While planning our recent cruise, and upon realizing that Grand Cayman was one of the stops, I KNEW I had to swim with the stingrays. After much research and recommendations on this and other websites , I picked Captain Chip and Stingray Sailing for our December 19th excursion.
I couldn't have made a better decision this entire cruise.
Upon arrival at the port, it was very easy to find the sign for Stingray Sailing thanks to the great communication from Michelle at their office. Once we arrived, Chip introduced himself and explained the current situation. It was a windy day and all the companies that the cruise lines use had canceled their excursions for the day due to waves. He said he had been in communication with other captains that he knows and in his opinion, he didn't think it would be as bad everyone was saying and we could bow out at that point if we wanted to. There was no way I wasn't going to see this through and no one else in the group gave up at that point either.
After a nice drive to the yacht club, Capt. Chip went off to talk to a few others to get an update. At this point he came back and showed just why Stingray Sailing is a top-notch company. He gave everyone the option to head out and see how it is. If he deemed it too choppy and unsafe, we would turn around and come back. No charge.
If we made it out there and it was too much for any particular person and they stayed on the boat, no charge.
And away we went.
Chip took us to his fine vessel, the Far Tortuga and introduced us to his father who would be joining us today, the two of them with all of us totaled like 20 people. A beautiful boat, perfect for the ride ahead of us and flying under a pirate flag. It doesn't get any better than this.
The ride out was great, yes there were some waves but the Far Tortuga sliced through them like it was just another day. As we got closer to the sandbar, the rays started to swarm the boat. We were the only ones out here so apparently; they were a little excited to see breakfast arrive finally.
After dropping anchor, Captain Chip jumped in the water and checked it out. Floating on his back to check for currents and how the waves were. He brought a few of the more popular rays up to the stern of the boat for us to see then jumped on board to give us his professional opinion. The waves are a little rough, but nothing that someone who is a competent swimmer wouldn't be able to deal with.
That's all I needed to hear. I couldn't get my shirt and sunglasses off fast enough and then I jumped into the warm and shallow waters. Almost immediately, I found myself surrounded by these huge stingrays. Brushing up against your leg, coming up to your hands for food that Chip brought along. I couldn't have imagined it being any better than this.
At this point, my fiancé had jumped into the water and found the waves a little rough; she's 5'1" what can I say, but slugged it out for a few then got back into the boat. Now it was time for my 18-year-old daughter to jump in with me. I guided her over to the shallow area so that she could be around the rays and they were all over her. A few minuets and she was done so I helped her back to the boat and gave the fiancé a second chance. She was fine till 3 of the large ones surrounded her. That was it. She's done.
The whole time Captain Chip was explaining the names of some of the more friendly ones and some stories on how they got their names. At this point another boat had finally made it out PACKED with people.
We spent some more time with the rays and I ran the batteries in my underwater camera dead but got some amazing footage. We all got back on the Far Tortuga and headed back to port. The waves would just not allow for the snorkel stop, and I was perfectly ok with this. Free water and fruit were available for everyone with soda and beer available for purchase.
The ride back was filled with conversation among the people and the captain and his dad. How long they had been there. What each other does for a living, all while some guests were drinking a nice cold Cay beer (local beer, pretty good).
Upon getting back to the yacht club, Captain Chip once again said "This isn't the tour that we sold you so we are not going to charge you. If you had a good time, feel free to give us what you feel is good." A class act to be sure.
Having already paid for the whole tour ahead of time, and after having the time of my life. I was more than happy to just let them keep the total amount. It was an amazing experience that I will never forget.
If I'm ever back in Grand Cayman, you can bet I'll be sailing with Capt. Chip and the Far Tortuga again and I can't recommend him enough.
The girls can go shop or swim with dolphins or other girly things. ☺