For the exception of our beautiful beaches, the two diverse Stingray City are the most popular locations visited in Grand Cayman
Grand Cayman offers two distinctly diverse Stingray Cities, a largely unknown fact to the majority of future visitors to Grand Cayman.
This article will help you decide which Stingray City is right for you, the Stingray City Sandbar or The Valley of the Rays, the Real Stingray City.
The History of the two (Stingray) Cities:
For many years fisherman returning from their day at sea anchored in the shallow and protected waters of the North Sound to clean their catch.
The area, just behind the Barrier Reef, created the optimal location to anchor a boat without the discomfort of waves. At the “Real” stingray city the anchorage area was very close to the main channel of Barkers, and a few paddles away from famous Fisherman Rock.
The Stingray City Valley of the Rays is a few minutes away from the shores of West Bay, one of the largest populated areas at that time. It allowed fisherman the ideal spot to clean their catch away from the billions of dreaded mosquitoes found on shore at that time.
The second fish cleaning area was also protected by the Barrier Reef and on a sandbar barely 4ft in depth. The beautiful, pure, white sand made for an easy anchorage, and a few conchs would also have been taken for the family following the daily fish cleaning.
“It was as if they knew we were coming” said one fisherman. Indeed, every day, late in the afternoon, all the Stingrays would gather beneath their sailboats to enjoy all the fish parts their friends above would drop in the water.
This ritual continued for many many, years until two Dive Instructors finally decided to pay the Stingrays a personal underwater visit.
Contrary to the many self acclaimed “I was there first…..” Stingray City snorkeling Captains, the honor of teh discovery goes to 2 Dive Instructors in 1981, Jay Ireland and Pat Kenney.
Jay Ireland was the very first. After noticing the daily Stingray feeding ritual, Jay took it upon himself to jump in the water armed with a camera, a bag full of squid and courage.
Jay found the Stingrays shy, gentle and not aggressive (contrary to popular belief at that time)
Following daily feeding he finally earned the Rays trust to the point of being able to hand feed them and pet them.
As soon as Pat Kenney heard of the feedings he became immediately involved and started documenting the Stingrays, naming the animals and kept track of the feedings as well as movements.
In 1986 Pat Kenney wrote an article named “The Valley of the Rays”, and the now “Stingray City” was born. Underwater Photographer Geri Murphy visited The Valley of the Rays shortly after. Upon her return to her California home she also immediately wrote an article of this phenomenon at a location she self named Stingray City. Hence the name we now know was born.
The Stingray City dive site quickly became popular, especially with the help of articles also written in the Wall Street Journal, National Geographic (featuring Pat Kenney) and Skin Diver Magazine.
It was not until a few years later that the same “taming of the Stingrays” occurred at the shallow sandbar enabling a simple “walk with the Stingrays” to be conducted. The sandbar was also named by locals “The Stingray City Sandbar”.
The “Valley of the Rays” or the “REAL” Stingray City:
The 12ft Stingray City is optimal for Scuba Divers as well as Snorkelers. Located very close to the Barrier Reef, the area contains many Coral Formations as well as sponges, Sea Fans, colorful Tropical Fish, Eels, Nurse Sharks sleeping under the many Coral ledges and more.
The Stingray Interaction is not isolated to “The Stingray experience”, it also offers a fantastic opportunity to view and interact with a variety of marine life as well as a chance to view some of the best snorkeling to be found in the North Sound.
One will find all of the Scuba Diving Excursions visit this area, as well as the bigger sail boats due to the depth of the water. Do not allow the water depth to discourage you. The Stingrays will visit you on the surface, the water clarity and marine life will astound you.
The 12ft Stingray City (10ft to 12ft of water) is perfectly suited for scuba divers as well as snorkelers, as the entire area offers an “everything in one” opportunity.
The Valley of the Rays is especially suited for avid snorkelers and for visitors who have been to the stingray City sandbar in the past.
The famous Grand Cayman Stingray City Sandbar:
The Stingray City Sandbar is by far one of the most beautiful locations on Earth. Located in shallow crystal clear waters, the sheer beauty of the location would make a visit a must regardless of the friendly Rays.
The sandbar fluctuates between 3ft of water to 5ft of water depending on the time of the year, tides and recent storms. Visitors simply walk around admiring, feeding, petting and interacting with the beautiful stingrays with ease.
The sandy bottom resembles baby powder. The water is perfectly clear, enabling a clear view of the Rays without the need of a mask.
The Stingrays greet your boat upon arrival, awaiting you to enter the water, and as soon as you step into their world the Rays will happily greet you.
The experience is truly indescribable, it’s a once in a lifetime personal event you will not want to miss.