Captain Marvin: The Grandfather of Stingray City

The Stingray City sandbar is Cayman’s most popular attraction. It’s the ultimate petting experience with southern stingrays flocking towards visitors that offer them bits of squid and fish. What many don’t know, is this phenomenon was created by chance.

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The Sandbar at Stingray City

After a day of trawling, local fishermen would congregate at the sandbar to clean their daily catch, discarding bits of fish, conch and lobster that were a feast for the nearby stingrays.Eventually the rays began to recognise the hum of approaching boat engines and regularly gathered around the fishermen to feed. Captain Marvin Ebanks often accompanied his father on those fishing trips during the “olden days” when seafaring provided both food and income for families. He was fascinated by how friendly the rays had become towards the fishermen and wanted to share the unique experience with others.

Captain Marvin offered the first tour of Stingray City in 1951 on a borrowed sailboat. The group of adventurous tourists fed the wild stingrays gathering around the boat before the Captain took them to a nearby reef for snorkelling, where they used a “water-glass” contraption made from a glass-bottom wooden box to see the coral and conch beneath the water. During the tour, he and his crewmen collected conch, lobster and fish and steamed their catch over a wood fire on the beach near Rum Point before offering it for lunch.

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Captain Marvin at the helm (photo: Cayman Compass)

Over the years, Captain Marvin’s Watersports flourished, adding several boats to its fleet, however the Stingray City snorkel and beach lunch tour has remained the most popular of all excursions offered. It perfectly blends the seafaring traditions of the Cayman Islands with Captain Marvin’s fondness for the stingrays. It is because of his special bond with the rays and deeply rooted desire to share it with others that Captain Marvin was often regarded as the Grandfather of Stingray City.

Captain Marvin passed away in late 2014 at the age of 98, but his legacy continues to live on through the smiles and memories made from those who visit the sandbar and share in his love for the southern belles of Stingray City.

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Published: Visit Cayman Islands, 2016

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