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Snorkel and Stingray City Trip

No matter whom I take to the Cayman Islands, the day trip on the Sea Fire always becomes the highlight of their trip. It never fails to be an exciting snorkel and Stingray City trip to the North Sound with Captain Gleason Ebanks and first-mate Kerry Ebanks. We often use the term “old man at the sea” to describe Gleason, but when you have been taking the same boat out for snorkel trips since 1956, it’s definitely accurate. Both Gleason and Kerry have seen it all and offer great knowledge and expertise pertaining to marine life, weather, and Grand Cayman in general. Although each trip is a little bit different, I want to take you on a typical trip on the Sea Fire. 

 7:32 AM: Alarm goes off. (Deep sigh) You wonder why you had that extra rum punch the night before and drank that rum liquor shot after dinner.

 7:42 AM: Alarm goes off again. You wonder why you scheduled a stupid boat trip while you are on vacation and why it has to be so early in the morning.

 7:45 AM: Throw together a bag for the trip including a hat, sunglasses, lots of sunscreen, and an iPod. Also throw together some food for the trip, including chips, peanuts, and cookies. Most importantly, pack the drinks for the trip, including lots of water, wine, beer, and of course rum.

 8:30 AM: Get picked up in a van by Kirk Ebanks. He helps load up all snorkel gear, towels, food, and drinks in his 15-passenger van. It is a quick 10-minute drive from Treasure Island to Safe Haven where the Sea Fire is docked.

***Notice the changes in the Sea Fire over the years.

 8:45 AM: Greeted at the Sea Fire by Gleason and Kerry. Start to load everything onto the boat and again wonder why you had that extra drink the night before. This is when I apply lots of sunscreen. You will get a lot of sun, even on cloudy days. Head to the 2nd level of the Sea Fire to enjoy the 45 minute boat ride out to the North Sound where the first stop is Stingray City.

 9:30 AM: As we anchor, the stingrays already begin to flock towards the boat.

Cayman June 2007 006
Once we are all settled in, Gleason reminds us that we do not need to wear fins at Stingray City as it is a sand bar that is no more than 4 feet deep. We still take our mask and snorkel so we can see these amazing creatures as they swim all around us. Kerry accompanies us in the water so he can hold the stingrays allowing us to hold, pet, feed and take photos with the stingrays.

Cayman October 2007 005
He even has them trained to give back massages and it feels pretty amazing. The texture of stingrays is really indescribable until you do it.

While, this is the highlight of the day now, it didn’t always used to be that way. As little as 25 years ago, when we were snorkeling off the Sea Fire, Gleason would blow a horn warning us that a Stingray had been spotted and everyone should return to the boat immediately. Over the years, they have been tamed and now actually enjoy the attention and love to play with people, especially when you feed them a little squid. 

10:30: After several good photos with the stingrays, it is time to dive for conch shells. These large shells contain an animal inside them called conch. They are attached to their shell, but can be detached with a screwdriver. They are then marinated in a picka-pepper sauce for a nice pre-lunch appetizer with Saltine crackers. Conch are only permitted from November 1-April 30 as the Cayman Islands Department of Environment attempts to protect them from extinction.

10:45: Head to the beautiful snorkel reef where we see many colorful fish, nurse sharks, sea turtles, lobsters, and of course gorgeous coral. While we are out snorkeling, Gleason and Kerry are preparing an amazing lunch.

11:30: Head to the coral garden to eat lunch. Lunch is served here, including fresh mahi-mahi, rice, Cayman-style potato salad, banana plantain, and a nice slice of watermelon for desert. After eating the best meal of the week, it is time to break out a glass of wine.

 12:02: Time for the first jump from the 3rd level of the boat into the Caribbean Sea that waits about 15 feet below. It really is thrilling to jump into the Sea from the boat.

The coral gardens are another great snorkel opportunity to see several neat fish and even a moray eel.

1:00: It is time to open up the “O-Bar”, which is a term we have given the floating life ring (see video below). We spend the rest of the afternoon floating in the warm water, soaking in the sun, and sipping on our favorite drink. 

O-Bar Video


 2:30 (or whenever Gleason wakes up from his nap and tells us it’s time to go): Board the boat again and maybe make a few last jumps from the 3rd level. Then head to the seating area upstairs where we turn on some music and finish off the wine and rum.

 3:15: Arrive back at the dock at Safe Haven where Kirk is awaiting us. Say our good –byes. Take a few last minute photos. Load the van and head back to Treasure Island. Next stop? The Swim-up-bar for a rum punch or mudslide!!! The fun never ends in the Cayman Islands.

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All too fabulous! Do you think by the time I ever get there I may see some of these treasures you have shown here? The sea conch sounds like it may not last - hopefully I get to see them if not to taste them. Perfectly happy to just see! But most of all I want to experience a massage form a sting ray!
What I would really like to know is whether or not there are any moves by anyone to protect the sea coral from overuse of toxic chemical based sunscreens? Especially when there is a lot of swimming done - like on your trip?
We have developed a sunscreen that is free of toxic chemicals but is not yet waterproof enough for swimmers to use. When it is - very shortly - we hope to attract people enjoying these beautiful places but are not aware how much demand there is?

Thanks to your sharing. Good luck to you. Attention grabbing and handy post, thanks. Well done!

I live and work in the Cayman Islands, recently I had family visiting and I really wanted them to have a once in a lifetime experience to sting ray city. I sent them on the Sting Ray City Quest tour and they were so pleased with their experience they thought they got a real VIP tour. Made me so proud of my little island!! Thanks guys!

Here the link for the stingray city quest:

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