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trishy
09-21-2003, 01:05 PM
Here's an interesting story about the Stingray Excursion from one of the many companies that take a trip out there. Thought some might find it interesting.

Stingray Story (http://www.pe.com/lifestyles/travel/stories/PE_TRV_nstingray.57fca.html)

If that doesn't work (you may need to register, which is free, but you may not want to anyway), here's the story I've copied and pasted.

Cayman tour offers stingray encounters
CARIBBEAN: Excursions to a sandbar to view the relatives of sharks are as common as sunscreen.
12:00 AM PDT on Sunday, September 21, 2003

By JACKIE BOLIN / The Dallas Morning News

GRAND CAYMAN - Of all the things you may want to do on your Caribbean vacation, encountering a stingray is probably not one of them -- unless you're on the Cayman Islands.

In the Caymans, excursions to a sandbar several miles from shore to mingle with a close relative of the shark are as common as sunscreen. And even the biggest beach bums set aside a morning or afternoon to try it.

In fact it's become so popular, it's even the focus of a television commercial for Royal Caribbean Cruise Line.

It started decades ago when fishermen began stopping at a sandbar in Grand Cayman's North Sound to clean their catch to cook for tourists. The fishermen would get off their boats, stretch their legs and stand in the shallow water while gutting and cleaning their fish. It wasn't long before stingrays were arriving like clockwork, waiting for their next free meal. Eventually, the feared and elusive stingrays weren't so mysterious anymore, and the money-minded fishermen saw an opportunity.

"It was Capt. Marvin Crosby, one of the local legends, who first had the insight to see potential in the North Sound," says Capt. Dexter Ebanks of Dexter's Fantasea Tours, a native Caymanian of Irish descent and our guide outto the rays. "Everyone thought this guy was nuts. Years ago, when I used to spear fish, if I saw a stingray, I got . . . out of there."

Now, stingrays are Capt. Ebank's livelihood. Twice a day, he takes tourists on his 38-foot catamaran out to the sandbar to swim with the rays, his motto being: "If you don't have fun, you don't pay."

Several times a week, the sandbar is filled with day passengers from cruise ships. The excursion to swim with the rays is usually the most popular for island day visitors. And stingrays have become such a part of Cayman life that there's even a local beer named for the spooky-looking, but surprisingly gentle sea animal.

Capt. Ebanks has an open affection for the rays, and he's even named a few. When "Lucy" showed up at the sandbar last year with a bad infection on her tail from a propeller cut, he "did her a favor" by placing her tail on a cutting board and chopping off the infected area. Today, Lucy seems healthy and happy as she swims circles around the captain and the enthusiastic passengers who jumped into the shallow water the minute we anchored.

"I have a feeling she knows who I am," he tells us. He picks her up, almost cradling her, and explains her body to those already in the water.

The more apprehensive tourists (I'm one) take their time getting off the boat, slowly putting on their fins and snorkeling masks and carefully watching the flat, wide creatures rubbing up against the bodies in the water begging for food. The water is less than five feet deep, and visitors range from 4- or 5-year-olds to their parents.

Capt. Ebanks compares the stingrays to portabello mushrooms. The flat tops of their bodies are the same brownish gray, and their skin is slimy and smooth. He assures passengers they are gentle, but stingrays long have been feared by vacationers.

Before getting into the water, many want to know how the sea creature got its first name.

"People do get hurt, but it's caused by their own actions," the captain says.

He coaches everyone on how to handle the rays -- not to grab at them or hold on to them tightly -- but it's unnecessary to touch the stingrays at all. From the minute you enter the water, swarms of slick rays rub against you and swim through your legs.

If you want to feed them, Capt. Ebanks will show you exactly how and give you broken pieces of squid. Just hold your hand out flat, and a stingray is certain to come suck the fish right out of it.

"Has anyone ever gotten stung?" someone inevitably inquires.

"Personally, I don't like to call it a stinger," says Capt. Ebanks. "It's not like a bee or hornet that's going to leave something in you."

He explains that with a stingray, what harms you is something he describes as "a sharp bar" that sticks out from their tails and can cut you like a razor, or anything sharp and pointy. In the 10 years he has been hosting tours, he has had someone get hurt only once and says it was a "freak accident -- nobody's fault."

He assures everyone the rays will attack only if they feel threatened and that most injuries associated with stingrays are caused by people accidentally stepping on one (stingrays are bottom feeders and typically dig in the sand for food).
To avoid injury, many at the sandbar shuffle their fins across the ocean floor in lieu of walking or swimming. Others swim fearlessly among them. No one gets as much as a "hickey," a mark left from the suction of a stingray, which vacuums up its food through its mouth.

After a half-hour, everyone returns to the boat. The captain offers us fresh mango and rum punch, and we head farther out in the ocean to snorkel at a reef. For many visitors, this is the best part of the trip.

As I take a spot on the deck of the boat, spread out my towel and try to dry myself in the wind caused by the boat's speed, stingrays slowly slip out of my mind.
Several companies offer excursions, sometimes called Stringray City or Stringray Sandbar trips -- two names, same place.
Most trips include the use of snorkel gear, bottled water and nonalcoholic punch. Typically, passengers on cruise ships pay about $45 for the 2 1/2-hour trip; those who arrange for trips after arriving in Grand Cayman may pay less.
Dexter's Fantasea Tours, one of many local tour operators, charges $30 but offers a 20 percent discount for booking online. Contact information: (345) 949-2182; www.dextersfantaseatours.com

I hesitated to put that last part because it sounds like an ad, but in all fairness it is part of the article. Enjoy.

puckhog45
09-21-2003, 01:32 PM
Thanks for the article. We are going on a Family Reunion Cruise next summer and my sister is nervous about taking her five year old twins on shore excursions. This article should help!!