It did not take long for Mr Richard Branson's somewhat flippant remarks about being "attacked" at Stingray City in Grand Cayman to cause ripples of panic among those wishing to visit this world famous spot.
Reputable local operators are shaking their heads at this "news" article. This negative publicity will now only cause a wave of fear from prospective guests at a time when weather conditions over the last 6-8 weeks have forced an unprecedented number of cancelled tours, causing tremendous financial losses to an industry which is supposed to be at it's highest point for the year. But to start educating the public at large all over again about the gentle nature of these awesome stingrays is a re-hash of the times experienced after the unfortunate death of Steve Irwin some years ago.
Our very own Captain Mario decided to have his say, and here it is.
"Our information is that Richard Branson went out with Guy Harvey who is not a professional tour operator to the Stingray City Sandbar. Knowing that he carries out research on the stingrays, it can be assumed that their relationship with the stingrays is not a positive one based on respect, love and reward.
I have witnessed Guy Harvey's research team bait the stingrays in order to capture one with a net, wrestle it out of the water (which causes immense stress), drag it into a portable kiddies pool on-board and then cut a chunk of meat out of the wing. I would not enjoy this kind of handling, would you? This leads to a frantic "feed without being caught" scenario which is not necessarily a safe one.
The Southern Stingray (Dasyatis Americana) are a peaceful and non-confrontational animal. The local reputable professional tour operator will have known them for years, will recognize them and know them by name. Some of the girls are Frisby aka Barbara, Scar Face, Dark Vader, Droopy, Lilly, Snow Flake - and many more - each has it's own personality and characteristic. The good operators treat them with the love and respect they so deserve, and will also ensure that their guests do the same. We will report injuries or suspected illnesses to the Department of Environment and will come to their defence if we observe anyone treating them badly."
We urge visitors not to fall prey to what is a somewhat tongue in cheek account of being "attacked". We do urge visitors to choose a reputable tour operator who will guide you to having an incredible experience with these awesome creatures. We promise that they will change your life forever, in a good way.
And we promise you that you will never look at Mr Branson again without realising that he really is simply human, can perhaps rush to sensationalism, but most of all, is possibly not as clever as you are and should have chosen a better guide like you did!