This was an excursion I did about 3 weeks ago, after a wedding of a friend in the Cayman Islands. I first didn't feel like going out in a boat and all what involves. But then, as I knew a friend who I like was going I jumped in. Now I can say that if I wouldn't have gone I would have been an id...t if you know what I mean.
We arrived to the deck about 10am of the Sunday after the day of the wedding; we were all part of the same group so that was a plus. The staff in of the charter boat was very (very) pleasant to deal with, they were really nice with us and I made myself friend with Mauro (the captain) with whom I shared many interests.
Once out there, everything was fun beauty and magic: The Coral Garden snorkeling was incredible, there are so many colorful fishes below the water surface. And the water is so pristine blue!! Incredible!!
Then we went to the sandbar to meet the stingrays (which are wild by the way) and we came in contact with them, we fed them, held them, caressed them and kissed them. I must say their texture is somewhat spine-chilling but very nice to touch.
We had a great afternoon in the water and then we made another stops (starfish and rum point) on the way back. The sunset was amazing that day and we didn't want to return to the shore because we were having such a great time... sniff!!
Well, all-around it was a very worthy and enriching experience; I could easily recommend it to anyone!!
Came here as part of our shore excursion - it's a whole adventure park, and from the website it looks very cool. We went in to see the turtles in the breeding pond. You can see turtles of various sizes swimming in the ponds, but we all went over to the yearling pool where, as you can see from the pics, we got to hold sea turtles! This was a very unique experience for two city girls, and we really enjoyed it, even though we got the psycho-turtle who wanted back in the water badly! When they start slapping you with their flippers/fins, let's just say - YOU FEEL IT! Lisa's arm was red for a little while... I would definitely go back and spend more time if given the opportunity!
Hell, Grand Cayman is a group of ugly, short, black, limestone formations in the northwest Grand Cayman town of West Bay. People are not allowed in amongst the limestone formations, but there are two viewing platforms for tourists to access and photograph them. Look for the little (painted) devils hanging out in the formations, as well as the bright red hibiscus flowers, if you go during the right time.
There are numerous versions of how Hell received its name, but they are generally variations on "a local official (or royal, or noted person) exclaimed, 'This is what Hell must look like.'"
However it first came to be called Hell, the name stuck and the area has become a tourist attraction, featuring a red Hell-themed post office from which you can send "postcards from hell", and a gift shop with 'Satan' passing out souvenirs.
Hell can be quite busy as it is a stop for cruise ship tours, and is basically the limestone formations, a gift shop, and a post office. That's it! But a funny place to visit once, and THE place from which to send postcards! C'mon - who wouldn't want to say "I've been to Hell and back - and I have the postmark to prove it!"
While exploring Georgetown we came upon the Seaman's Memorial Statue. The statue was errected in 2003 and represents the love that the people of the Caymans have with the water. The statue memorializes those individuals from the Caymans who have lost their lives at sea; which as of our visit was 450 people.
After going to Hell and back, we had them drop us off at 7 mile beach and we ended up with many of the other Princess passengers at Calico Jack's at Sea Grape Beach. Lounge chairs were $8 to rent, we would have if we had planned to spend the whole day there but as we were only going to be there for an hour or so, we spread out on the beach. When we were ready to go back to the ship, there were taxi vans waiting for $5 per person.
We had originally thought that we would walk the length of the beach to get back to the cruise ship, 5.5 miles long rather than the 7 miles the name implies. But it was blisteringly hot and we had eaten up most of the day already so we went for a short round trip stroll on the beach we were on. Most of the beach was sand but there were a few rocky spots.
7 Mile Beach is on the west side of the island along West Bay, just north of George Town. It's the most popular beach on the island due to it's proximity to the cruise ship docks and the length of it. The whole beach is public and there are spots along the beach to get a drink, have a snack, snorkel or just soak up the rays.
There are a lot of recommended options for tours on Grand Cayman, many of which cater to cruise ship passengers so they know if your boat is diverted or is coming in late. We ultimately chose Captain Marvin's 2 stop snorkel tour because we wanted to get an early start and we wanted to see Hell and 7 mile beach in addition to Stingray City. Captain Marvin's also had a longer tour that included Hell and the turtle farm but I had read reports that it wasn't very clean and then I read that the turtles were raised for food and I lost my stomach for it.
Per their instructions, we got the 1st tender off the boat and walked over to Captain Marvin's office in George Town where we took care of the payment, $35 per person with cash, $38 with credit card. The boat dock that Captain Marvin's uses is just a short ride from the cruise dock, we made a stop to pick up some other people from their other location. The real Captain Marvin, who is 95 years old, doesn't do tours anymore but he was at the docks when we arrived.
The boat ride over was a little choppy and I'd estimate that it took about 20 minutes, the boat we used was a motorboat with 2 long benches on either side, we also saw at least one catamaran from another company which might be a smoother ride. One of the people on our boat said that this was the 1st day of their week's vacation that they could do the trip because of the water conditions, the next day I read that some cruise ships couldn't even dock in Grand Cayman. Once at Stingray City, the guides got into the water with us and showed us how to handle the stingrays without harming them and someone else took photos of our tour but since we didn't take the bus back to George Town we didn't see them or find out the charges. I had just purchased an underwater camera and my photos turned out pretty good. You can't wear anything on your feet here, no fins, no watershoes.
After the stingray city stop, we boated over to the Coral Gardens where we snorkeled with our guide.
The 2 stop tour lasted for about 2 1/2 hours including transport to and from George Town. They had water and fruit punch on the boat, the snorkel gear was included but we always bring our own masks and snorkels.
For animal lovers Stingray City would have to be at the top of the must see list on Grand Cayman, it's a chance to interact with some stingrays who are not captive but are tame enough to touch and feed, the rays come because they want to, not because they are being held prisoner. The spot was originally a shallow place where fisherman came to dump fish guts before heading back to shore, the rays found this a delightful source of food and still do as most of the boat excursions that head out here will show you how to feed a ray if you want.
For snorkelers, you stand in 3 or 4 feet of water on a sandbar. You can't snorkel out to the sandbar from shore nor should you try to boat out there on your own lest you harm one of these magnificent creatures. We opted to use Captain Marvin's rather than a ship tour mainly because they left earlier than most other tours and we wanted to do several other things in Grand Cayman before getting back on the cruise ship.
Even with the early start at 8:30am we were there with 5 or 6 other small boats, there are plenty of stingrays but I shudder to think how many people can be here when there are a lot of cruise ships in port as we were the only one that day. If you are staying on the island, I'd highly recommend finding a day that the cruise ships are not there if possible.
Our guide showed us how to hold the stingray for a photo op, a kiss and a back massage, our guide used a stingray nicknamed Orion for this and he didn't seem to mind any of it, his reward was some nice slimy squid. And who knows, maybe he enjoys kissing the ladies.
The website below has a really good description of Stingray City and the do's and don'ts of snorkeling and diving with stingrays. The rays do have their stingers but if you don't mistreat them, they shouldn't have any cause to use it. Follow your guide and they will show you how to handle the rays without any harm to them or to you.
Yes, it's a tourist trap, but to be so close to Hell and not go? We just HAD to send postcards to our friends and family, writing them such profound thoughts as "Didn't you always know that we were going to Hell?" or "It's hot as hell here" or "We've been to Hell and back", like thousands of people before us.
We were pondering how to get to Hell, besides the usual methods of debauchery, sin and vice, and mentioned that we wanted to go there to another couple on our Captain Marvin's trip and they offered to take us if we bought their postcards, a fair enough deal. So we all piled into their car for the 15 minute ride to Hell, somehow I always thought it would take longer and there would be demons poking me with pitchforks but the ride was uneventful. Hell made us laugh when we saw it, surely not the response the Devil was after, literally it's a post office, a couple of souvenir stands and a rock formation that gave someone the idea of naming this place Hell.
The hellish rock formations were formed by "acid rain and the consumption of the rock by carbonate-loving orgamisms"according to the signs on the platform overlooking it. You can't walk through Hell nor would you want to.
Our 2nd stop with Captain Marvin's was the Coral Gardens (or at least I think it was, it could have also been the barrier reef as that's another stop they do) where we got back off the boat and snorkeled. It was a nice place to snorkel, we saw quite a few fish but they were mostly the usual suspects-yellowtails, sergeant majors, etc but we didn't see anything out of the ordinary except a tail less ray named Frisbee.
In the mid 1600's Fort George was built to defend Grand Cayman from attacks by Spanish marauders from Cuba. The fear of piracy and other atatcks on the islands was enough for the Caymanians to understand the need for the fort. The fort was manned by local militia though they were never needed to defend the island from any invaders. During WWII it was used as a look out post; watching for German subs.
In the 1970's a developer wanted to demolish the fort and build on the land. The Caymanians objected to this and the fort is part of the Cayman Islands National Trust.
The Fort is just a shadow of what it once was with a few cannons, ruble and plaques.