How to Get a Hickey at Stingray City

After zoning out a little during the pre-dive instructions given at Stringray City in Grand Cayman Island, my dive buddy took the squid for feeding the rays, at my insistence. I was a little nervous and respectful of these majestic creatures, so I decided I wouldn’t touch them. You aren’t supposed to touch ocean creatures while diving anyway. It’s one of the first things you learn in scuba diving certification class.


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Scuba divers and a stingray

A ray “flies” towards me and my dive buddy (I’m on the right). Shot on an old point and shoot camera in an underwater casing.

A top 3 kind of dive

Before our harrowing hurricane adventure in Grand Cayman, we managed to squeeze in some diving. Stingray City is still one of my all time favorite dives (with a caveat)! It is an awesome, shallow dive with incredible creatures. It is also a fantastic snorkeling experience, for those who aren’t scuba certified. Divers feed the rays. In turn, the rays swarm the divers, giving an excellent view to those above.

Into the ocean we jump!

Once in the water, all the divers sank to the sandy bottom, purposely heavy. We were instructed to stay on our knees. On the sandy bottom, I had a chance to look up to the snorkelers, who circled above.

Immediately, a ginormous stingray came up to me, looking for food. Suddenly, I feel a sharp pain on my right arm. Did she bite me?

“Stingrays don’t bite,” I remember the dive master saying before my Stingray City dive. “But they might give you a hickey.”

Oh my god, she’s sucking on me, I think. And it hurts!

Quickly, I pushed her off of me, while marveling at her tremendous strength and graceful beauty. So much for not touching the rays, as I’d decided pre-dive. They swam close, as if they were tame. I lost count of how many bumped into me. They swarm, looking for food the easy way. Rays are strong and will knock you over.

The extra weight allowing us to sit on our knees on the sandy ocean floor was for our safety.

A picture of me diving in Stingray City. It was incredible.

My buddy is swarmed by rays because he is holding the squid. It was incredible. We are given extra weight so we can be on our knees.

How do you get your very own stingray hickey?

By being brave enough to dive with them!

I didn’t feed the rays, content with my interesting and somewhat painful experiences with the amazing creatures. Once we surfaced, I discovered that others had also received “hickies” from the rays. One guy was bleeding! My stingray hickey broke the skin, but it wasn’t bloody.

A picture of a gray stingray, it's really close to the camera, at Stingray City.

This was from an old point and shoot camera in an underwater casing. No zoom. See how close the stingrays at Stingray City get?

If you are planning on doing this experience, read this first and please remember that stingrays are wild creatures and not tame, even though they seem to be. Stay calm. The rays will swim to you and push you around quite a bit. The smaller the ray, the bigger the possibility that she’s a wildcard. The larger rays are older and wiser.

What’s your coolest ocean creature experience? Have you been diving with stingrays? Would you want a stingray hickey?


16 thoughts on “How to Get a Hickey at Stingray City

  1. Beth | Adventuring the Great Wide Somewhere says:

    I fed a stingray at a zoo once and was NOT expecting them to “bite” like that! It was like my hand was being gummed to death, and being swarmed by these rays sounds more than little terrifying, haha! You’re right though about them being very graceful and majestic. The house cats of the sea, perhaps? 😀

  2. Kenny says:

    Thanks for the post. It looks fun diving with stingrays and it’s just as much scary as the stingray giving you a hickey instead of bite!
    Besides, to me it’s always challenging to take a good picture underwater, I wonder how you and other people did it!? @ knycx.journeying

    • natalie says:

      It was scary! After that, no other rays sucked on me, at least. It was fun after that.

      I think the secret to good underwater photography is lots of light. Also, maybe some better equipment than I had at the time.

  3. Scott says:

    We got to feed stingrays for the first time in Moorea. You’re exactly right – the thought is much more intimidating than the reality. Looks like a marvelous experience.

  4. Bharat & Supriya says:

    We’re sure it must have a memorable experience, except for those hickies 😉

    We’ve read few posts on Grand Cayman and looks like snorkeling with sting rays would be on our radar when we go. Little intimidated about the pains that might occur though 🙁

    • natalie says:

      In our tour, the snorkelers were far enough away from the action and I don’t believe any of them suffered from a stingray hickey! Enjoy your trip!

  5. Jesse Mellin says:

    I’m about to go on vacation to Grand Cayman and was thinking of going to Stingray City. I was thinking of going with this company but noticed that they go to the “sandbar”. Your article shows a deeper area that isn’t the sandbar. Which one is better? Do you have to dive at the one you went to?

    • Natalie says:

      I went to a deeper site (around 12 feet, I think) because I was diving. It depends on the kind of experience you are hoping to have. In the area where I dove, the snorkelers circled above and observed more than interacted with the stingrays. On a sandbar tour, you are likely going to be touching the stingrays and posing for “kissing the rays” pictures. It would be worth doing some research into sustainable tourism or eco tourism companies, if that aspect is important to you.

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