I’ll just take the fish…thanks

“You have to go to Stingray City,” my sister said. “You have to go.”

She lived there for two years, she would know right? So when we arrived in Cayman Islands, Stingray City was at the top of our to-do list. We quickly signed up for a half-day snorkelling tour that would take us out to a sandbar just off Grand Cayman where the stingrays hang out. Historically this was a place where fisherman cleaned and gutted their fish, so a good feeding place for hungry stingrays. Now its a place where the tourists come to feed them.

I was looking forward to it.

Except…

Except I was envisaging stingrays perhaps a little bit bigger than your average serving plate. Small, manageable, cute even.

These stingrays were none of those things. As we approached the sandbar I saw these huge black shapes whizzing through the water. These things were the size of tabletops, and they were hungry. As the the boat slowed and dropped anchor, those stingrays continued to fly in from all directions. I became somewhat nervous.

Soon everyone was happily rushing into the water. Mums, dads, five-year-olds were all leaping in without a second thought. I was having that second thought.

Haven’t they heard of Steve Irwin?”

I forced myself into the water, begging A to stay close. As soon as I was in, the panic started in earnest and A found himself used as a human shield against the stingrays. I watched in horror as these things rushed up to people in search of food, and then slimed their way up people’s arms, chests and even the face of one small child.

Our guide began his spiel on how safe and how tame the stingrays were. I wasn’t listening. I was keeping me eyes peeled for the wayward ray that would surely leap out of the water and smother me at any given moment.

Suddenly the guide was gesturing to me. “You want to hold him?” he said, offering me the stingray he was practically cuddling.

Do I what? I don’t think so mate. Not on your bloody life do I want that thing flapping about in my arms.

Others went forward to hold the “tame” stingray. A began feeding some of the others, and I hovered in the middle of the sandbar yelping any time a stingray wafted in my direction. In the end I gave up, this was not fun. I climbed back on the boat and watched from a distance, secretly hoping that one ray would turn rogue and thereby justify my cowardice.

One girl came back on the boat briefly and saw me. “You get used to it,” she said sympathetically.

I narrowed my eyes at her. Personally, I don’t think having a 1.5m wide marine animal slime its way up my arms, neck and face is something I actually need to get used to.

When it comes to admiring marine life, from now on I’m just sticking to the fish.

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