Stingray City

Wildlife Watching in Grand Cayman

This stretch of shallow, sandy seafloor in the North Sound is a meeting place for southern stingrays. As soon as you enter the water a host of these prehistoric creatures will glide over in search of scraps, just as their ancestors have done from the 1930s, when fishermen cleaned their catch here. Boat tours have pretty standardized itineraries: feed squid, stroke, photograph.

Tours usually make one or two snorkel stops afterwards. Lots of operators, including Captain Marvin's Watersports, take clients here by boat and WaveRunner. Dive shops lead trips to a nearby, slightly deeper site (14ft), so divers are underwater while stroking and feeding the animals.

Before you book, though, you may want to read up on the ethical issues. Some wildlife activists say that the feedings have changed the behavior of the stingrays in undesirable ways. For example, stingrays are usually solitary creatures, but the tourist attraction brings them together, which can lead to disease transmission and aggression over food, resulting in injuries. In a large group they're also more vulnerable to predators, and the ecosystems in surrounding areas are thrown out of balance. Studies have shown that stingrays have become less healthy (they normally don't eat squid) and have developed oddball schedules (normally they're nocturnal).

Still, this is a rare opportunity to get up close and personal with a stingray. To avoid crowds, visit on a day when there are no cruise ships in port.