Yes Ladies, sometimes we benefit when facing our fears. It's not always an easy thing to do. I can recall several times in my lifetime that I confronted the challenge & I was later glad I did. Despite all the hoopla, people getting injured or even killed by stingrays I still feel overall they are gentle creatures. Creatures that should be respected. This is the purpose of wanting to share with you my experiences. In 1997, just as I was turning the big 3o, My girlfriends & I decided we would take our first Caribbean cruise on Carnival's "Imagination," stops would include, Cozumel, Jamaica & Grand Cayman. And boy want a cruise it was! It was Donna, Shannon, Colleen & I, later to be deemed the "Chicago Party Girls!" I could get into a lengthy saga with that one.... but lets try & stick to the topic. The previous day one of the band members on the ship recommended us signing up for the Stingray Excursion in Grand Cayman. None of us had ever been to Grand Cayman so we took his advice & purchased our tickets in advance. They were somewhere in the vicinity of $30 bucks. No biggie, seemed like a great deal to us to be toted around on the ocean all morning. When the morning came, & boy did it come fast....even though the Chicago girls were up all of the previous night, doing "God knows What" & we woke up in a frenzy, we still somehow managed to make it to our shore excursion, we threw on our suits & ran down to the pier, the scent of the previous evenings multiple "Lemon Drop" shots excreting from our pores. We hopped on the tour boat. It was definitely headache city but who cared....just toss on the shades.....cuz we were out in the sun & fun again!
Mind you....No one had any idea where the day would take us! As the boat glided across the clear blue Caribbean sea the tour guide tosses us our snorkeling gear & instructs us to put it on. We oblige in a our not so enthusiastic manner. The boat starts to slow down, Shannon exclaims..."Look, Oh my God!" I look over to a parade of what must have been 100's of blurry creatures in the sea. A huge mass you could see right through the aqua water. Mind you none of us had ever been snorkeling prior to this lovely morning. "No, Way! No, Way! No Way!" I shouted, "I am not doing this! Are you people out of your minds?" I am not getting in that water!" Neither am I Boogie (Colleen) says!
The tour guide comes over "Is there a problem ladies" he asks. "You want us to get there, with that I reply?" "You will be fine, I do it every day! Just be sure to shuffle your feet when you walk & don't touch their tails or stingers. Trust me, you'll love it."
As the other passengers proceed to exit the boat....we are the last 3 standing. "Cmon, you guys" Shannon laughs. It can't be that bad or they would never bring us here. "You do what you want....I'll just sit here on this little boat & work on my tan!" I retorted. Colleen then asks "Anne if I do it, will you? We can hold hands. " Shannon says "Yeah, I won't let anything happen to you guys. You know that!"
I some how decide that I don't want to ruin the adventure. I'm not sure what made me get in that water. Most likely the leftover alcohol weighing on my brain from the previous wild evening. The tour guide helps us into the water & then the fun begins. "Shannon oh my God, It's coming by us, Oh my God!" I scream "Annie it's okay, it will be fine." she says. "Fine, my A_ _, I think back. Then a baby stingray glides right past touching my leg. "Oh my God" I say. "It just touched me, it feels like silk" Then the tour guide comes over, "Are you girls remembering to shuffle your feet?" he asks "You have to shuffle your feet, the rays like to bury themselves in the sand." "Yes," we reply. "Now here, just hold the food in your fist like this & the rays will just suck it into their mouths." "Shannon, I can't do this" I say. "Yes you can Annie. Just hold the food under the water the way the guy showed us." she replies So I take this slimy squid & I clench it in the fist of my hand. The stingray gracefully glides over my hand in the water & sucks it up. "Now that wasn't that bad" was it Shannon replies.
"That was pretty cool!" I thought. Here we all are standing on a sandbar in the middle of the ocean, in 3 feet of water. We are in the wild, this is the rays natural habitat. No fences, bays, pool, or trainers. This is the real thing & it's beautiful. Before you know it we were all feeding the rays. They would just come right up to you like puppies. You could almost feel how much they enjoyed the human contact. It was like they were talking to you. They weren't scary. They were sweet. I couldn't believe it. The little "PUPPIES DOGS OF THE OCEAN." They lapped it up...they loved us....even the big ones! We proceed to interact with them, the guide picking the stingrays up on several occasions. "This one is pregnant see" he says. "You can touch her, go ahead" he points to me. I stepped a little closer, look right into her eyes & pet her. "Wow, that is so cool!" I state. He picks a smaller one up, "Here you hold her," he says. I look at Shannon & Boogie they nod. So I cautiously slide my hands under her. I think to myself "Wow, you did it! Your holding a stingray! This is really something!" This is awesome! I will never forget that day....it goes down in my life's history as one of the best. I have had several instances with stingrays since that day. Mind you....as of that cruise I am now a Caribbean Goddess & hope to retire there someday. I definitely have a deep love for Stingrays. In all the times I have been around them they have been nothing but sweet creatures of the sea. I do use caution when they are near. I always remember to shuffle my feet. It may seem a bit odd but if I was out in the big blue expanse of the ocean....& happened to someday fall into the category of the few unlikely humans to have be killed by a stingray, I would think it all worth it....I truly would. If it's my time to Go, then it is....I can't thing of a more beautiful way to end the journey. I hope someday you & yours will have the opportunity to visit the magical "Stingray City" in Grand Cayman & get to know these gentle, loving PUPPIES OF THE SEA!