“This is the best day of my life”, screamed out one of the two brothers who were swimming in the mint hued water next to me.  The boys had just kissed a stingray, something that I never thought I actually would be typing out let alone experiencing for myself, but that was my welcome to one of the most unique places I’ve ever visited.

Perhaps one of the most talked about things to do in the Cayman Islands is a day trip to Stingray City, an offshore sandbar that is home to hundreds of friendly stingrays. As an animal lover and fan of any activity where I can see animals in their natural habitat, it is no surprise that this was at the top of my bucket list. 

After a twenty-five minute boat ride from Grand Cayman, we pulled up to a sand bar in what felt like the middle of the sea.  With the island’s clear water, even from the deck we could see the stingrays swimming around below. After a short presentation and friendly safety instructions from our guides, we were ready to get up close with the stingrays- the animal the whole trip was centered around. 

Geared up, with my GoPro in one hand and a snorkel mask in the other, I jumped off the boat and into the waist deep, crystal clear water. I turned on my camera just as two stingrays grazed my legs and swam by the boys.

Even though I knew stingrays to be pretty passive animals, I still jumped a little when the first stingray swam over to say hello. They seemed just as curious about all the snorkelers as we were of them. At first the two young boys squealed whenever a stingray came close to them, but even they relaxed once they touched one for the first time.

It was pretty incredible to watch the stingrays through the water and effortlessly glide through the water. Their wings were big and instead of zigzagging back and forth like fish, they looked like graceful birds flying underwater.

To attract the stingrays, we were given handfuls of squid, which we held under the water and waited for them to catch a whiff.  Almost instantly, the stingrays flew towards us, and began sucking against our fingers and palms to get at the treat, those stingrays wanted that squid like my dog wants his peanut butter.

Then it was time for the main event- the opportunity to hold, pet, and kiss a stingray.

Stingrays are silkier than you think, not slimy like the scales of some fish. After we slid our fingers over and under its body, the guide held the ray while I kissed the top of its head. The moment may be quick, but it causes an immediate burst of laughter from each person as they take their turn. Let me tell ya, that stingray had a lot of admirers, but I think it was just there for the squid reward when the kiss was over.

After an hour of feeding, photographing and filming the stingrays, we all boarded the boat again and headed out to snorkel for the rest of the afternoon. I filled two GoPro cards and shared them with my friends as fast as I could.

Getting kissed by a stingray was definitely one of the best, and maybe strangest, experiences of my life, a sentiment that I shared with the two brothers. Nothing quite compares to your first kiss (by a stingray).

Sponsored by Cayman Islands Tourism