our first stop was grand cayman. my mom had arranged prior to our trip for the whole group of us to go on a boat tour. we made two stops for snorkeling and one stop at sting ray city- a sandbar in the middle of the ocean teaming with sting rays.
the water at all three stops didn't even look real. it was bright blue, crystal clear, and fairly warm. gracie hopped right in, while maddie took some time to get adjusted. after a couple minutes swimming around with my mom, she was happy to keep playing! i loved the snorkeling, especially knowing i could stay floating right on top of the water.
as a back story, and to make me seem not like a total chicken, matthew and i went on our honeymoon to bora bora, where we took a similar boat tour. it was the two of us plus 4 or 5 other couples, none of which spoke english. they took us to our first stop, a sandbar infested with sting rays. i mean, there were literally hundreds swarming around the boat. in an attempt to prove just a smidgen brave, i hopped in along side matthew. i think i was in the water for all of 25 seconds. i clung to matthew and scaled up his body, wrapping my legs around his chest. i may have screamed for them to let me back in the boat. you would think i'd forget some of the details, but since we have it saved forever on dvd, i will never, ever, be able to live down those shameful moments...or the moments at our next stop where matthew is diving off into the water to swim with lemon sharks while i'm clinging to the side begging to be let back on the boat. i've never been the most daring, but for some reason, swimming with animals in the ocean has always been terrifying for me!
when we pulled up to the sting ray city, i immediately looked for ways out of getting in the water...oh, i'll just stay up here and take pictures! i think someone should stay with the little babies...i just remembered i need something up on the top deck. i handed the girls off to my other brave family members and stood back and watched as everyone held, fed and pet even the largest of the sting rays. after curious questions from gracie as to why mom was sitting on the edge of the boat, i sucked it up and got in- with the agreement that i could hold on to matthew. i conquered my fears during my long 3 minutes in the water and sufficiently saved face with gracie, especially when i held the squid out for the stingray to eat (they just suck them right out of your hand. my dad and matthew both got bruises on their hands from the stingrays sucking the squid up so hard). maddie surprised us when she asked to get back in to hold the baby sting ray...i loved seeing an adventurous side to her!
our last spot was more snorkeling. after the pressure of the sting rays was off, i had no problem swimming around with the girls. my sister found a huge conch shell and the kids took turns holding it. we jumped off the side of the boat, whitney made go pro movies and grandkids tried out snorkeling (we found the goggles are easy, the snorkel is a little harder to manage). matthew ventured off into deeper water with some of the guys while i got the girls dry and warmed up. gracie fell sound asleep in the cabin and managed to stay asleep until we were back on the ship. we found out a day later that she had a double ear infection, so she was a little miserable!
it was such a perfect way to spend the day. gracie has loved telling everyone at school that she swam with "real, live, like really the real sting rays" and maddie still tells me that the felt slimy. arranging the tour beforehand ended up working out great, especially with such a large group. they had a van waiting to take us to the dock, arranged all the snorkel gear and shared tons of info about the island and the animals.
my swimsuit, shorts
girls swimsuits (i loved these suits- they were so comfortable for the girls, and i love the halter strap, they weren't bugged with straps falling down and could just swim!)