STINGRAY SANDBAR & RUM POINT
Today we are in Grand Cayman and I have been looking forward to this for a long time now. Last time we were here was last year in March on the Pearl. We did not have the greatest experience (you are welcome to read my review on that for a complete detail).
So just a short review of last time. We booked the Stingray sandbar, snorkeling and Rum Point with Nativeway. We received several emails stating that their time in Cayman was the same as the ship time. We met, they left without us. They put us on another tour (which I believe to be a ship sponsored tour). They, IMO, were reckless, impersonal, and in a way put our daughters life in danger. It was one mess up after another. After posting my review on TA, someone on my thread came back to inform me that Nativeway said they would give us a complimentary excursion next time I was there. Well...this trip would be that time to get it right.
Just to make sure of this "time" issue (like before), we checked and double checked with the front desk the time of the ship versus the time at Grand Cayman and were assured the ship was on the same time as the island. We were going to get this thing right this time!!!
We docked at the south dock (which is opposite of where we docked last time). We looked around and didn't see anyone with the Nativeways tour sign but was told to wait around. After awhile, I stopped a lady on the sidewalk and she called Eldon (the owner) up and he said he would be right there. He walked over, checked everyone in and told us to meet in the gazebo over on the north dock at 9:15. We just hung out for awhile waiting there at the port. Another member of our roll call showed up and introduced themselves. This was pretty cool that we were all roll call members. (Well, we did end up with 2 other people on the excursion, but that was it). So a total of ONLY 12 PEOPLE!!! How awesome is that??? You talk about amazing to not be crowded on a boat and excellent service.
So it was time to leave and we walked over to the parking lot down the street and around the corner from the port to get in the bus to take us to the boat dock.
We were informed that the authorities had shut down the sandbar today!!! The winds were too high and the waves too high and dangerous. However, the were hoping that it might die down later and maybe we could do our excursion in reverse. I was so bummed. We had waited over a year for this day and now mother nature did not want us to do it. We did hear this rumor prior to the company telling us about it. They had cancelled all of the ship sponsored tours to the sandbar and people were forced to make different plans. The vendors on the streets trying to get you to take tours also confirmed that the sandbar was closed. Sigh...I just can't win.
So Sharon made sure we understood that we might not make it to the sandbar and everyone agreed to do the tour anyhow and off we went with sad puppy dog faces but yet still hopeful.
We arrived at the boat dock and was ready to board. It was just a moment before we were headed off...but not before we got our rum from Sharon for our rum punch. As you can see by the palm trees, it was windy outside.
However, we were informed that we were going snorkeling first and then on to Rum Point. Now how the sandbar is closed because of the winds and waves but snorkeling isn't is beyond me.
I found an Iguana hanging out in the sun on the wall.
Headed out into the beautiful ocean now....ahhh. I swear Grand Cayman has the most beautiful water ever. There were a few pelicans hanging out as we entered the ocean to entertain us.
We didn't have a tightrope on the boat, so this bar on the top was our stunt bar. Drinking + standing up and walking during going fast on a boat=Kim not experienced enough to try it. Remember...I'm the clutz around here. Mr Epic Friend...he's the quiet and shy looking type, but when you're not watching...look out. He does tricks on the boat bars!
I took a blackmail picture of Sakari. I will need this picture some day to scare off the boys when Sakari gets older. I have full intention on using it too! But she was one little girl excited to go snorkeling.
I took a picture of the water because I thought it was so neat to see how the colors change depending on if you were under a cloud or not.
I didn't realize that the reef they were taking us to was a marine national park in the middle of the ocean. It definitely wasn't where we were last time snorkeling (with the other company). It was neat to see signs in the water marking the marine park. I was thinking that I got a picture of one of them, but can't find it. This is us coming up to the park. There was another boat there that day snorkeling. We pretty much had the place (area) we were in to ourselves.
Ok a lot of pictures to share here of our snorkeling. Trust me, I really cut them down a lot and there's still a lot.
This is were we anchored and you could see the rocks and coral from above. The water was so pretty. Since it was kinda windy and the waves were going, they put out 2 ropes with a life preserver on the ends of them. They told us to stay within these ropes for safety. The waves were taking you out away from the boat and they didn't want us going too far and not be able to get back in. One rope was a little ways out there and the other was pretty far. I really don't think anyone adventured too far because of the waves. I have to admit...I think this is a WONDERFUL idea and all snorkeling tours should do something like this so you can tell how far you are getting out and it makes it really easy to just grab the rope and pull yourself back in after snorkeling. Super easy. Great idea Nativeway!!!
As soon as we got there...I was ready to go. I have my own snorkeling equipment and the only thing I didn't bring was my snorkel vest (since I knew they would have actual life vest for us). They told us to wear them around our waist to make it easier to put our faces in the water to snorkel. WOW, another great idea. Why hasn't anyone else ever told us this or had us do this? We've always had to wear them around our necks while it crawled up around our neck and made things difficult. Way to go Nativeway!! Another added plus.
So who do you think was the first to jump in? Yep, it was me! I couldn't wait!!!
You could look off in the distance and see the waves crashing...on the waves. It looked pretty scary over that way, but it never reached us.
So as soon as we got in the water along came a stingray. WOW, we were going to get to swim with a stingray no matter what. They had a name for her (I don't remember what they named her), but I guess they all know her. I couldn't understand how you would be able to tell one from another.
But he jumped in and brought her up. I think she was as eager to meet us and we were to meet her.
Yep, that's me out there snorkeling toward her of course.
I was a little worried about the water being a bit choppy and letting Sakari go in the water. It really made you drift quickly away from the boat. But she was having an absolute fit at this point and the guide said to let her in and he would make sure she was safe and with him. She couldn't wait to get to the stingray and squealed with excitement. That smile is just priceless. Does anyone notice anything about this stingray?
I also got my time with the stingray too.
So it was time to do a little snorkeling.
I just want to say...I have NO IDEA what was going on with my camera today during snorkeling. To me, most of the pictures came out horrid and I'm almost embarrassed to share some of them, but I'm throwing caution to the wind and doing it anyhow. I don't know if I forgot to turn it on the underwater setting, or it got on a different setting at different times. I do know that whenever I try to zoom in, I either zoom in too far and get half a fish body or it's too hard to focus and it ends up blurry. I should probably just stop zooming, but I always forget. With this being said...here's my mostly terrible with a few good pictures from snorkeling.
The picture of the stingray we were holding will clearly show you how they named this particular stingray and how they tell her apart from the others if you didn't already figure it out. (no tail) Her man...he was shy and didn't want any part of us and was hiding in the sand trying to cover his self up.
I was getting super worried about Sakari out in the ocean and the waves even though she was sticking right there at the boat and with the guide, she was also hanging onto the rope as well, but I was just worried. I made her get up on the boat with daddy to sit for awhile. She was not happy with me. She would sit as far on the edge of the boat that she could while trying to dip her toes in the water.
So that was our snorkeling adventure. It lasted maybe a little over an hour. They didn't leave until we were ready to leave. It did seem like a lot longer than that though. It was a great experience and we were so happy we actually got to swim with a few rays and hold one even though the sandbar was closed....we still got our stingray swim!!!
It was time to head to Rum Point. I had been looking forward to this because we didn't get to go there last time with the other company. I had seen pictures of the place that others had posted on here and it looked like a neat place to hang out at.
They started passing out menu's for everyone to order from. They took your order and called it into the restaurant at Rum Point and the food would be ready when we arrived.
I ordered the jerk pork sandwich. The guide said they were pretty big sandwiches. The hubby ordered chicken fingers and Sakari order a cheeseburger.
We pulled away from the reef...Before you knew it, we were at Rum Point.
When we arrived, there was another boat sitting at the dock. We kinda stopped for a moment and the other boat driver looked at us, put his boat in reverse and backed up to give us room. Our guide took one look at him and gave him the hand/arm swoop get outta here motion and the other boat put it in gear and left. I'm not sure what type of set up they have here or if Rum Point is owned by Nativeways or what agreed they may have. I know that people can go to Rum Point other ways than just using Nativeways...so I'm not sure what that was all about. ???
We docked and I did see a Private Dock sign, but this was the only picture I got and I wasn't close enough to see what it said. We went walking down the beautiful dock.
I was walking and snapping as I always do. Sakari insisted on me taking a picture of the iguana with her on it. I wanted one also without her, but it didn't happen.
They have nets over the tables to help block the sun. Great idea. Beautiful water to stare at while eating. You know me...I had to go off exploring (yes, everyone else was sitting down to eat).
Do you see this water tricycle? Gosh I remember riding those in the Caribbean back in the 80's at NCL's private island, Great Stirrup Cay. It was about the only thing to do back then. I don't think I have seen one of those since back then.
Now I had seen someone else post pictures of a coconut on the table here, but I didn't get it. I mean I liked the picture, but thought they had put the coconut on there just to take a picture. Then when I got here, I noticed that coconuts were on every table. I did not realize until NOW after looking at the picture that the menu is attached to it! HAHA I'm a little slow at times, but who would have thought to look under the table?
I finally made it back to the table and of course our food was already there.
Now I have to say this isn't the sandwich I expected. It was like a full piece of pork chop or something put on bread. It had a lot of fat in it. I'm not a big meat eater to begin with and anything with fat will make me vomit. I don't like steak for this reason or anything that is too chewy. I tried a few bites of this and just couldn't stomach it. So I ate the fries and the bread. The guide ask me if everything was ok and I just told him I didn't like it because it was too fatty for me. It also supposed to have some type of mayo sauce, but this sauce was hot and I don't like hot sauces or anything spicy.
Since everyone was done eating, it was time for a little bit of swimming before it was time to leave. We knew our time was limited here to begin with and I at least wanted to get in the water.
Now getting into the water was a bit of a challenge. There were shells and rocks everywhere that kinda hurt your feet. But when challenged, we (Sakari and I) are up for the challenge and will win every time.
She learn to do her first handstand in the water here. She was so excited.
I did our MUST DO Christmas Santa hat pose for this place.
There were some darker areas in the water and I needed to swim to them to see what they were. It was nothing but a little grass and not much of it, so no fish to be found here. Darn. But it was ok.
I NEED MY SUNGLASSES RIGHT NOW!!! HERE'S MR MITSUGIRLY. I'm thoroughly convinced that boy needed a little more time in the sun!!!
I got out and started wondering around again taking more pictures. Even though I was on vacation, I knew I was also still at work for my fine people of cruise critic who expected me to come back with pictures of a lifetime. So off to work I went before it was time to leave.
This is a shot that I was trying to show that the ships are off in a distance. I did not realize that you could see the ships from this place and I had never seen anyone mention it before.
Before we left, the guide came up to me and ask me if I wanted a sandwich to go since I didn't like mine. I told him it was ok and he insisted on me picking something else. I ordered a chicken wrap and he brought it to me before heading back to the boat. How nice that was of him to do.
So it was time to leave and getting Sakari out of the water was a challenge...as it always is. We threatened, we walked away, we went after her. It.was.terrible....double....period..... She is the worse. We told her that our boat was leaving and she was going to get left behind. She didn't care.
She pouted all the way down the dock and stayed way behind us and any time I turned around to check on her, she would move to the side so I couldn't see her. It really scared me because the dock did not have any handrails on it. She was being very difficult and by the end of the dock she was having a temper tantrum and truth be known, I was too at this behavior. It gets old after awhile. It happens at every beach or pool. I tried grabbing her because she refused it get in the boat and she pulled from me several times and I ended up scratching her and then she was not only pissed but pouting and crying. Oh just great. I tried to explain to her that we were going to see more stingrays and I should know better by now that she has caught on to my bribery attempts as a way to get her to leave.
After struggling for awhile and finally getting her on the boat, we were off.
Off to the sandbar to "see" if it would be ok to visit with the rays. The guide said that he would go there and check out the water situation and test it out first to see if it was safe enough. If it was, we could possibly spend some time there. If not, we would head back early.
This is what we got out of Sakari the rest of the ride over to the sandbar..hiding her face and pouting! Chris (the guide) tried to console her. He was so great. But she is stubborn and didn't give in but hugged him after awhile.
As we were pulling up the sandbar, there were only 2 other boats there and they were in the water with the stingrays. This could turn out to be an even better day. We might just get to swim with the rays.
The guide jumped in and told us to come on. WOO HOO. We were swimming with the rays after all.
Immediately after we anchored, you could see the rays coming in and headed for our boat. They know when you pull in and they know food has arrived. It was amazing to see all of them coming in from every direction.
Even the birds knew we were there LOL
We all jumped in and they were everywhere. They are so huge and so beautiful and graceful.
This little spotted trunk fish hung out with all day too, only he wasn't so little and really big.
Sakari couldn't wait to get in with the rays.The rays are very friendly and come right up to you. Sakari's frown turned upside down really fast that day. No more pouting.
They spent a lot of time catering to Sakari (as you probably are all well aware that she gets catered too a lot by being the baby of the family and this was no exception). She insisted on wanting to hold the baby stingrays. Well, they were "babies" to her. But in reality, the very huge rays are the females and the small rays are the males. She didn't understand this concept and just decided they were babies...period. Now the males are not as friendly as the females. They do not normally like to be held. But they were bound and determined to make her happy by getting her a "baby" ray....and they did and she squeeled with excitement.
They say kissing a stingray gives you 7 years of good luck. I think she's pretty much stocked up on her luck at this point over the last 2 years of kissing stingrays.
I whip my tail back and forth, I whip my tail back and forth.... (the stingray...they get excited too). They were so funny. They would come up to you and flap up your stomach or back when they went by to let you know they were there. They were not shy at all.
Now this was hiarious. They would lift the ray out of the water and they would spit at you.
I caught it on video of the ray spitting at Sakari and my husband on the boat (he had no idea what was coming) and then I got them to turn around and do it for my video.
I was so busy taking pictures and video that I almost forgot I didn't get to hold one yet. So now it was my turn.
I have no idea what everyone on the boat was looking at, but you notice Sakari is not paying attention to anything but the rays.
Sakari had to get back in. She couldn't get enough of them. Darn water spots on the camera. I was having such a good time that I forgot to shake it off before taking pictures this time around.
I took pictures of all my cruise friends as well...only more water spots.
It was an awesome day and Nativeway made it awesome. We spent a lot of time here and this is a must do when in Cayman.
As much as we didn't want to leave, it was time to head back. The hubby reflecting on the awesome day we had showed in the picture I snapped of him. It was nothing but smiles after this...even for Sakari. She was one happy kid.
Now it was time for more Rum Punch to finish out the day. CHEERS!!!
She talked about today (and still is) for the rest of the time and she was just so excited. I had a small little heart to heart (at least what you can with a 5 year old) about how she should listen and I told her we were leaving the beach to have more fun. She said "I'm so excited and I love stingrays". So I think I may have reinstalled her trust in me that mom knows best.
We come along the channel to head back to the boat dock, but we went a different way this time. They took us to show us the VERY nice houses along the channel.
I thought there was a hotel being built...until they informed me it was someone's house...oh my
Iguanas were hiding in the bushes along the way, on the walls, and in the yards. Of course if I was an iguana, I'd hang out at these houses too.
When we arrived at the boat dock, Sharon was there to greet us. I hugged her and thanked her for making this day possible.
Seriously, it was amazing!! I would highly recommend Nativeway for a personal experience to anyone. We NEVER felt rushed at anything we did. They gave us a much different experience than we had before with someone else. They catered to us, they told jokes, they gave information about Cayman, and educated on the stingrays. They went out of their way to make sure we had a great time. We were never once told "time to go" or felt like cattle being herded with a bunch of people like last time. They made sure we spent as much time with the rays as we wanted. They let us hold the rays by ourselves (unlike the other company) and plenty of opportunities for pictures. Nativeway is the best in my opinion. I can't imagine going with anyone else now. I'm so glad I gave them a second chance. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!