On Friday we were up at 8:30, had a quick breakfast and headed back over to Rum Point for our trip out to Stingray City at 11:00. Our captain was Jimmy Ebanks... a real character and one bitchin dude! We just loved him! He's very knowledgeable about everything Cayman and he told us all about the wild Southern Stingrays we were about to become friends with. He took us and about 20 other people about 1 mile out to a sandbar inside the reef where the water is waist deep.
We could see the rays swimming around and under the glass bottom boat while we listened to Capt. Jimmy's instructions, and then it was everyone into the water! What a completely awesome experience! This is the one part of the trip that will always remain with me. The history is that fishermen used to bring their catches to that sandbar to clean the fish and throw the parts they didn't want overboard, so the rays got real used to people feeding them. Then about 14 years ago they started these tours out to the sandbar and the stingrays know they will get fed there so they swarm around the boats when they show up. I'd guess there were about 40 - 50 rays that swam around us and brushed up against us and played with us. These are wild stingrays out in the ocean... not captive in a tank or anything. We could take small chunks of raw squid and hand-feed them. It feels like a super strong vacuum as they suck the squid out of your hand. At one point I felt little teeth.. like a comb.. not sharp, and it wasn't the least bit scary... EVER!! If you held your hands out properly, the rays would swim up into your hands and you could lift them up and kiss them on their underside near or on their mouth!! I wasn't able to accomplish this task, but it's not that I didn't try! The female rays are very big and their top sides are rough, somewhat like dull sandpaper. You are not supposed to touch the exposed backbones that run down their back and tails. Their undersides are smooth as silk as they brush up against your legs. The males are much smaller and their top side always remains smooth. It was a phenomenal experience, and if I ever go back to Grand Cayman, I will go out to Stingray City every single day! The name "Stingray City" sounded so funky and commercial, but the experience is just cosmic!
ME HAVING A COSMIC EXPERIENCE 8)
CAPTAIN JIMMY SHOWING SUSAN HOW TO KISS A STINGRAY
SUSAN HOLDING THE RAY (This one is small because it's a male)
After 15 or 20 minutes at Stingray City we moved about 1/4 mile away to an area called Coral Gardens. The water is about 20 ft. deep there so it was kind of hard to get fish pictures, but I didn't do too bad. Capt. Jimmy took a plastic bottle with the side cut out & with food in it, and with a long PVC pole, he gently coaxed a moray eel to come out of his hole under a rock. Big friggin' eel! Not scary and totally cool.
CAPT. JIMMY KNOCKING ON THE EEL'S FRONT DOOR
SEE THE EEL COMING UP FOR FOOD? HE'S ON THE LOWER LEFT
The eel came up and up to where everyone was and we all sort of grouped around Jimmy and the eel in a circle and the eel went completely inside the bottle and got the food and then came out again. Just as I took a great picture, some girl put her hand out to touch him and it got in my picture, but it's kind of ok, because it shows how gentle and non-threatening the eel was and I like the reflection of the water on her arm.
IF YOU LOOK REAL HARD, YOU CAN SEE HIS BEADY EYE!
We were at Coral Gardens for about 20 minutes and then it was everyone back on the boat and orange slices for all! Back we went to Rum Point, spotting 5 turtles along the way. Capt. Jimmy makes horns out of conch shells and uses them to call everyone back to the boat - they make a very loud sound, a lot like an air horn, and you certainly don't miss the signal! He also sells them. I bought one and he hand-signed it for me. That is one great souvenir! (I'm such the tourist!)
LEFT TO RIGHT: Sharon, Me, Sandy, Susan
CAPTAIN JIMMY SIGNING MY CONCH HORN
When we returned to shore, we stayed at Rum Point & got a hamburger and a nice rum drink and laid out in the sun for a while. As long as it was still relatively early in the day, we went back to the condo, got cleaned up and decided to try to make it to the Queen Elizabeth Botanical Garden. Unfortunately, by the time we got there, it was closed for the day, so we continued on to George Town to see what that was like. BIG MISTAKE! HUGE! It was 5:00 on Friday when we got there and traffic was gridlocked!! I didn't much like George Town... it's a city with high rise office buildings and not many places to park and winding streets that can get you lost and turned around if you attempt to "go around the block." The stores were all closed, so we continued on toward Seven Mile Beach. Now the following is just my experience... maybe you've been there and have a different impression. On arriving at Seven Mile Beach it was just one huge resort hotel after another, all smashed right up next to each other on the beach side of the road. There was no way you could see the beach or water from the road because of this line of big mega buildings, and the water was right there! As I said, it was after 5:00 now and things were closed down and we really didn't know where we were going in the dark. We didn't find any restaurants (although I know there are tons there) and we didn't shop (but there are plenty of shops, I'm sure). I was the designated driver the entire trip, and Sharon and Susan were the naviguessers (I love that word!). Traffic was so bad and the drivers are so insane that it took all my attention just to drive while the other ladies tried to read the map... what a joke! We were like the 3 Stooges on vacation! We ended up at Boatswain's Beach just as the sun was setting and we pulled into a big empty parking lot next to the Turtle Farm. I got some nice sunset shots, but because it was getting dark we didn't continue on to Hell.
We decided to head back to Rum Point while I could still make out the street signs. We took a route that I guessed would skirt George Town and we did great at getting back. I had brought my 10% off coupon for Blackbeard's Liquor and we stopped there on the way back (there's one next to Hurley's market) and bought myself a bottle of rum that someone on this forum recommended to me. It's named after a famous pirate! You can find out more here (heh,heh!) :twisted: :shock: :lol: http://www.bigblackdickrum.com/Rum.html It was priced at $21.99 CI, which translates to nearly $28.00 US. I was glad to have that coupon! Back at the condo, we stuck a frozen pizza in the oven and made a salad and we were all in bed by 10:00, vowing to hit the Botanical Garden again the next day.
I'll take a break here and try to get Part 3 online tomorrow. Have a great weekend everyone!