Saturday 15 August, 2020

Five reasons why we all need to get back out with the stingrays

Image credit: Krista Vaicaitis

Image credit: Krista Vaicaitis

According to a few recent changes in the COVID regulations, it looks like this Yardie is going to get to swim with the stingrays much sooner than planned!

I've already called out to mi bredren Paul at Northside Charters for a one-on-one visit with my silver pals. After all, with only the Cayman Islands Department of the Environment feeding them all these months, they must be yearning for some variety in humans.

Yardie in Cayman to the rescue!

Just for the sake of accuracy, let me stress that Stingray City is not fully reopened. Private vessels don't have access as yet, but commercial vessels with wildlife interaction zone (WIZ) licences for Stingray City and the Sandbar have access. Public gathering restrictions of up to ten people still hold in "the city" which is totally fine with me, because I don't like crowds anyway. 

Let's see what happens when the rules change again on August 2... 

But I digress... let me give you a few reasons why I can't wait to get back to these little (and not-so-little) guys that have somehow become synonymous with the Cayman Islands...

1. Globally, their numbers are decreasing

We are so lucky to have an actual site dedicated to this rapidly declining species worldwide. Due to overfishing, habitat loss, climate change and given that many are also hunted for their gill rakers for use in Chinese medicine, there are currently 539 species of ray under the IUCN Red List, with 107 classified as threatened.

2. Tour boat operators can make some cash

This is why it's an actual blessing that for the time being private vessels aren't allowed in Sting Ray City. Think of all the loss of tourism income that the private charters have experienced. This is a way for tour boat operators to make some income, and I'm all for that.

3. Although they are closely related to sharks, my stingray pals are incredibly friendly and domesticated

With all of this lockdown, social distancing and quarantining, I can really use some brotherly and sisterly vibes and what feels better than my little pals when they swish by and glide their silken bodies against my legs or back? For some reason, the hugest ones seem the friendliest to me. Did you know that the largest species of stingray measure 6.5 feet in length and can weigh up to 790 pounds? That's a whole lotta love!

4. I love to play hide and seek with them

Next time you head down to Stingray City, try to see how many you can find hiding in the sand. Their mottled skin, which ranges from a light sandy tone to a dark brown, gives them the perfect camouflage for chilling out and enjoying some reggae vibes on the seafloor. I totally get it... I like to be incognito in the dance as well- you get into less trouble.

5. I have to give thanks to my little friends for the amount of revenue that they bring to these islands

Did you know that for the first half of 2018, Stingray City was the most visited attraction by stayover visitors with 55.4 per cent of survey respondents reporting that they visited the attraction? Tens of thousands of visitors come to see my silver friends every year, generating millions of dollars for the Cayman Islands! These guys are our marketing department people!

So take my advice and hop on one of our many private charters and go visit these guys-- I promise you won't regret it!

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