First excursion day was Grand Cayman! We had an awesome tour guide with a very thick island accent and rasta dreds. We loaded onto a van then boarded a boat. After a 30 minute boat ride out into the ocean we stopped at a natural sandbar known as Stingray City. As the story goes, about 30 yrs ago, the fishing boats would congregate in this area to clean the fish from the day's catch. The stingrays would come around to eat the scraps and over time became friendly. They're now very friendly and come around when they hear the boats. They are fantastic creatures! Their hide (or whatever its called) is very smooth to the touch but their barbed tails are scratchy like sandpaper and pretty uncomfortable when they run across your legs.
G loved them! She petted them and kissed them. It was weird that they'd just kind of slide against your legs as they swam by waiting for food. Feeding them was also a bit of an experience. You had to carefully hold the fish with your thumb tucked into your fist. The ray would come up to you and then suck the fish into its mouth very quickly as if being picked up by a very strong vaccuum hose. It was startling to say the least and I screamed the first time which the guides all thought was hysterical.
We did a tour independent of the cruise line with only about 10 people on our trip. We were fortunate to spend the first few minutes by ourselves but then too quickly were joined by two double decker cruise ship excursion boats carrying literally hundreds of people which was kind of a bummer as the rays all got a little freaked out by the frenzy.
Brett and Casey on the boat ride out to the sandbar. I think they look so handsome here :-)
This was actually one of the smaller rays. The big ones were about 4 feet in diameter!
Georgie loved them! Doesn't the background in this photo look fake? The water is shallow here (only went to about our waists and so very clear. The dark water you see in the background meeting the sky is dark blue because its deeper. It was incredibly beautiful.
Just hanging out, holding a stingray.
Trying to hold a wild ocean animal is not that easy. The guides would catch them and try to hand them off to us. The rays didn't seem to mind.
The Crowells at Stingray City. You can see the cruise ship boat in the background with the people packed in like sardines and a ray coming up from the right to have a little visit.
I think this stingray is the one they've named Frisbee because he has no tail. The guide tried to tell me but I couldn't understand whether he was born without the tail or had somehow lost it. Anyway, I think its funny that the same rays often enough that they're able to give some of them names. In the background is a different tour group done on seadoos. I'd love to do that someday when G is older!
Next stop was a snorkling spot. It was a horrible day for snorkling due to the cloud cover and the rough seas. We only spent about 20 mins here before giving up. This is Brett being silly.
G on her snorkling raft. It was really cool because it had a clear plastic part she could look down through to see the fish. If the sun would have been out and the water more calm it would have been great. As it was she was able to see quite a bit anyway.Casey showing off under water
The second part of the morning was a trip to Hell which is a city?? or perhaps an area?? of the island so named for the odd cooled lava beds (I think) that make it look barren and creepy. Mostly its a gift shop/tourist place. You can see a bit of the lava in the very right of this photo above the devil statues head I think. They really play up the devil theme here. This is a cardboard cutout of the guy who I think owns the gift shop there as I saw him walking around inside. We mailed some postcards from here but as of this writing they have not arrived. I'm not sure how long it should take for a postcard to get to the US from the Caymans. I guess we'll see.
Next stop the Turtle Farm where green sea turtles are raised. As usual G was enthralled by the animals. There were some huge ones there --think 3 feet in diameter-- but they let you hold some of the smaller ones.
G giving one a kiss. She always wants to kiss the animals she just loves them so much.
Brett with a turtle. Most of them didn't mind being held but when they were done they'd let you know by slapping the heck out of your arms by flapping their front legs up and down very quickly. It definitely got their point across and they'd be put down almost immediately.
This is Casey getting slapped silly by the turtle!
G enjoyed holding the turtles. This one was quite happy in her lap for a minute or so.
Brett's favorite show is No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. I think he wants to be Bourdain when he grows up! What this means is that Brett wants to try eating all kinds of weird stuff. The national food of the Caymans is turtle, apparantly, so Brett wanted to give that try. As is turns out, turtle is served there in the snack shop at the farm so Brett got some turtle soup. I tried it, it wasn't so bad I guess. They also had turtle burgers which I would have been up to trying out but we ran out of time.
Next stop: Cozumel