After exploring St. Thomas, Tortola, and Nassau (posts to come), my partner and I envisioned ourselves living in the Caribbean. When we returned to Canada, my partner stumbled upon a job opportunity in Grand Cayman that suited his qualifications. He applied and received a call less than an hour later. A month later, we found ourselves planning a trip to scope out the island and see if we could make our dreams a reality.
The weekend was wonderful. We were fortunate enough to be able to see Stingray City – Grand Cayman’s most popular attraction and explore the entire island.
Soon, we found ourselves scoping out apartments, renting out our house, and then on the flight to our new home.
The first couple of weeks were a blur. We had shipped a container with our belongings and things hadn’t exactly gone smoothly. Setting up a bank account and our utility bills proved to be more complicated than it is in Canada. The cost of living was incredibly high and converting what remained of our savings into Cayman dollars with our unfavourable dollar was unpleasant to say the least. Somehow we managed to unpack our bags and found some time to get to the beach and relax.
Working 6 days a week is no easy feat, let alone when you’re trying to get your bearings in a new environment. The extra few hours on a Saturday morning is not ideal, but we can swim on a paradisiac beach and enjoy an authentic mudslide under a palm-thatched hut.
After about three weeks, I found myself longing for home and wondering how I was crazy enough to leave Canada. I had never felt so homesick before. Daily Skype calls with family and friends got me through this crazy week.
Through the frustration, we learned to go with the flow. Island time is a real thing in the Caribbean. There is no sense of urgency and customer service seems to be nonexistent in many places, but the people are friendly and generally welcoming.
We met some friends through a co-worker who have significantly helped our transition into the Cayman lifestyle. Having social support has proven its importance when living as an expat in paradise.
So far, our experience hasn’t been the sunshine and rainbows we were hoping for, but we are finding a way to have a blast.
No, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side but it’s always greener where you water it.
I took a trip to check out one of Grand Cayman's hottest tourist attractions and it did not disappoint! Stingray City is a must see if you find yourself in Grand Cayman.
For the tour I chose to use Red Sail Sports - a decision I did not regret. The booking process was easy. I called the company to discuss the various options available for the Stingray City tour. The agent was very helpful in explaining the ins and outs of each tour. I decided on the Stingray Sandbar and Reef Sail package - a 3.5 hour excursion that included a stingray interaction and snorkel over the nearby reef.
The tour departed from the Safehaven dock which is located at the north end of the Seven Mile Beach corridor on the bay side. We were situated quickly and given a brief safety talk before we were on our way.
We sailed for about 20 minutes to the sandbar. The water was calm and there was a slight breeze which helped with the heat. It was quite hot aboard the boat but there was plenty of water available to keep the group hydrated.
Along the way, the captain ran through the history of Stingray City and explained that fishermen used to clean their fish on the sandbar before coming to shore. Over time, wild stingrays began to congregate around the boats in anticipation of a snack. Eventually, the fishermen realized the potential of the site as a tourist attraction and began to offer a sail to the sandbar. These days, thousands of tourists visit the sandbar each year to experience the phenomenon.
Our group received a talk on how to behave around the stingrays - always shuffle your feet so as not to step on them, do not lift them out of the water, and do NOT touch the barb on the end of their tail. I admit, I was a bit nervous with the not-to-do list but I didn’t hesitate to strap on my snorkel and get in the water.
It didn’t take long for the stingrays to find us. They drifted through the water towards the crowd of spectators. The crew explained that the stingrays would happily relax in your arms if you held them out under the water. I gave it a shot and ended up with a lovely large female swimming up for a "hug". A crew member reminded me to keep the stingray below the surface of the water, which I did so with ease due to the weight of the ray. It was an experience to remember.
We spent some more time swimming around the sandbar and capturing some great footage of the unique creatures. The rays at Stingray City are especially docile due to the consistent flow of human traffic. Our stingray interaction experience came to an end and we were herded back to the boat to move on with our excursion.
Next up was a snorkel at the nearby reef. Red Sail provided us with masks, snorkels, and flippers, then sent us on our way to explore. The reef was an underwater wonder. Many species of curious fish poked their heads out of the coral. We spent about 30 minutes exploring the ecosystem and then were called back to the boat. We enjoyed a drink during our smooth sail back to the marina. All in all, it was a wonderful day.
Overall, Stingray City was a great excursion and I highly recommend the experience to all visitors to Grand Cayman.
A few fun facts about stingrays:
What to expect:
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