Monday, June 8, 2009
Cruisin': Grand Cayman Stingrays
Before I get into the stingray expedition, there's a little backstory required (mainly because I like to talk). Just a few weeks before our cruise sailed, a new terror gripped the nation: swine flu. I find it interesting that so many people freaked out over a flu strain that killed less then 50 people, considering the normal flu kills around 60,000 people per year. But anyways, people went nuts, wore surgical masks in public al a Michael Jackson, and the Mexican ports were closed to cruise ships. Normally, not an issue. My over-developed sense of anxiety had us avoiding Mexico (due to the drug wars). However, ours was not the only boat in the ocean and lots of over ships were bound for Mexico. Since they could no longer get in, several ships were redirected to Grand Cayman. They told us on the boat that normally, there were 3 cruise boats docked around the islands. This particular day, 9 were expected. That's a lot of tourists...
Now, Stingray City is a sandbar where you can stand in waist to chest-deep water while the stingrays frolic around you. That is not where we went. And after seeing all those huge boats holding the island hostage, I'm pretty glad we opted for something else. The trusty Emerald Eyes took us to an area that was about 12 feet deep. There, the guides gave us a few pointers. While stingrays love to eat squid, the tourists were actually over-feeding them so we would not be handling squid guts. However, there was a bucket of squid that the hosts would use to attract the rays. Also, we were not to attempt picking up the rays ourselves. Sure, they are fairly tame but they are still wild animals. And people are stupid.
Once again, we get in the water with our snorkeling gear. When I look under the water, this is what I see:
Is it okay to pee your pants if you're in the ocean?
Our guides take boat-loads of tourists to this particular site three times a day so they knew all the local rays by sight and had given them names.
This is Rob, the main guide, holding Frisbee, the stingray. Frisbee is named that because he doesn't have a tail and resembles, well, a frisbee. There was also Sally, who was about the size of a sofa. The guides encouraged us to pet the rays, even offered to let us hold them. Some women were kissing the rays (ewwww), which is supposed to bring 7 years good luck (still ewwww). Now, you might think it's kinda mean to drag the rays up to the surface like this but the animals seemed to enjoy the attention. And Rob repeatedly reassured us that if they didn't want to be held, they would let him know. One ray, after being repeatedly kissed, started flapping his wings and Rob let him go. So they're perfectly capable of letting the guides know when they'd had enough sexual harassment.
I told the Man to get some really good pictures of the rays for my blog. He dove down and took this one:
Yeah, that's a good one.
Even far away from the main Stingray City, there were three boats in this area. It was crowded. Fins were constantly bumping people and you couldn't turn around without having someone all up in your grill. One chick got a little testy and started chewing out a kid for bumping into her. That was pretty tacky, considering not three seconds later, she rammed into me without so much as a "oops!" Real classy, lady. Good thing I have this blog with my hordes of readers so I can get back at you.
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