing life stories, making new ones, and strengthening friendships. The trip was such a success, we are planning to return in two years to celebrate some milestone birthdays. And what better place to do it than this island paradise!

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Have you ever been on a vacation or taken part in an activity where you can pinpoint a specific person who was vital in making the experience a memory you will cherish forever? For myself and many others visiting Stingray City for the first time, Luana Soro is that person. 

I met up with Luana at the Cayman Island Yacht Club in West Bay where a big white catamaran named Allura was waiting for its first tour group of the day. This particular morning, the group included 33 cruise ship passengers making their stop in Grand Cayman.

Although her official job is a photographer for Happy Snaps photography, a company that she co-owns with a friend from high school and two other Caymanian partners, Luana started the trip off in the role of a tour guide.

As she welcomed everyone on the boat, she quickly revealed her personality, making the experience enjoyable before a single stingray was spotted (“Sir, I love your purse.”).

Once everyone was settled in, Luana went over the basic ground rules of the boat and introduced us to the rest of the crew - Captain Glen and Captain Kirk (yes, really) - and informed everyone that she would give us further instructions once we got closer to the sandbar.

As we cruised to our destination, Luana shared that she used to be in dental work and began taking underwater pictures for fun while diving in Vancouver, where the water is equally clear but a lot colder than Cayman! After what she calls a "quarter life crisis," Luana moved to the Cayman Islands, switched career paths, and after a short 3 weeks on the island, she met her husband, "Australian Andrew!"

When our catamaran was almost to the sandbar, Luana began to explain to various small groups on board what to expect when we arrived at Stingray City and more importantly, what to expect from the stingrays themselves. Maybe somewhat surprisingly, this explanation was another example of how Luana made the experience exciting and memorable. As she was talking, you could tell how passionate she was about the animals we were about to see, affectionately referring to her stingray Dottie, who she has been holding for 9 years. You can tell the difference from one stingray to another by their markings. Dottie, as you probably already guessed, has dots on her back. 

Finally, we arrived at Stingray City where a few other charter boats and their passengers were in the water. I sat back for a bit, observing Luana take pictures while Captain Glen prepped Dottie for the perfect photo opportunity. It was during this time that I noticed something I consider a testament to Luana. As passengers from other boats were screaming and squealing in fearful reaction to these unknown animals surrounding them, there was not one single person from my group that yelled or seemed scared. In fact, myself and the other 34 passengers were completely calm compared to the other groups. 

Why? Because during the 45 minute ride to Stingray City, Luana shared sentiments like this: "They decide to come here, they come to see us and then they go home. They choose to come back and choose to trust you." If they want to be there and like being around people, then that means these stingrays will be friendly towards humans! 

After everyone had a turn, we loaded back up on the boat and Luana pulled up the pictures she took on her computer for people to look through and pick their favorites for purchase.
From her warm, welcoming personality to her love to be in the water and surrounded by the creatures that live there, Luana is truly Caymankind.

Check out these amazing shots she captured of myself and a friend during our trip: 

More fun facts about Luana:

  • She was born and raised in Sardinia, Italy and speaks Italian
  • She took pictures at Stingray City all the way up to the 8 1/2 month mark of her pregnancy! 
  • One of her favorites memories is of a 82 and 91 year old couple celebrating their wedding anniversary on the island and having the time of their life at Stingray City with 3 generations of their family! 
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Listen to the full interview with Captain Dexter here or continue reading below.

On our recent trip to Grand Cayman, my family had the incredible pleasure of getting to know Captain Dexter Ebanks. Captain Dexter is a proud, 6th generation Caymanian whose roots originated 90 miles to the northeast, on the smaller island of Cayman Brac.

The ‘Ebanks’ name (along with others such as ‘Tatum’ and ‘Bodden’) is a very prominent one among the islands and its origin can be traced back to 7th century England. In fact, the Ebanks and the Boddens were among the very first settlers of Cayman Brac. Dexter joked that originally the surname was “Eubanks”, and at some point Caymanians became lazy and dropped the “u” in order to make it easier to pronounce. For the Ebanks family, the Caribbean provided a livelihood, and as a young boy, Dexter developed an unbreakable bond and affection for the sea and all of its mysterious beauty. Since the entire island population at that time was only a few hundred, family and community were central to young Dexter’s life. He claims that this strong connection helped shape and build his character and work ethic.

Capt Dexter on his catamaranAt age 16, Captain Dexter moved to Grand Cayman, or in his words “the big city”, and joined the police force. For 14 years he served the community and built many friendships along the way. During this time and because of a longing to return to the sea, he began giving catamaran sailing tours to family and friends as a weekend hobby. As many hobbies do, this one ignited an entrepreneurial spark which helped launch Dexter’s Fantasea Tours into a full time business back in the mid 1980s. Dexter’s business philosophy is very simple: to create a more personalized experience for those wishing to visit The North Sound, Stingray Sandbar, Rum Point, and the Coral Reef. Unlike other excursion companies, Dexter never overcrowds his boat and loves getting to know each passenger by name. He also loves sharing jokes or stories about Cayman culture and history which I quickly took advantage of.

Captain Dexter is a natural “people person” who genuinely longs to share his love for the sea and Cayman with others. He told me that he has never done anything more rewarding, and that became evident during our adventure to the Stingray Sandbar one afternoon. Since there were only 9 of us passengers in total, the journey was both intimate and relaxing with plenty of room to spare on his spacious catamaran. Once we arrived, he introduced us to several of his Stingray friends, which he knew by name, and coached us on how to make the most of our time together (which included some tasty treats of fresh squid). The Stingrays were incredibly friendly, loved being petted and held, and even posed for pictures!

After a wonderful experience with the stingrays, we sailed back to The Cayman Island Yacht Club and enjoyed a beautiful sunset, relaxing conversation, and laughter along the way. Captain Dexter gave us a glimpse into his world that day and helped us appreciate the simpler things of life, which we often don’t take the time to notice. More importantly, he welcomed us warmly into this world and made us feel like friends along the way.

You can learn more about Dexter’s Fantasea Tours by visiting his website at www.dexters-fantaseatours.com.

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A Journey with Captain Allan

Captain Allan Ebanks is unlike anyone I've ever met. I feel like I've met him in a story book or two, but never someone like him in the flesh. During a recent trip on his charter boat, he took my friends and I on an unforgettable tour of the North Sound and told us grandiose story after grandiose story about his life as a 5th Generation Caymanian. I was absolutely captivated.

friends on boatWe boarded Captain Allan's boat in the North Sound on a late Saturday afternoon and headed out towards Starfish Point. Captain Allan introduced himself, and it didn't take long before he was deep into storytelling. We learned that his paternal great-great grandfather moved to the island all the way from India, and his mother moved to Cayman from Cuba. Born in 1952, Captain Allan, told us that he remembers when Cayman traffic was mostly horses and donkeys and only a few cars. When he was a young man the Captain set out to sea with his father, a fisherman, to learn the trade. He did this for many years and said that men at sea ate so much turtle that they could see the turtle oil running under their skin. He laughed at my bewilderment, and said the omega in the turtle oil also made the men like Hercules.

Watching Starfish and Looking for Conch at Starfish Point

boat captain looking overboardCaptain Allan, stopped the boat that we were on at Starfish Point and invited us all to join him as he jumped into the sea. He and his cousin, Merle (who was on board helping) went in without flippers or goggles. They said the salt water didn't bother their eyes. And trust me the flippers were needed for us as well. The water was very choppy, so they helped us swim with more gusto. I spotted some starfish in the wild for the very first time, and while some may consider watching starfish anti-climatic, I really felt a major sense of gratitude and awe for having the opportunity to be there in that moment. Captain Allan and Merle were also looking for conch shells during this stop. The season for conch hunting had apparently just began, and the men explained that we would see several boats out looking for conch.

two men snorkelingWe kicked our way back to the boat, hopped back on, and the Captain took us towards Stingray City. During our ride, he dove right back in to storytelling. He told us that during his time at sea, he made traditional, wooden fishing boats. The boats were made with cotton caulking and he made them aboard large ships. Once they were lowered into the water they could never be pulled back on board because the material became way too heavy once wet, so these types of boats could only be pulled on shore. They also had to dry on shore for 3-4 weeks before being used again.

Getting a Stringray Backrub at Stingray City

anchoring the boatOnce at Stingray City, Captain Allan anchored us again and explained that the stingrays are very tame and hang out at this reef because they know they will be fed here. He threw out some food for the stingrays and we saw them come swarming. Everyone on board jumped into the shallow water and played with the docile creatures... there were plenty of squeals as the stingrays slithered over and around us. Merle talked me into petting and holding one of the huge creatures, and then he placed one on my back for a "stingray backrub." Squeals and laughter followed.

Captain Allan continued looking for Conch. He would dive under water for what seemed like 5 minutes at a time, and little did we know that we were about to get a very special treat from his hunting adventures.

Enjoying Conch Civiche on the Ride Back

Once we were all back on board, Captain Allan and his cousin, Merle, started harvesting and then preparing the conch in a conch civiche. After harvesting the conch, he showed us how you could use the shells as a blow horn. They work very well for this!

The captain continued his stories while preparing the civiche. At one point during his sea life he fished for tiger sharks, green turtles and hawksbill turtles.  They sold the green turtle shells to China for manufacturing and sold the beautiful hawksbill turtle shells to local markets for wall hangings and jewelry.

harvesting conchI learned that hunting tiger sharks was not for the faint of heart. He said these sharks were smart. Once hooked, they would only fight  for a short while and would then wait in preparation for their prey to pull them from the water. As soon as their heads hit the top of the water they would snap their tails as quick as possible often times knocking fisherman off boats. Allan had heard these warning tales, and knew not to get too close when pulling a tiger shark up. However, he did have a close call. When pulling one from the sea, the shark flipped his tail around and Captain Allan had to quickly duck to avoid being hit. He said the shark took the hat off his head and he was thankful to be alive afterwards.

conch civiche on crackersIn the 70's Captain Allan came back to the Cayman Islands and began taking Canadian tourists out on chartered boats for Cayman Style picnics. He fell in love with leading these tours which eventually led to the purchase of his own boat and building the business he has today.

After the sun set, we rode back into the mainland and Captain Allan turned the music up to celebrate our day on the sea. A dance party pursued and we all toasted to a perfect ride upon Captain Allan's boat.

If you're interested in taking a tour aboard Captain Allan's charter boat, you can reach him at (345) 945-4340 or charter@candw.ky. You can also find more information on his tours on TripAdvisor, and if you need somewhere to stay while on island, we've got you covered. View our units here

leaving the yacht club     Captain Allan Ebanks
  Captain Allan Ebanks telling stories
  girls on front of boat
hopping off the boat
  holding a stingray
conch shell
  sunset in north sound
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