While the turtle may be a big part of Cayman Island culture, a different water creature is the highlight of the Cayman Islands’ single most well-known attraction: Stingray City. Located in the shallow waters of the northwest corner of Grand Cayman’s North Sound, Stingray City is a naturally occurring seaquarium set just inside a channel that passes through the island’s surrounding barrier reef.
As many as two dozen stingrays gather in the calm, clear waters that are rarely more than four feet deep. Snorkelers and nonswimmers alike can touch and hand-feed gentle Atlantic Southern stingrays, which local guides have given punchy names like Martha Ray, Ray Charles, and Sugar Ray.
The North Sound is also the most celebrated of the island’s many snorkel and dive sites. The shallow 35-square-mile reef-protected lagoon provides some of the best underwater conditions in the world. Due to the porous nature of limestone, the island has no natural rivers or streams draining into the sea. The surrounding waters are especially lucid, making it easy to spot tarpon, glittery silversides, French angelfish, and other swirling schools of fish.
Grand Cayman is recognized as the birthplace of recreational diving in the Caribbean. It’s one of the world’s top dive destinations, with about 250 sites that range from shore dives and wreck dives to steep, deep walls adorned with coral and sponges and visited by vivid marine line. Popular sites include the underwater paradise of Cheeseburger Reef and the ghostly shipwrecks of the Cali and the Balboa.
Noncertified divers can still experience the wonder below the surface by power snorkeling, Snuba diving, or Sea Trek helmet diving. For a dry view of the water world, descend to depths of 100 feet in the Atlantis submarine, or sit five feet below the surface in the glassed-in viewing chamber of the Seaworld Observatory.
Visit Cayman Turtle Centre, home to more than 11,000 green sea turtles. Swim with yearlings in the lagoon. Enjoy lunch at Schooners Bar and Grill, then continue to the town of Hell to see a unique rock formation said to be over 2 million years old.
Board the Atlantis submarine for a 40-minute underwater voyage where you’ll be enveloped in a rainbow of tropical fish at a depth of 100 feet. It’s a photo op like no other.
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