Even though there’s still some snow on the ground, it’s officially spring, and I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to turn off the heat soon. This photo has been my screensaver for the past few months, and it has gotten me through.
What you’re looking at is a warm and happy family posing with a stingray off the coast of Grand Cayman in the Cayman Islands. All that gorgeous blue is the perfect antidote to all the icy white I see from my window.
We were on the north side of the island, in the North Sound, one of the world’s largest and shallowest salt water lagoons. The Sound is also home to Stingray City, an offshore reef where friendly sting rays congregate. They’ve been accustomed to humans stopping by all day long in cruisers like these.
Several companies offer daily boat tours; Captain Marvin’s is the oldest. Marvin is a real person, and he started bringing tourists to this spot back in 1951. We were picked up at our hotel, and brought to the dock to meet the rest of our group of 20. We took a three-hour tour with three stops: Stingray City to interact with the rays; and two great snorkeling spots called the Coral Gardens and Barrier Reef.
It’s surreal to be walking around in this waist-deep patch in the crystal clear sea among scores of stingrays. The first time one of these creatures slides across your legs, you may let out a little squeal. Or you may scream like a possessed little girl.
There was a photographer on board, with an assistant who poses you with the stingray, even letting you “kiss” it. I can’t believe my teenaged son actually did this:
The tour company provided us with pieces of squid to feed them. You’re supposed to hold it flat in the palm of your hand, while holding your hand still under water as they glide over it and slurp it up. In theory. The Girl was braver than her mother and at least tried, but ended up dropping it as the ray approached.
Both our kids were even braver when the opportunity came to snorkel. What was the source of their fortitude? Was it the sunshine? The salt air? Or just crazy curiosity to see what was under those turquoise waves? They were different kids that day, and I was so proud.
During the two snorkeling stops, we used the masks, snorkels, and flippers supplied by the company. This was their first time snorkeling, and they loved it once they got the hang of it. Above and beyond several types of brightly colored fish, like Blue Tang and yellow-striped Sergeant Major Damselfish, there was coral in all shades of blue and purple.
We’ll be going to another warm, tropical Caribbean destination this summer. Can’t wait to tell you about it! In the meantime, I’ll warm my hands by the monitor.
Hey YOU! Go BIG!
Captain Marvin’s cruises to Stingray City