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April 2011 AFI Editor's Note

A Stingray Christmas

By Clay Jackson |

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I went on a family reunion ocean cruise over Christmas. There were 15 of us: the family patriarch and matriarch (my mom and dad); myself, my wife and two daughters; my sister and brother-in-law, niece, nephew; my brother, sister-in-law, two more nieces and a nephew.

One of the most highly anticipated stops on our six days at sea was Grand Cayman and its world-class snorkeling sites. In terms of snorkeling and diving, Grand Cayman is noteworthy for its wall diving, where the depths plunge to 6,000 feet or more. Another renowned locale is a sandbar just a few miles out, in waist- to chest-deep water — the famous Stingray City and Stingray Sandbar. Here tour boats come nearly every day, and throngs of snorkelers lower themselves into the crystal clear Caribbean Sea to interact with wild stingrays, some with 6-foot wingspans. The rays congregate at these sites because they’ve been conditioned to associate humans with culinary handouts, as well as gentle caresses (not true of the guides who fearlessly scoop up some big mammas, so tourists can enjoy face-to-face moments with them; our guide even encouraged us to play kissy face with the ray he secured for us). The azure water was alive with both large and small rays. Occasionally, a big one brushed up against me as it effortlessly glided by.

From tiny tots to octogenarians, all will enjoy the rays at Stingray City. Tours are easy to book online or on arrival. My family went with Cayman Ocean Adventures. Tours run a few hours, and you spend about 45 minutes with the rays. The cost is about $40 per person. To see a video of my Stingray Sandbar encounter, click here.

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April 2011 AFI Editor's Note

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