Grand Cayman islands

 

 Three islands make up the. Cayman group, islands of dense mangroves      and lagoons, powdery beaches set in the Caribbean's aquamarine waters.  The steep coral and lime- stone walls of the outer reefs offer grand diving, but the big attraction is inside the barrier reef of Grand Cayman, the opportunity to get close to southern stingrays.

The experience of wading, swimming, snorkeling, or diving with these huge rays is thrilling. They grow to 4 or ? feet (1.2 or 1.5 m) wide, and have long, whip-like tails, complete with dagger-like stinging spines. They usually spend their days buried in the sand, but Cayman stingrays have overcome their characteristic shyness. They were originally attracted by scraps from cleaned fish, because fishers and tourists used to clean their catch in the area. People began to feed them regularly, as they came to expect the visits. They are now quite gentle and tame, and seek out interactions with humans, who learn to enjoy the company of these fantastic creatures. Take a deep breath and stretch out on the sandy bottom to watch a ray fly gracefully overhead, its wings and gill slits moving slowly, its extraordinary mouth and nostrils like something from an unknown world. Or simply watch giggling children frolic with rays as wide across as the children are tall. Cayman stingrays like to be fed, and have developed the manners of a starved dinner guest. If you don't have a squid or ballyhoo ready, the ray will move on after giving you a firm nudge. There are two popular sites for "dancing" with rays. The most famous is the original Stingray City, on the west side of the Main Channel, close to Barker's Cay. This site is actually a wide, shallow, sandy channel spotted with coral heads. Visibility is usually excellent over the bright white sand. Tidal currents can cloud the water, but the rays come so close you can't miss them. Water depth varies from 6 to 8 feet (1.8 to 2.4 m). Take a boat to Stingray City, then simply drop off into the water and wade around in sneakers, with mask and snorkel. Another good site, known as Sandbar, lies at the entrance to Rum Point Channel. The water I is shallower here, never reaching more than chest high, and the sea floor is flat and sandy. The conditions are usually ideal. The main challenge for the photographer is the popularity of the sites. You will have to vie for a prime position with many others. The best way of ensuring that you get clear views and good photos of the stingrays is to stay on the fringe and out of the crowd. The rays will check you out and leave if you offer nothing. By keeping your distance, you will get shots of these friendly rays, with and without people.

EQUIPMENT

You need only a pair of sneakers I and a mask to see these southern stingrays. You can also snorkel or dive with them, and well- equipped dive shops rent and sell all kinds of snorkeling and scuba gear.

Special Features

Not to be missed is diving the Cayman Walls, a system of cliffs, slopes, canyons, and valleys en-circling the islands. These are encrusted with massive elkhorn coral, bushy black coral, giant sponges, and delicate of soft coral, and are home to a vast members of fish.

If you know of a destination which offers a great opportunity to dive with Sharks, or you have a story to share with us about diving in any of the places described in this page, please post your message in our Destination Message Board.

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