There are times in life when silence can't be beat.
We think tonight's Cayman sunset meets that criteria. What do you think?
There are times in life when silence can't be beat.
We think tonight's Cayman sunset meets that criteria. What do you think?
We love hearing back from our guests, especially when sharing videos or photos that they took during their tour with us.
We posted news about an excursion where Captain Mario took a picture of a guest squaring off with a Barracuda to get a photo - we loved the photo and shared it. So, what an amazing and lovely surprise when he e-mailed us with the resulting shot - which, we might, is a pretty darned awesome pic (see below)!
It is really a great shot made even more special because it was shared by a guest. This is what we love, these are moments that we love being a part of.
Thank you to all our guests - where would we be without you?
Starfish Point. Coconut trees. Sea stars. Perfect sandy beach. Pretty much a tiny little piece of paradise tucked away on the Northern side of Grand Cayman. What more could you ask for?
Well, Mother Nature is spoiling us once again and made magic happen with some stingrays starting to visit this spot away from Stingray City.
It all seemed to start a few months back with one of "Barbara's" babies (Captain Mario's favourite stingray). Barbara has a genetic fault which leaves her without a tail, and as such, her offspring can be easily identified. Baby Barbara was really still quite small, and the crew left her alone, not bringing much attention to her in the hopes of not scaring her away, but always keeping an eye open for her to make sure she was doing okay.
Happy to report she has been doing fabulously and seems to have tweeted some other pals to come along to this beautiful beach as well. It is fun to see guest reactions when they are posing with sea stars and suddenly have a stingray swim past them - reactions can be pretty dramatic and Youtube worthy (now there's a thought!). But all in all, we think it must come close to being one of the best Caribbean moments possible and should be rounded off by a famous Mudslide of course!
Have to thank the "girls" for this added attraction at Starfish Point - it was always a favourite spot for us, but it has now become even better!
Mudslide - any Grand Cayman visitor or resident would immediately think "Rum Point" - the home of the famous Mudslide cocktail which can make the earth slide out from under your feet in the most fun of ways. Their first thought is not usually of a stingray ...
However, any guest who has been out with us or read our reviews, will know that we absolutely adore the stingrays that we see daily at the sandbar, and name the "girls" for their characteristics due to individual colourings, markings and personality.
The name was earned from mostly visiting guests at Rum Point, but recently she has moved over to the sandbar at Stingray City. Captain Mario estimates her age at approximately 30 years (yes, human years) which we believe makes her the second oldest - Scarface is the oldest one there!
She is one of the most lovable and sweet girls. Although her skin is a little rougher than most other rays because of her age, she is incredibly gentle when being held, taking food and appears to be particularly fond of children.
She is identified by the darker "ring" of colour around her edges and because her tail has been cut short at the point of her barb - it is not known how this might have happened.
We are loving having her at the sandbar, as are our excursion guests, and we will be keeping an eye open for her to give her extra love and attention which she deserves.
Next to we make it out to Rum Point, we will raise a Mudslide to you lovely lady - may you be with us for a long time to come!
Sucks not being able to breathe.
THAT is why we emphasise to our guests to keep the precious Sea Stars in the water. Taking them out of the water is the same as someone holding your head under water - not a good feeling.
Imagine having your head pushed under water all day long, again and again.
They do not belong on your head and are also not rugby balls to be kicked around.
We need to look after life, no matter what form. Just look at these stunning specimens we found for our guests visiting Starfish Point. This is what we want our guests to enjoy, this is the heritage we want to leave to the future generations.
Keep them in the water folks - karma will be kinder.
For more on this subject, check out what the kids are saying ...... LINK
Snorkelling in the North Sound of Grand Cayman provides many beautiful sights with all the stunning coral formations and rainbow tropical fish that one can expect from our gorgeous caribbean island.
However, we are very often joined by one or two of the friendly stingrays who have ventured over from Stingray City. To watch the delight and amazement of our guests when they experience this is a pleasure which is hard to describe.
The "girls" will often swim next to our guests, or play a game of tag, popping up around the side a coral formation and gliding in close enough for a touch before swooshing off again.
There can be no better snorkel buddy in the world, and a moment like this has got to be at the top of the list of one of the best experiences EVER.
On a recent tour, Captain Mario took a picture of this stunning piece of coral which he has named "Mandy's heart".
It is a glorious piece of Brain Coral and is a part of the Barrier Reef found in the North Sound of Grand Cayman. It measures approximately 3 feet x 1.5 feet. This can be found in relatively shallow waters and can be seen while snorkelling - so no need to be a scuba diver! It has formed a heart shape with a few "scars" in it, and never fails to raise a smile from Captain Mario for whom it has special meaning.
We hope you like the photo and are also in awe of the wonder works of nature that have created this. So precious and so utterly, beautifully, delicate.
Hope we get the chance to one day host you and take you to visit it!
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!
"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!
Our last two posts have described the effects of tropical downpours on the sandbar and surrounding waters of the North Sound in Grand Cayman.
We always say that there is never an ugly day in the Caribbean - even storms provide the most magnificent skies to behold. Not nice for island visitors for sure, but beautiful nonetheless.
It is always our pleasure to take photos of our tours and shares these with our guests free of charge, and the snorkel sites, Starfish Point and stingrays provide awesome subjects.
Yesterday we hosted a standard tour in the morning, welcoming guests from the Carnival Victory and the Marriott Resort and other condos, whilst the afternoon was reserved for a private chartered tour. It was a brilliant day all round, even if the sun was somewhat shy.
The photos of the stingrays came out with unusual colours and smoky effects. We loved them, wanted to share them with you, and hope that you like them as much as we do. Happy day to all!
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??)
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!
There's nothing like a photo to tell a story, so here goes ......
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.
This is the name of a great song which most times has a crowd up on their feet joining in and singing at the top of their voices. Awesome song. But it is also the name of an attitude which can sometimes be forgotten.
It is something that we ask our visitors to please remember when visiting the snorkel site - please respect the beauty and fragility around you, respect what nature is giving to you in this beautiful island.
It is something that we ask our guests to show the gorgeous stingrays at the sandbar. These stunning creatures will give you an unforgettable experience - show them respect, and they will reward you with theirs.
It is something that we ask our guests to show the crew - we know our job and we know when it is safe for you to do something and when it is not - please respect their knowledge and the fact they try their best to keep you safe whilst you are having fun.
It is something that we ask guests perhaps changing their minds about doing a tour with us - please respect that we are a family concern. Don't just not show up for bookings. By doing this, you have taken away our ability to earn family income - we need it as much as anyone else does.
It is something that we try to show all our guests - respect for the time they have taken to book with us, respect for the trust that they have put in us to give them a great experience, respect that they have worked hard for the money they will be paying us for our service.
So what is the point of this post?
Please, please, please respect the operators on our island. We work hard for our living and we work hard to provide you with the best we can give you in a very competitive market.
Please DO NOT do as one lady has done today. She booked with three different operators, including us. All great operators trying their best for their guests. She caused chaos for all three operators who were trying to locate her while keeping to their schedule. After much frustration and consternation, it was realised that she had booked with all of them. Her reaction? "So come on now, I want to know who gives me the most for the least - who is going to make me the best offer?"
Captain Mario proceeded to recuse himself from further debate with this lady, and respectfully informed her that he was exercising his right to refuse her attendance on our tour. The rest of our tour guests who had been so understanding in Captain Mario delaying their departure to find this missing guest were delighted at his decision.
Needless to say, Captain Mario was given a lecture about needing to learn respect for people.
But with all due respect, and like most things in life, you need to give a little to get a little back.
We look forward to giving our guests onboard a great day!
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!
Tour Time : 9:30am and 2:15pm
Guests from : Plantana Condos, Ritz Carlton, Discovery Point Club, Westin Hotel
Star Stingray : Frosty
Our morning excursion welcomed a wonderful group of guests who were more than willing to take on the wind and swells - they were just awesome, especially the kids! Winds reached top speeds of about 17MPH at around 10am and then slowly reduced during the rest of the day until they were around 6MPH at 9pm last night ..... not the time we go out on tour! The skies were somewhat overcast, but the sunny smiles from our visits just brightened everything up!
Plenty of great snorkelling was enjoyed by our groups, and as always, the cherry on the top for the private tour in the afternoon, was watching the sunset as we made our way back to the Cayman Islands Yacht Club. Amazing how the sunset always has the power to make everyone silent and ponderous (even the kiddies) ..... penny for their thoughts anyone?
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!
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 ..........
Tour Time : 9:30am (standard tour) & 2:15pm (chartered private excursion)
Guests from : Carnival Dream cruise, Carnival Triumph cruise, NCL Epic cruise and resident
Star Stingray : Dark Vader
No Shows : 0
There are times when words generally fail to do justice to an experience. Times when you just have to keep the mouth shut, and let the photos do the talking. We think the photos from today's tour speak for themselves. Enjoy.
Tour Time : 10:30am - turned into 11am - read why below!
Guests from : Carnival Victory Cruise, Costa Luminosa Cruise, Residents
Star Stingray : Snowflake
No Shows : 6 - Independence of the Seas sailed into the horizon without stopping
Days like today are tough. Certain weather conditions mean that the cruise ships anchor out at Spotts - and chaos takes over!
The above map shows you the logistics when this happens. # 2 is where we normally collect our cruise guests from the Royal Watler Terminal downtown George Town. The coastal stretch from # 2 to # 1 is the route we cover to collect guests from hotels and/or condos on route to "Big John" berthed at the Cayman Islands Yacht Club. # 3 is Spotts, where, on days like today, the cruise ships set anchor. Hoo boy .... fun and games!
To start off, the ships would usually have set anchor later than scheduled. Next problem is that the collection at Spotts adds at least 20 minutes travel time, one way. Added to that, the public buses that help transport guests from George Town are restricted from running this side of the island - so the hunt begins for reliable transport. The cherry on the top? There is no WIFI at Spotts which means that the instant communication that we tour operators rely on to stay available to their guests is now not so instant. You can imagine the knock-on effect this has for all the tour operators on island! They all look pretty haggard by the end of the day .......
But our crew is a robust and tough one, and there is not much that can prevent them from having a good time on excursion with visitors. They appreciate the fact that their guests have come a long way, and have probably been saving for a long time, for this experience. Starfish Point had to be missed due to the ensuing time constrictions, however, Stingray City with Snowflake the stingray was a huge success, and the snorkelling at Coral Gardens greatly enjoyed. Best spot of the day (excuse the pun)? A large Barracuda lazily drifting through our snorkelling crowd ......
We have a niggling suspicion that tomorrow will offer a repeat of today, but can only hope not. Either way, we look forward to meeting our guests and giving the best experience we can!
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.