I went with Sunset Divers for the not-to-be-missed dive trip to Stingray City. It was an hilarious experience, like nothing I've ever done before!
Our dive master filled us in on the stingray feeding protocol. First we were given more weight than normal, so we'd be able to kneel on the sandy floor easily. The dive was on a clear sandy bottom in about 15 feet of crystal clear water. They have very tender skin on the underside, so we weren't wearing any snorkels either. Oh, by the way, they don't sting unless stepped on, that's why we were to kneel in place.
Then we were instructed to assemble in a tidy circle and remain stationary for the entire experience, not to swim around. The dive assistant would bring each of us some chopped up squid bait to feed the stingrays, and then the rays would come up to us to be fed. He showed us how to hold the bait in our fists, and to lead the stingrays around for a bit before feeding them by pushing the bait into their mouths. Oh, and by the way, they have no teeth, not to worry, but they might give you an occasional hicky from sucking on your arm. So far, so good.
With the added weights the rest was pure fun, if somewhat insane. We'd been informed beforehand that the females are the ones to feed, they know how to play the game. They are quite a bit larger than the males, and they will swim up into your face to be fed, so it's not hard to distinguish them. Stingrays' eyes are on top and their mouths are on the bottom, so they have to guess where the food is by sense of smell. We all learned to hold our bait-filled fists up to their mouths, leading them around in circles and loops, and finally shoving the bait into their mouths quickly as we opened our fists, so the fish wouldn't swim up and snatch it from them.
I quickly found myself engulfed by a pair of huge rays flapping all around my face, like a pair of aggressive wet blankets. I wasn't afraid, just completed discombuberated! They bowled me over easily, and I stole a quick glance around to see everyone else in the same dilemma, blowing bubbles wildly and struggling to remain upright. Oh, and by the way, it's not advisable to laugh when breathing through a regulator...
What ensued was utter chaos. About ten of us entered the water in rapid succession, and swam over to the rock landmark to assemble. Before we could even approach anything like a circle, a cloud of stingrays engulfed us, demanding to be fed, with the inevitable school of hungry fish close behind. Oh, and by the way, the snappers DO bite, so watch out for those guys coming at you!
Clearly I needed a bit more weight if I was to assume and maintain the proper position, so I bolted for the boat. The dive master smirked, "Oh, did you get freaked out? Do you want to come up?"
"Hell, no!" I gargled at him, "I just need more weight so I can stay still enough to feed them!" I stuffed the weights into my belt and raced back down to re-join the melee.
Just as we'd been told, the males (who generally don't get bigger than about 12 inches across) just flapped around our feet uselessly, never quite catching on to the feeding game. Mindful that they might sting if stepped on, we struggled to remain kneeling till the end. Once the bait was all gone and the females swam on to the next gaggle of tourist divers, the males hung around a while longer to play with us. Cute, but clueless! Wait - I think I used to date one of them...
Way up on the north end of the island, past the Turtle Farm & Hell, is a very laid back diver's resort called the Spanish Reef Resort. Anyone is welcome to snorkel or shoredive at their facility, and a nice little dive shop is there on the premises for your convenience, Resort Sports.
Since I was with Mom on this trip to Grand Cayman I mostly snorkeled, but decided to do one little shore dive up here. It was an easy and fun excursion, and the resort definitely looks like a pleasant laid back kind of spot for diving couples who don't want the hectic crush of the crowds around Georgetown at some of the other dive resorts in town.
Equipment: The dive shop has all you need if you didn't bring your own equipment - EXCEPT they do not rent out wetsuits! The water was actually warm enough while I was there that a wet suit wasn't required, but I had a dive skin to use anyway (for my personal protection from bumping into fire coral or jellyfish).
There is such a range of diving experiences to be had in the Caymans, from the popular shore dives right off the main oceanside drive (see DiverX's Cayman Islands page for a great write-up of these), to Stingray City (see tips below for my experience there), to the pristine East End of Grand Cayman, and I never even touched on the outer islands. Everything you want is here.
East End Divers gave me the exciting opportunity to dive less frequented areas, including one dive I loved, with swim-throughs and canyons in the reef, and fish that had probably never seen divers before.
But when I go back, I'd like to stay part of my time at one of the dive hotels previously mentioned, and just enjoy the convenience of wandering into the water any time I'd like for a shore dive.
Equipment: You can rent whatever you don't bring, not to worry. I usually like to do carry-ons only, so I just bring my dive mask, snorkel, dive booties & a lightweight pair of snorkeling fins, then I rent the rest.
I found the equipment I rented here to be first rate, not beat-up backpacker divers' gear like on some other islands.
Diving the east end was spectacular! The coral was more colorful, the visibility much better than the west end & wow, gobs & gobs of fish! Green Moray Eels, Turtles, Butterfly fish, Seargent Majors, Blue Tang, Grunts, Tarpon & much more. The walls were dramatic and way, way, cool swimthroughs! Absolutely fantastic. Equally as wonderful was the dive company we dived with. Ocean Frontiers. Now these folks know how to take care of their divers. All the equipment is set up for you upon arrival & tanks are transferred for you between dives. You don't have to do any work at all. Just sit back & enjoy. They provided fresh towels, fruit & punch or water. Very excellant customer service! Oh & the most impressive item about this dive company is they kept track of your profile & at the end of all your dives you got a neat little print out showing all your dives & profile. Now I've never had that kind of service before! I would highly recommend Ocean Frontiers & plan on diving with them when I return. I don't have any pictures of the dive shop or the resort where they are located, but I do have some neat underwater pictures.
We did 5 dives with Don Foster's on the West Side, which also included the Stingray City Dive. For the most part it was enjoyable. Don Foster's dive operation expected you to set up your own equipment. Before beginning your dive, do check that your tank is full as sometimes people put the caps back on & you might end up with a empty tank. We were not pleased that we did our giant stride off the back of the boat & rather than descended right there were expected to swim against the current to the front of the boat & then descend. It cost a lot of us a lot of air! Other than that, the dives were pleasant with both walls & reefs. We saw a variety of marine life including Turtles, Eagle Rays, Purple Wrasse, Blue Tang, Nudi Branches, Butterfly Fish, etc., & at one point even a nurse shark. There were swim throughs that were fun. First time I ever did that & have to admit I enjoyed it. I do have to admit though that the West End is beginning to show it's wear and tear as the marine life is not as prolific nor the coral beds as beautiful as the east end. But all in all, I would recommend diving the west end, it gives you chance to have some variety & truly appreciate the beauty of the east end. As far as Don Foster's. Although they are very pleasant & one of the Divemasters, Ryan, in particular, was very helpful, they are lacking in customer service. The next time I dive the west end I think I will try another dive shop
Equipment: There is no need to bring any special gear or equipment other than your swimsuit. We can't have you running around naked now can we? LOL All the dive shops have tanks, weights, belts, wetsuits, fins & masks for rent. Personally, I would recommend that you bring your own mask. A mask that fits your own unique face has less of a tendancy to leak.
This storefront is located beachside at the Hyatt Regency Grand Cayman Hotel. They offer various lessons and excursions; snorkeling, scuba, sailing, canoeing, dive packages, catamaran trips, sunset cruises..
The best ever was a 'Waverunner Snorkel Safari Adventure' for 1-1/2 hours. This entire excursion happens aboard a wave runner (you could get a single or a double), we shared a double. You follow a guide who takes you and your fellow riders to three fantastic snorkel spots. Not only do you get to use the wave runner for 1 1/2 hours but you stop every so often to snorkel. The hardest thing is getting back up the wave runner from the water. But it was SO worth it. We had a blast taking turns steering the wave runner and going super fast. Highly recommended!
Equipment: Life jackets are provided by Red Sail Sports.
Double: $ 135.00
We got our advanced open water certification through Ocean Frontiers while we were there. They were amazing! The staff members are all very professional. We went on 7 dives while we were there, including one night dive and two deep dives. The night dive was an incredible experience! The walls there are gorgeous and the water was 80 degrees even at 100 feet!! The East End of the island has some of the most amazing diving I have ever seen. You can go to my webpage and see some pics from one of our dives (http://home.nethere.com/avonesch/Honeymoon%20Dive%20Page.html). On our last day of diving, the waves were HUGE and the crew, Brian and Matt, could tell that I was getting really nervous about getting off and back onto the boat. When I came up they helped me get back on by having me take my gear off before I climbed onto the boat. It made it so much easier for me and I was really thankful! The dive sites are full of swim throughs! We also saw a 6ft reef shark while we were on a wall! It looked a bit eerie when it swam out of the deep blue towards us, but it just checked us out and went on its way! I could just go on and on about the diving there but I will stop here and let you discover the rest for yourselves!
Equipment: We do not have our own equipment so we rented everything through them, including a camera for one fo the dives.
We went back to Red Sail Sports, its one of the best outfits around, very convienant because its office is located right in the Hyatt Regency Property.
We booked our reservation for the next day morning snorkel trip - 'Stingray City Lunch/Snorkel Sail'. It lasted alittle over four hours. They provide equipment, but we have our own. They also provide help and lessons.
They take you to the famed Stingray City, those stingrays are very friendly. A little too close for comfort in my opinion! Then a stop to see coral and friendly little fish near a shallow reef and depending on time and weather permitting, maybe another stop to see a shipwreck. Very cool surprise!
Right after the last stop, they dump a bucket with fish food for the sharks. Yes, that's right sharks..You can swim above them for a bit, but then they get waaay too close for comfort! I jumped out of the water immediately! My husband stayed for a bit, he was one of the last ones in the water.. Take a look at our travelogues for lots more pictures..
Now that everyone is all salty and back on the boat, lunch is served! A deli-style lunch with all types of salads, chicken and breads. All types of large cookies for dessert. Lunch is pretty good. They also have a cash bar.
Equipment: Snorkel/Scuba equipment provided.