Swim with Stingrays and Eat Your Breakfast Too

stingray photo opp
by Toni Keesee

Swimming with huge, southern stingrays is one of the most unique and lively experiences in the Cayman Islands. These rays congregate at a sandbar in the North Sound which can be reached by boat charter or via a group tour. We’ve already written about the best ways to get to Stingray City (you can find that post here). In this post we’re highlighting one of these tours—the Breakfast with the Rays Tour operated by Red Sail Sports.


Morning Trips to Stingray City

Early bird gets the worm, or they get to swim with stingrays without the crowds! Most tours and charters to Stingray City happen in the afternoon, so we were really excited to hear about Red Sail’s Breakfast with the Rays Tour. This tour leaves early on a 65 ft catamaran. Once you arrive at the sandbar you get the rays all to yourself or at most share them with one or two other boats. In the afternoon you can see upwards of 20-30 boats in the area, especially if there are any cruise ships docked in George Town. Swimming with the rays anytime is wonderful, but having the opportunity to do so without the big crowds is really nice.

Red Sail Charm & Know-How

Breakfast treats, coffee and juice are provided on the ride. And on the way back (after swimming activities are complete) the bar opens for morning cocktails to celebrate the rays and kick off the day. I was fortunate to get to go on the Breakfast with the Rays tour with my husband, my dad and my dad’s girlfriend. We were all really impressed with the Red Sail experience and the guides: Kyle, Ruban and Harry. All three were pro-stingray handlers and certified lifeguards with a huge love for the island. Kyle, the captain of our ship, The Spirit of Cayman, knew a plethora of history about the sandbar and made us feel extremely safe and prepared before we headed into the water. In addition to stingray handling, Harry was our photographer, breakfast server and bartender. We found out our deck hand Ruban, who amiably introduced himself as Ruban the Cuban, had been working as a guide to the stingray sandbar for over 15 years. The crew made us feel welcome, safe and excited.

 crew in front of boat

Meeting the Stingrays of Grand Cayman

This was my dad and his girlfriend’s first time to Stingray City—I was so excited for them to meet the rays. I have been a few times before, but this was my first time to get professional photos, thanks to Harry. Watching people meet the rays for the first time is always comical. They’re big creatures that humans aren’t used to interacting with, so the squeals, the giggles and oh-mys are always inevitable (and really fun to watch).

woman holding a stingrayPhoto courtesy Red Sail Sports.

My dad and his girlfriend were no different. They were excited but unsure at first. One of the first rays we met was affectionately named Tattoo by the crew. Kyle said she is always hanging out at the sandbar and is easy to identify due to a unique spot aka “tattoo” on her body. She’s also really large, so perfect for those first introductions. Ruban found a male stingray, and showed us how much smaller they are than the females. All of the rays you see people holding in photos are typically females.

male and female stingrays

We hung out in the water at the sandbar for about 45 minutes interacting with the rays while standing in water only 3 feet deep, in the middle of the ocean. It’s such a cool experience. The crew showed us how to properly hold the rays and how to feed them. Of course the rays loved the food. Ruban showed off his superb swimming skills, booking it after a couple of his favorite stingrays to corral them back our way when they swam away. And right before we got back on the boat we saw a huge frigate flying overhead, likely hoping for some of the food the stingrays were getting.

group huddle around a huge stringrayPhoto courtesy Red Sail Sports.

Bonus Snorkeling at Coral Gardens

After our group was all back aboard The Spirit of Cayman we cruised over to Coral Gardens and anchored there so we could get in a quick snorkeling adventure. We heard the crew discussing a couple of snorkeling spots, so I think the exact location varies each trip. We were all stunned by the beauty under the water here. We saw tons of tropical fish making their way around huge coral. The water can be a bit choppy in the open sea, so we got a healthy briefing of do's and don'ts, and I felt very safe with our crew’s vigilance while we explored. My Dad and his girlfriend, Karen, were newbies to snorkeling. When Karen got in the choppy water she got a bit nervous, so Harry took her out to see the sights himself. From there on out she called him Prince Harry. We also had the opportunity to see a green moray eel. If you happen to see one, too, make sure to keep a safe distance. They are facinating to see, but have a very strong bite.

colorful fish swimming around coral

snorkeler making silly face underwater

On our cruise back to the harbor, we grabbed a drink at the bar and headed to the front of the catamaran for the ultimate breeze and view.

karen at front of boat beach hat blowing back

The Red Sail morning tour to Stingray City was wonderful. Swimming with the stingrays is a once in a lifetime experience that I hope you get to experience many times! The Breakfast with the Rays tour provided the perfect chance to meet the stingrays without big crowds, and the crew was absolutely top notch. Plus we got back to the harbour before noon with the whole day still ahead of us. What a great morning!