Grand Cayman's Stingray City is a can't-miss destination for a family dive outing After deciding to take a family dive vacation, we started looking for a good place to go with our two sons, Slater, 12, and Brogan, 8. Both boys have been snorkeling since they were preschoolers, and they've traveled and snorkeled in many different places, so the options available to us ranged widely. We researched a variety of destinations, but the deal was clinched when we found an article on Stingray City, since Brogan immediately decided that he, too, wanted to pet a real live stingray for himself. As is usual in the balmy Cayman Islands, the sun was out and white cumulus clouds scudded across the sky as we boarded the dive boat for Stingray City. Brogan bounced up and down with the waves, excitedly clutching a recently purchased book on stingrays. He already had his dive skin on, ready to go. After arriving at the dive site, we got our briefing. We were told that each diver would be given a bucket of squid, and that you fed the stingrays as you would a horse, palm flat. The stingray would suck up the squid, like a vacuum cleaner. We made the decision to split our group, with my husband, Joe, making a dive on scuba and feeding the stingrays while the kids and I snorkeled above. The Southern stingrays were swirling above the shallow, white-sand bottom before we even entered the water. Slater was first in the water, and the rays immediately swarmed him. After tentatively touching one, he called up that they were ''cool.'' When we got in the water, several of the rays swam over to us. Brogan instantly decided that squealing into his snorkel would produce an irresistible stingray siren call; he pretty much kept it up the whole dive. Joe parked himself on the bottom and fed bits of squid to the hordes of stingrays that descended upon him. They would make a feint, hover while eating the squid and then slowly circle around our group before descending again for another bite. Several of the rays were quite large, with wingspans of perhaps four feet or more. As they swooped past us, we were able to touch their soft, velvety bellies and the tops of their bodies, which were rougher. The boys had brought disposable underwater cameras, and Slater worked on getting himself into position for some good shots. Brogan was more interested in chasing after the rays, continuing his stingray squeal from the depths of his snorkel. The rays didn't really seem to notice. Finally, the squid bucket was empty, and Joe started to ascend. The rays swam around for a few moments and then headed over to another boat in the hopes of finding more fertile hunting grounds. Brogan started to swim after his newfound friends, but we managed to grab one of his fins before he could get too far. Back on the boat, he grabbed the book and showed me the various parts of the stingrays and what they were called. Looking over to where Joe stood, peeling off his fins, Brogan said, ''Hey Dad - wanna hear my stingray call?'' For more information about visiting the Cayman Islands and diving Stingray City, click on the home page below.
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