CANCELLED TOURS ... and the season of disappointment

 Stingray City Sandbar in Grand Cayman

November ... the month that blows business away!

This is a tough month for Grand Cayman Stingray City tour operators - after the long and quiet season that stretches through September and October, we then need to contend with November/beginning December - the season of high winds which bring unsafe conditions in the North Sound.

We express our sincere thanks to those guests who have received the news of cancelled tours with understanding. We are a company that pride ourselves in putting safety before financial consideration, and would not dream of putting guests into a bad situation simply to make a much needed buck.

We understand how much you look forward to our tours and visiting the rays, and completely empathise with your disappointment. It is our hope that we will be fortunate enough to have another opportunity to host you in safer conditions!

Naturally, at these times there are thankfully a minority of guests who voice vitriolic abuse at the crew & office staff (as well as promises of bad Trip Advisor reviews), when losing business due to circumstances beyond our control can be very hard to swallow. And yes, we are aware of operators still touring in such conditions - it is a choice we completely disagree with.

We can only stoically wait out the bad weather whilst praying for better conditions and days when we can again safely and cheerfully have the privilege of sharing these beautiful Caribbean spots with our guests.

Wishing you all safe and happy travels!

Captains Log, weather, stingray city


Sunny with stormy clouds. Clear with tropical thunderstorms. Calm with choppy conditions.

Making sense? "Nah bo bo" as they would say locally.

But these are the tropics, and this is mid summer. The scariest question we face at this time of the year? "What will the weather be like today/tomorrow/next week?"

Usually we go through several tropical conditions through the duration of our tours in Grand Cayman, and the best Captain Mario can do is try to guage the optimal timing to visit the different sites included in our excursions. Most times he gets it right, sometimes not - and that is when our guests suddenly realise that one of the reasons we chose a boat with a comfortable inner cabin is so they can take cover from thunder showers.

Below is a photo taken on yesterday's tour showing beautiful caribbean sun highlighting the awesome colours of the sea, while threatening, dark, moody thunderstorms and downpours are clearly visible in the background. Makes for some awesome photography but certainly keeps the crew hopping!!

Ah well, all in a days work. Never boring, always interesting - and love every moment!

Kissing quickly before the rain hits us ... Stingray City in Grand Cayman

Captains Log, Starfish Point, weather


We live in the tropics. It is mid summer. And the weather is letting us know it ....

It can be hard to believe that weather can change so many times in such a short time, but our 3.5 hour tour yesterday experienced the full spectrum, from stunning caribbean sun to tropical storm and everything in between. The photos below give some idea of the difference whilst visiting Starfish Point .... for approximately 25 minutes!

Now you see the sun ...

Now you see the sun ... you don't you don't

Many times we are asked if the weather looks good - a difficult query to answer with certainty because of the above. We know that our guests want the very best possible conditions and wish we could guarantee this. We can't.

However, Captain Mario does have a pretty good gut feeling when it comes to the weather and very seldom gets caught by surprise (and is rather grumpy if it happens) becausehe genuinely wants the best for those on board.

So please bear in mind when booking, we will try our best to advise the best possible day for you, but Mother Nature always has tricks up her sleeve to keep us on our toes .....

Moody skies but awesome water clarity yesterday ... anchor line & Sea Stars at Starfish Point

Moody skies but awesome water clarity yesterday ... anchor line & Sea Stars at Starfish Point



We do not cancel tours for fun or on a whim. We are a family business and rely financially on every tour that goes out. We understand that when there is sun in the sky and Seven Mile Beach looks like a pool, guests might become angry and frustrated when we cancel tours due to unsafe weather conditions. We understand if you are on a once in a life time cruise vacation and just can't bear the thought of missing something as special as Stingray City.

But safety must come first.

When we posted this collage onto our Facebook page on March 6 at 9:30pm, little did we know about a missing sea vessel which was causing a swell of concern.

Below is the photo that we used to make a point - the photos on the left were taken at around 11:00am and the photos on the right at about 4:30pm - same tour, same stops, but completely different conditions.

Tropical weather - and how it can change within hours

Tropical weather - and how it can change within hours

These are the tropics, and weather can change from idyllic to quite the opposite within just a few hours.

Captain Mario remembers quite clearly a small fishing boat making its way across the North Sound during his morning tour. He remembers its shape which was a little different from the normal design. He remembers a guest asking why the boat was all blue. He remembers wondering where they were off to and hoping it was not far.

We are praying with all our might while our hearts grow colder with dread with each passing hour. We pray for the safe return of all 5 occupants, but mostly for the young children on board, going out on their first fishing trip. Come home. Come back. Come wipe away the frowns of worry, come wipe away the tears of fear. Come tell us it is not true.

Captains Log, Excursions, Snorkel, weather


As if Captain Mario did not have enough food for thought yesterday!

We have been watching, with some consternation, the stormy weather forecasted for the next few days - this wreaks havoc on tour schedules and leaves a lot of island guests unhappy about missing out on a visit to Stingray City. But there is no getting around 20-25 knot winds out in the North Sound and the unsafe conditions they produce. Frantic re-rescheduling becomes the order of the day and it is a horrible frustration not being able to assist everyone with alternative arrangements.

These tropical storms are very often preceded by an incredibly still and beautiful day - the "quiet before the storm" is no falsehood - it's as if Mother Nature holds her breath for a moment before letting loose and puffing with all her might. 

But just to add the "cherry to the top", Mother Nature decided to add a Queen Bee to the mix, and of all the places for her to find a spot, it would be our diver's flag while anchored at Coral Gardens yesterday! 

The calm before the storm - snorkelers enjoying the Coral Gardens in Grand Cayman while a tropical front starts moving in ......

The calm before the storm - snorkelers enjoying the Coral Gardens in Grand Cayman while a tropical front starts moving in ......

"First do no harm" is a mantra that we try to live by, and so the crew decided the most prudent course of action was to take a slow, very slow, trip back to dock. We hope that our human guests enjoyed the somewhat extended tour - the little colony was still in situ this morning so we must assume that they rather enjoyed the ride!

We have now had them moved to a safe spot and we hope they are happy. The irony of being less concerned about stingrays than of small flying insects was not lost on the tour group though, and we hope that they remember a truly unique tour for a long time to come!

Excursions, weather


 Things to do on vacation in Grand Cayman

The beautiful caribbean island - Grand Cayman - is world famous for it's Seven Mile Beach, soft coral sands and azure waters. The most famous beauty spot of all would, of course in our opinion, be Stingray City Sandbar where you can hold, feed and kiss stingrays in crystal clear waters that are just waist deep.

So, you can imagine the surprise at seeing this upon arrival at the sandbar on our recent tour!!

In our previous post, we displayed photos showing how green the waters were after the heavy rains. This is caused by the rains washing out the nutrients from the mangroves into the sound and causing an algae "bloom". It is certainly not dangerous to be in the water when this occurs, but it does make visibility difficult, and the the stingrays are not overly fond of it.

But on June 6th, Captain Mario witnessed something he had never seen before - dark brown waters creeping over the sandbar. The creep was noticeable even as he took photos of our visitors holding stingrays, with the background water changing from green to what everyone joked was "coca-cola" (should we have just added rum??)

Start of visit ...... end of visit .......

Start of visit ...... end of visit .......

This phenomenon was apparently caused by the very consistent downpour experienced over the last few days of the tropical depression, and the subsequent leeching of the mangrove pigmentation into the waters!

Our guests responded to this positively, being excited to have experienced this occurrence which happens very, very seldom. And truly, they will now be in possession of very unique photos of the stingray sandbar in Grand Cayman - pretty certain there are not many of them around! Have to say that we always seem to host the most awesome guests possible who just live for the moment and love the adventure!

A truly unique picture of visitors at Stingray City Sandbar in Grand Cayman - surrounded by "coca-cola" waters

A truly unique picture of visitors at Stingray City Sandbar in Grand Cayman - surrounded by "coca-cola" waters

Excursions, weather


There's nothing like a photo to tell a story, so here goes ......


 Grand Cayman attractions


 Things to do on vacation in Grand Cayman

The start of the Caribbean hurricane season has passed us - 1 June - and boy did the season start with a bang!

Before we could utter the words "hurricane preparedness", the first tropical depression was upon us, and it was big and moody and miserable and wet, wet, wet, with inches of rainfall coming down on this little island. Flooding occurred in the lower lying regions - well, with our highest point being just 60 feet above sea level, this allows for a lot of area to be flooded!

Many pre-booked guests contact us asking if we go ahead with tours if the skies are a little cloudy. The answer is always a resounding yes!! The island may be small, but you will be amazed at the disparity of the weather conditions over just a few miles. It can be cloudy and choppy along Seven Mile Beach, while the North Sound where the stingray sandbar is found, is gloriously sunny and smooth (and vice versa).

Rain doesn't stop us either, as the same conditions as described above can be prevalent. It is not uncommon for the office to contact Captain Mario to check that everyone is doing okay with the "sudden squall" only to be told that the excursion is enjoying magnificent conditions! Besides that, you ARE going on a sea tour and we figure that you are going to be getting wet anyways.....

But wind. Now that it our enemy. Some winds coming from certain directions actually make for awesomely beautiful conditions for our visits to the reef, Starfish Point and Stingray City. But then there are the ferocious winds that can make the sound worse than a witch's cauldron! And THAT is when we cancel tours. 

"Big John" our faithful boat can handle these conditions, but when you have six foot swells, horribly dubious visibility and high winds - all you need are some intrepid guests thrown into the fray to have a tour end not so happily.

We don't enjoy cancelling tours. Firstly, our crew actually love what they do and a day without the sea means very long faces in the office. Secondly, for a small family concern such as ours, it means a loss of much needed income. Cancelling tours is not done on a whim, or because we want a day off, or because we suddenly have something better to do. We cancel tours when it is not safe to continue with the excursion in the prevailing weather. Safety first. Always.