Doing the Stingray Shuffle*

I’m going to start processing my summer trips in bits and pieces.  I can’t believe I’ve been back from VONA for a month and still haven’t said more than five words about it!  But first up is Stingray City, Grand Cayman.

Stingray City is a big draw for Grand Cayman.  It’s a little irresistable: crystal clear water that’s only about hip deep over soft white sand … and dozens of “tame” stingrays swimming around and posing for photos.  Yeah, right.  No, but that is right.  That’s how this is billed: tame stingrays!  Can there be such a thing?  I’m thinking … not so much.  I had pretty much decided not to get in the water and just take pictures from the boat.  Because — let’s be honest — how was I not going to be thinking about Steve Irwin the whole time?

It was explained to us over and over again how we needed to walk once we got to the sand bar: shuffle your feet across the sand because the stingrays will be all over the place and you don’t want to step on one (and — the tacit warning — piss him off and inspire him to sting you).  Everyone called it “The Stingray Shuffle.”  We kept practicing it: shuffling across the hotel lobby, shuffling as we waited for lunch to arrive, shuffling in the pool.  We practiced, but we also laughed it off … or at least I did, because I knew I wasn’t going in that water, wasn’t going to be near a single stingray.  Sure, I’ll shuffle.  I’ll stand on the boat shuffling while all the crazy people get in the water!

But then we were on the boat, and I started thinking I didn’t want to miss the fun.  And then we stopped and did some snorkeling, and I was able to push past my claustrophobia and put on the mask and got to see all kinds of cool stuff.  And, as we left the snorkeling spot, I thought, How could I not get in the water?  I was feeling all brave, so of course I’d get in the water.

I had a moment’s hesitation, a moment of backing away from my glittery new resolve.  As we approached the sand bar, all we could hear was screaming.  Lots of screaming.  Our captain, Denver, laughed and told us we were hearing the language of Stingray City.  And I started thinking I’d just watch all the fun from the (safe, totally not at all in the water) deck.

But then all the kids were getting in, and I had my pride to think of, so …

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Fun or what?  Not all of these photos were taken by me.  A bunch were taken with my camera by one of the other escorts, and some were taken by “Froggy,” the professional photographer who came along on our trip (the posed, hold-a-stingray, kiss-a-stingray shots and the excellent underwater shots).  And look at the kids.  Aren’t they so cute?  Yes, there was drama on this trip, but look at how funny and adorable the kids we traveled with are.

The only really un-funny and not-at-all-adorable thing about being at Stingray City with really small kids?  Their inability to remember the rules of conduct in the water.  One kept smacking the stingrays every time they swam near her, but really smacking them, and smacking them while she was glued to my side.  I was sure an annoyed stingray would turn and see only me, mistaking me for the evil smacker and let me have what for.  Happily, on that day, the stingrays seemed to accept the rough handling.  Maybe, like family pets that suffer through the aggressive pounding that babies dole out instead of affectionate petting, they understood that Caty was a child and didn’t know better?

So I did the shuffle and survived.  I didn’t speak the language of Stingray City, which makes me proud.  There were a couple of close encounters that almost called forth a scream or two, but I held it together.  When the stingray spit in my face, I was less than thrilled, but still no scream.  All in all, an excellent adventure!


* Hey, it beats doing “the obituary mambo” any day!


4 thoughts on “Doing the Stingray Shuffle*

  1. elliottzetta

    that looks INCREDIBLE! something those kids (and you) will never forget…I wish more of our kids saw more of the world.


    1. It was so much fun (and totally scary, too!). I hear you about the traveling. I always think about this, too. And on the trip, I kept thinking how lucky the kids were to have been given that opportunity.


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