This year is shooting by, and nothing illustrates it more to us than checking on when we last posted news to our blog!
We seem to have gotten over the horribly moody weather experienced since November / December last year (and all the way to the first half of this month!), although having said that, we are warily eyeing some conditions towards the end of this coming week. But it has been exciting for our crew to have our island visitors enjoy some calm conditions and stunning Caribbean colours!
The last four weeks have been very busy for the island, with an enormous pressure to try and accommodate guests wanting to visit the stingrays and do some amazing snorkelling at the reef. Of all the times for Captain Mario to get sick, this was not the best! He landed up in hospital having an operation to drain a cyst in his hand, and was most definitely not a happy chappy. Even his little girl pushing buttons and moving his bed in 16 different directions did't get the full smile going. He was released early this morning and was down at the cruise terminal by 8:00am back in full swing and ready to go! Thank you to the doctors and nurses at the George Town Hospital who were responsible for his amazing treatment!
There was great excitement when one of snorkel guests found a new Moray Eel during a visit to the coral reef. The other two, Elvis and Physcho (aka Brutus & Beverly), are well known to us, but a new younger one has now joined the crowd! As soon as Captain Mario found this out, like a flash he was in the water and got a gorgeous photo of her!
More fun and delightful news was hearing back from a couple that had sailed with us in December. The lady had suffered severe motion sickness, but Captain Mario told her he suspected that it was more than just that ..... so it was awesome when they contacted us to say he had been right, she had made it safely through the her first trimester of pregnancy and they are expecting a boy! Wonder if they will call it Mario??
We also had a very special tour with the Purkey family. Their family first toured with us a couple of years back, and it was devastating to hear that shortly after they returned from holiday, their oldest son tragically passed away. We went out in search of a stingray to be his name sake, and it took us quite a while to get a "feeling" for the right one. But upon discussing the characteristics with the family, we knew we had found right stingray, and it was named "Trinton". The family made a return cruise, but oh how cruel was it that the day they anchored in Grand Cayman, the weather was beyond safe and we could not take them out to see him. That day left a whole in our hearts. So it was with mixed feelings that we accepted another booking from them for a week back, hoping like crazy that the weather would be kind, that Trinton would turn up for a visit, and that we could all share a very special moment. We won't go into it too much, but let's say that the crew were more than touched to see Trinton come visit and say hi to the family. We would not have traded that moment for anything in the world. We will look after him for you Purkey family!
On a less happy note, it is with great sadness that Captain Mario still reports bad treatment of our beautiful stingrays by some operators. He witnessed one picking up a stingray right out of the water and holding it over the heads of some guests for a photo - this is something we find appalling. Captain Mario was in the process of upping anchor and leaving the sandbar so was able neither to chastise the operator, nor even take a photo as proof, but it breaks our hearts that this kind of abuse continues. It is simply so wrong. He also reported finding a dead starfish at Starfish Point .... yes, anything could have caused this, but too many times we witness operators and visitors taking the starfish right out of the water! We always stress the importance of respecting our beautiful creatures to all our visitors, and we wish all operators did the same. Let's hope we can continue to educate everyone and change their attitudes and actions.
Captain Mario has reported some pretty amazing snorkelling moments of late, not least the finding of the new comer eel! Excitement has also been generated by the the large Barracudas that have been spotted, one over 5 feet! Our excursions guests have enjoyed seeing a congregation of Bermuda Chub (Captain Mario estimates there must have been over 100 of them!), a congregation of Stoplight Parrot Fish - pretty awesome and a huge Spotted Trunk fish enjoying body polish at a "cleaning station". But his favourite moment of all was spotting a Tiger Grouper - oh, he did not stop babbling about the sighting for a while!
We have included some of the photos from the last few beautiful tours, and we hope that you enjoy them. Come visit soon!
It has been some time since we posted news - we can't believe that the year has already hit the 3rd month! We also cannot believe how much wind we are still experiencing and since we last spoke, there have been days of triumphant tours interspersed by days of cancelled excursions (and the accompanying disappointment and grey moods)!
Cancelled tours means that we, as a family, have some time to spend together and be social - a rare and precious gift during high season, and we have greatly enjoyed the Cay Dance Festival as well as the Red Sky at Night Festival. Cayman Brac celebrated their Agricultural fair the weekend just past, and on Friday 27th, a superb fund raising evening was held at the cruise terminal to raise money to rehabilitate the enormous area of coral destroyed by the Carnival Magic's anchor. Some $27,000.00 dollars was raised during the evening, and the island has today been excited to hear that Carnival has donated $100,000.00 towards the recovery efforts which have so far been carried out by volunteers and local dive companies for free. If you would like to follow more news on the recovery efforts, the Facebook page is Cayman Magic Reef Recovery.
Monday saw Captain Mario standing on the stingray sandbar with the water reaching just up to his calves - a sure sign of turbulent weather to come. We were proven correct, with yesterday's tour being a tough one with choppy weather. The cruise ships arrived late, and this factor on top of high swells mean that we had miss Starfish Point - always disappointing for our guests. But they were awesome and soldiered on and got their fair share of kisses from the willing "girls" at Stingray City.
But we have been constantly delighted to see "Barbara" at the snorkel sites when we have managed to get out there, and she is always wearing her Mona Lisa smile. We hope that she has brought wonderful memories to our island visitors, and hope to share her with many more!
Today brought truly miserable conditions to Grand Cayman, and as has happened so often recently, we have had to cancel tours and some cruise boats have had to miss our little island.
This was also true for the tall ship "Star Flyer", a very modern cruise ship for the luxury loving cruise passenger. This ship is 115 metres long and can carry up to 170 visitors onboard. More than likely off to visit Cuba, she was facing nasty weather in the Western Caribbean this week. Grand Cayman was experiencing high winds over 25 knots on this day, which meant that the ship kept her anchor safely tucked away and carried on her journey.
Even so far away and with us onshore at the North West Point, the jostling that the sea was giving her could be seen and our hearts went out not only to the guests, but to the crew who were going to be tested for sure!
Let's hope we can welcome her in better climates on her next trip!
Clearly, as can be seen in the photo above, even the stingrays were smiling to see things getting a little back to normal after the last few days.........
Tour Time : 8:30am
Guests from : Disney Wonder Cruise, Marriott Beach Resort Grand Cayman, Sunshine Suites Hotel, residents
Star Stingray : Snowflake
No Shows : 0
Enough already! We have been forced to cancel tours since Thursday, so it was with a sigh of relief that we managed to get out again today. We have had to console so many disappointed island visitors who were looking forward to meeting the stingrays .......
Barbara, the stingray favoured by Captain Mario, was all of the guests. Captain Mario said that at one point she seemed even to be hugging his head she was so happy to see him! Below are some photos of the stingrays who came to visit us at the snorkelling site at Coral Gardens.
Captain Mario also reported great jollity from all the other operators who were also just SO happy to be out again, and of course, the guests who had been worried they miss this awesome adventure completely were quite giddy with excitement. Very good spirits all round .....
The crew spirit has gone through extremes this week .... one day absolutely elated at the conditions and dizzy with excitement at sharing it with our guests, the next day grey, grey moods to match the skies! We have had awesome sun-filled days accompanied by breezes as slow as 2 knots, only to be bullied into cancelling tours the next day by tropical squalls and howlers of up to 25 knots! Bleh!!
Thankfully, we did manage to keep our dates with a private charter on the 15th, as well as standard tours on the 17th and 18th. The cruise ships were happy to come in and off load their visitors at the beginning of the week, but kept their anchors tucked away and avoided our little island like the plague on the 19th and the 20th. Who knows what tomorrow will hold?
But as we said above, the good days were gooooooood and the bad days were very, very bad. Here, we share some of the good stuff!
The 15th saw us hosting a family for a private excursion. They had chosen to Starfish Point, Rum Point, Stingray City and Booby Cay as the attractions they wanted to visit. It was a beautiful day for these choices, with brilliant colours and skies dotted with clouds. The water was slightly choppy but beautifully clear. The tour was a full 5 hours (it never seems long enough!) and the crew truly enjoyed hosting this fun group very much.
Monday saw the boat receiving some scheduled maintenance - it was a nice day and if we could have postponed this to another day we would have. However, Tuesday and Wednesday still saw incredibly beautiful days and it was a pleasure to show Grand Cayman off to her visitors. Brilliant sunsets have been the cherry on the top for our excursions this week, and the blues, purples and golds of these moments left everyone pretty much in awe of Mother Nature, once again.
Wednesday was especially interesting and pretty. The morning excursions faced showers at Starfish Point and half way through the stop at Stingray City, but otherwise enjoyed sun. However, while the island was completely flooded with buckets of rain, it was a tough task to convince island visitors that the North Sound was not experiencing the same conditions and that the afternoon trip was going to be stunning. Some trusted us and came, some did not ...... and what a shame they didn't!
The above photo of the Reef shows you what we saw ...... mirror-like surfaces and brilliant displays of colours by the coral formations. The fish were also incredibly social and we were visited by young stingrays, Bermuda Chubs, Trumpet Fish, Needlefish, Parrot Fish, Butterfly Fish and so many more! Captain Mario had gone in search of the Moray Eel, and had found her tucked away under a piece of boat wreck - usually a sign that she wants to be left alone which he respected. However, just a few minutes later, she was playing hide and seek - popping out and going back in, and then made her way over to her "social den" where she stays when feeling sociable. Much to the delight of everyone, hide and seek was resumed and she entertained all those watching by peek-a-booing and then swimming out and back in to her hide-hole a number of times. What an experience!
During our tour, we had bypassed Stingray City Sandbar in order to avoid the crowd - a lot of boats were there! Eventually, we knew we had to move in .... and luckily the majority of the others moved out .... perfect timing by Captain Mario again! The water at the sandbar was only 2 feet deep and crystal clear. Stingray whisperer 1st Mate Dwayne set off to go and find one of his "girls", and came back to the group whispering sweet nothings to Snowflake who wilted in everybody's arms - she was so relaxed and laid back and just took in all the love whilst handing out kisses to whoever wanted them!
As we said at the beginning, the good was gooooooood and the bad was very bad. Let's hope we get some more of the good stuff in the next coming week ..........
Yup. Chief Warden of a US prison on board with us today, so crew behaviour was exemplary - well, when he wasn't looking!
Tour Time : 9:30am (standard tour) & 2:15pm (private tour)
Guests from : NCL Epic cruise ship, Navigator of the Seas Cruises and resident
Star Stingray : Snowflake
No Shows : 7 - OUCH!!
Today started off with a bang - 7 cruise ships in port today which mean it was madness downtown! Captain Mario found all of our guests except for one booking of 7 guests - it hurts us big time when we have this many no-shows!
But what a beautiful morning - the caribbean sun was gorgeous, the wind low and fresh, and very few clouds in the sky. You can see from the photo below that oceans were reflecting magnificent blues!
Captain Mario got quite poetic about the morning tour, and said there were so many sea stars spread out across the sands that it was like seeing the stars during daytime! He does not often get poetic, so it must have been pretty awesome!
Rasta was reported cavorting around at Starfish Point again, but his two other buddies were nowhere to be seen. Dwayne the 1st Mate stumbled upon a Sea Hare (or Sea Slug) which was a lovely and unusual find - they feed on mostly green algae and are hermaphrodites (can be boys or girls as the mood suits).
The snorkelling today was beautiful with clear waters, sparkling waters. Our excursions guests found some conch shells and we cleaned them up for them to take home as souvenirs. We were also joined by an inquisitive little Parrot Fish - they are normally very timid, so we felt well spoilt!
It really was an awesome tour, and it primed the crew for the afternoon trip which was a chartered excursion. The horizons got a little more cloudy than we would have liked, but this provided some beautiful lighting for photos at Stingray City - gorgeous tints of pink and grey while we were at the sandbar. A great day all round, and we hope that our visitors had a fantastic time and have left only with good memories.
Tour Time : 9:30am - left at 10am - read all about it!
Guests from : Carnival Breeze Cruise, Grand Cayman Marriott Beach Resort, Brilliance of the Seas - cancelled visit
Star Stingray : Snowflake
No Shows : 0
High and lows today! The day started off rough - literally - not the best of conditions, with quite high winds blowing in such a way that the Brilliance of the Seas cancelled its visit to the island, and Carnival Breeze decided to drop anchor at Spotts - which is on the other side of the island to the normal cruise terminal. Can you imagine the consternation this can cause - all the tour operators racing out to Spotts trying to find their guests ...... Captain Mario did a sterling job of it, but the tour left late as can be expected under these conditions.
With the ship now anchored in Spotts, it was unfortunate that we had to leave Starfish Point out of the tour - not enough time to do this AND get them back to the ship on time. But now for the good stuff....
Over the last week or so we had been missing the Captain's favourite stingray Barbara. The crew and office staff were becoming a little tense about her disappearance. It must be remembered that the Cayman stingrays are in open water - they are not closed in any manner. Barbara was also born without a tail, which of course, is the stingrays defense against predators. But JUBILATION! Today, while at the snorkel site, there she was - all smiles and cuteness, playing with our guests and flirting up a storm. Happy phone calls were made to the office to let everyone know Barbara was back!
The other great part of the day was the awesome caribbean sunshine - the ocean was gleaming with emerald and sapphire colours, so even though the surface was choppy - the colours were delicious!
Snowflake did the honours today, kissing our guests with great abandon and hopefully leaving them with lifelong memories. We always hope that our "girls" turn each visitor into a stingray ambassador. These beautiful creatures are fished to extinction in some parts of the world - their "leather" used in fashion pieces and their flesh sold as scallops. We get cold shivers thinking about this truly hope that guests of the sandbar start moving against these practices.
Everyone made it back to ship safe and sound and on time, and we can't wait to share these photos with our guests - we hope they all come back soon.
And welcome back Barbara - you had us really worried girl.
The 24th January served us up an incredible day.
Living in the Caribbean is lucky for so many reasons, but for us, the best reasons would be the climate and the beauty that we see on a daily basis. Even just taking the school route offers up a glimpse of the beautiful tropical blues along Seven Mile Beach - one almost wishes to be stuck in a traffic jam!
But there come days when Grand Cayman just goes a step further and produces a day which is stunning beyond words, and we all get excited about it, and get especially worked up about sharing such a day with our tour guests.
It is on these days that Captain Mario's wife and child hound him half to death to be taken out into the North Sound. They do not often get this opportunity, but on days with these conditions - well, no is not accepted for an answer. Mandy adores the stingrays and cannot collect enough photos of them, while Gina adores Starfish Point and no family tour can be completed without stopping at this island attraction.
Captain Mario stopped off at a beautiful spot for the snorkelling - a little out of the usual site but along the barrier reef. The propellors had hardly stopped turning before Mandy was in the water, where she was met by a gigantic Mutton Snapper who surprisingly accompanied her for most of her visit - how wonderful! His size is not easy to see from the photo below, but he must have been at least 3 feet long - usually they are rather timid as the locals fish for them, but this guy was quite happy to tag along.
The reef was splendid - Mandy felt that there was a certain magic in the water and was amazed to see so many fish and corals - an enormous Queen Angel Fish and a school of one of her favourite fish, the Blue Tang, were some of her pleasures. Add to that the fact that she found four live conch and her day was already made! We used to fish for conch for our standard excursions, but changed our policy this year - we feel that they are already over-harvested and hardly see any these days. You can be sure no-one will be told of these conch's whereabouts!
After the snorkelling, and during our boat ride to Stingray City Sandbar, we were treated to a beautiful rainbow hitting land on the North Side. Wow, we did not think it could get too much better, but we were wrong.
Once again, Mandy was testing Captain Mario's patience with wanting to spring into the ocean before the propellors had stopped twirling ...... can you blame her when you see the conditions were like the photo below?
The above image was taken from on-board "Big John" - the waters were so clear you could see right to the sand bar bed with the ripples of sand caused by the flow of the ocean. The first sight was of a ginormous stingray burying herself into the sand - we were delighted to see that she was very, very swollen with pregnancy and can't wait to have her little ones darting around. She eventually stopped "digging" and lumbered over for a kiss and some lovin' .... got a picture of her in Captain Mario's arms, just resting there for a bit.... we made sure to give her plenty of stingray "popcorn" (squid) to keep her nicely fed for her babies!
The "girls" felt the magic of the day and cavorted with us and the other sandbar visitors with great abandon and a lot of kisses and hugs and snuggles were shared - oh what a time was had! Mandy and Gina were in 7th heaven! It was tough to leave this spot, but Gina was in nagging mode by now, and Starfish Point was obviously next on the itinerary.
On the way over to this heavenly beach on Grand Cayman, we were given a hint of what to expect, with the skies and clouds forming incredible shades of blue and greys. Gina was extremely verbal in her delightful find of 4 starfish with excited yelps and squeals heard by all. But those quietened down when the sunset put on an astounding show. When even a four year old is heard to say "lets sit quietly and watch the sunset" you know it has got to be a good one! Below is the proof .... what a magical day to enjoy and witness. On days such as these, one can only be hugely grateful to be living surrounded by peace, surrounded by beauty and surrounded by hope - hugely lacking in so many parts of the world. Thank you.
Tour Time : 9:30am
Guests from : Treasure Island, Wahoo Close, Self Drive
Star Stingray : Snowflake
No Shows : 0
Yesterday was the day to take "Big John" out of the water for his insurance survey and inspection, so no tours. All went well, but quite sad to see him out of water .... he truly belongs in it!
And what a day to return to the Caribbean waters! Grand Cayman produced one of those very special and awesome days where the colours were brilliant, the ocean clear and the breeze almost still.
On top of these awesome conditions for today's tour, our guests were absolutely amazed to witness a baby nurse shark and four turtles - we hope that our visitor send us some of the video footage that they managed to get of this!
Starfish Point was the little piece of paradise that we always love to share, with water so calm that even one person caused ripples wide across the water's surface.
Stingray City was flat, sparkling and stunning, and Snowflake was the most gracious host and everyone fell in love with her - who could not?
Conditions were so good, that the office staff demanded to be taken out after the morning tour, and we shall shortly post some of the photos taken in the afternoon!
Tour Time : 10:00am
Guests from : Navigator of the Seas Cruise, The Grand Caymanian Resort, The NCL Epic Cruise and Sunshine Suites Hotel
Star Stingray : Newcomer to be named
No Shows : 0 YIPPEE!
A superb cross-section of guests - from island residents, to cruise passengers to overnight guests at some of the gorgeous hotels that Grand Cayman can boast about!
Sea conditions were a little choppy today, but the sun was out and the underwater colours were spectacular! Our breath is still taken away even if we see this every day - there are sites and colours and moments still astound, and to share them with our visitors is an absolute pleasure and privilege!
We hope that they enjoy the photos that we provide to them for free, and hope that they bring great vacation memories back to them for a long time to come. It gives us great enjoyment - sharing the beauty of Grand Cayman.
As the saying goes : TAKE ONLY PHOTOS, AND LEAVE ONLY BUBBLES!
Tour Time : 11:45am
Guests from : Carnival Dream Cruise
Star Stingray : New comer to be named
No Shows : 7
Quite a bit of chaos and upset at the terminal in George Town today, with the Carnival Dream arriving way past the expected arrival time. Our initial meeting time had been arranged for 8:45am Cayman Time, but Captain Mario eventually left only at 11:15 with our guests who did attend. We had 7 no shows which is very hard for a small company like us to carry. Reservations that are not honoured do cost the operator money - perhaps the larger companies can absorb this, but for the small local operator it is particularly tough. In our confirmation reservations, we always remind guests to please let us know if they do not want to attend (it gives us a chance to accept other reservations), but this still does not seem to respected.
Despite a rough start, the tour was enormously fun! The crew had a great time telling island stories and chatting with our excursion guests about the caribbean creatures. Captain Mario did a marvellous job of skirting the tropical squall which tried to wet everyone the entire time!
Some utterly gorgeous snorkelling was experienced at our "secret garden" - this is a snorkel site which Captain Mario has discovered a little out of the normal route. Beautiful coral formations and loads of fish are always to be found here, and we were blessed with sun creating some gorgeous effects for photos.
We have been visited by some newcomer stingrays at the sandbar lately - today again! We believe that these are stingrays coming over from the Deep Stingray City and have not yet had enough contact with them to learn their personalities and name them, but that won't last long!
This was a great trip all round and it was sad to say goodbye to everyone. We hope that they enjoyed the rest of their cruise and come back soon!
Tour Time : 9:30am (departed 9:35am)
Guests from : Carnival Freedom Cruise, Serenade of the Seas Cruise, Nieuw Amsterdam Cruise, Regency Court Apartments
Star Stingray : Lilly
Tour Time : 9:00am & 2:15pm
Guests from : George Town Villas, Regal Beach, residents, Comfort Suites, Villas of the Galleon, Cayman Reef Resort
Star Stingray : Dark Vader and Frosty
After two days of very strong winds gusting to over 24 knots, we were relieved to be able to take our tour guests out today. A word of advice - don't leave sea excursions to the last day of your vacation - if the weather turns difficult, you can miss some favoured attraction and be left feeling horribly disappointed.
Today was still windy, but definitely worth doing - water a little choppy, but the conditions sunny and favourable. We had been alerted to the fact that there were a lot of jelly fish at Starfish Point, so gave our guests, on both the morning and afternoon tours, the option of avoiding this spot. They were wisely in favour of this change, although all a little sad at missing the Sea Stars.
We hosted some lads who were identical twins - that caused some confusion for the photo editor (and some giggles). Why so many photos of the same chap??? Good thing Captain Mario was around at the time to answer the question :-)
All in all, a great tour hugely enjoyed by the crew, the fish and the stingrays who had missed the visits - and, we hope, our guests!
It has been a busy few days since the eve of the New Year loomed way more quickly then we had expected! Island visitors have been eager to bust out into the Caribbean sun and grab excursions to Grand Cayman's best snorkel sites and of course, to kiss the stingrays at the sandbar! Today's post will contain some of the images we have taken during our tours over 30-31 December and yesterday - we take great delight in sharing these with our guests and with you! Pictures often speak louder than words ..... enjoy!
Tour Time : 9:30 and 2:15pm
Guests from : Ruby Princess Cruise, Villa Pappagallo Condos, Treasure Island Resort, Poinsettia Condos, Comfort Suites
Star Stingray : Droopy
Captain Mario came back from his tours today whistling and smiling ..... incredibly happy that he had had two excursions where all seemed to go right, even the weather!
The above image taken at Stingray City is unusual in that it does not feature a stingray .... but oh my, what a sunset our guests were given! Captain Mario was busy taking photos of our guests, back to the light, when something told to him to turn around and boom - this is the shot that he got.
We are holding thumbs that the last of the miserable tropical cold front has left us so that we can welcome our guests onto tours with calm Caribbean waters around and gentle warmth from our winter sun. Stingray City Sandbar seems to be offering up her old jewel colours and the snorkel sites are putting on brilliant displays of colour again. We look forward to seeing the New Year which is just around the corner.......
We have been watching this product with bated breath! We are always striving to make our excursions guests' experience the best possible, and were very excited about this innovative product. Waiting for reviews has been nerve wracking, so it was just great to have one of our guests use her own Easybreath mask at the snorkel site and get her opinion.
Overall, she said that wearing the mask was a very enjoyable experience and that it worked well. Her two comments against the mask were (a) harder to keep clean than the "older" mask and (b) perfect for surface snorkelling, but if you want to go deeper, you are unable to hold your nose to equalise the pressure in your ears.
Obviously this is just one review, but it would appear that it is a great product for beginner snorkelers or those who just cannot adapt breathing through the mouth alone. For those who are more confident swimmers and who prefer not to just stay at the surface, this may not be the mask for you.
We will keep you posted if we get any other reviews!
They say photos never lie (except when overly photoshopped!), but we think this series of images taken at Stingray City in Grand Cayman clearly show the love that our "Stingray Whisperer" and 1st Mate has for the stingrays! These photos show "Lilly" frolicking around our tour guests, and then swimming straight into the arms of Dwayne - and you can see the delight on his face ...... and then the snuggle and kisses .......