Captain Marvin’s Watersports

Celebrating his 96th birthday this year, Captain Marvin Ebanks knows a thing or two about taking visitors to swim with the stingrays.

A born and bred Caymanian, he pioneered the unique attraction in which hundreds of people flock every day to sites known as Stingray City and the Sandbar.

Although he is no longer at the helm of any of his boats, Captain Marvin sits on the dock making sure guests enjoy their outing to what has become Grand Cayman’s premier tourist destination. He said: ‘”Times have changed a lot since I started out in the 1950s but people still have a good time meeting the rays.'”

A former fisherman, Captain Marvin cleaned his catch out in the waters of the North Sound because the mosquitoes were too ferocious onshore in those days. And when he threw the scraps overboard, the friendly fish began congregating to take advantage of a free feed. Soon visitors wanted to see the southern stingrays which are huge flat fish that glide around in the shallows, the females growing up to six feet in diameter (the males are smaller).

At the Sandbar, you can actually get out of the boat and stand on the bottom to feed the fish, while at nearby Stingray City, the vessel anchors while you snorkel.

There are dozens of tour operators nowadays, with Captain Marvin’s family-run business managing eight boats that go out to the attraction. In fact, there are so many people at the Sandbar on any day of the week that it’s like a big pool party out there.

The captains have given the rays pet names and visitors are encouraged to interact with the fish. You can hold out a piece of squid for a ray to suck from your hand, giving you a chance to stroke their velvety bodies. The stingrays are not dangerous and although they have a barb in their tail, this is a defence mechanism and visitors are all given clear guidelines about not stepping on them.

At Stingray City, the snorkeling is fantastic not just for getting up close to the rays but for all the other sea creatures you can see, including colorful schools of blue tangs, sergeant majors and parrot fish.

Back at the dock, Captain. Marvin sits under a tree in front of his house, a delighted twinkle in his eye. He nods happily as visitors of many nationalities return from the trips.

And when the transfer bus doesn’t arrive immediately, he insists that the ladies sit beside him to wait in the shade.

After more than 60 years in business, his personality and trips to swim with the rays continue to charm.

  • Wear swimwear, take a towel and apply plenty of sunblock.
  • Water and soft drinks are supplied onboard.
  • If you kiss a stingray, it’s said to bring seven years’ good luck

Discuss Captain Marvin’s Watersports

  1. June 15, 2013 at 10:05 pm

    My wife & I have been visiting Grand Cayman since 1991 and been with Captain Marvin and sons at Sting Ray City a dozen times or more. We are disappointed when Captain Marvin doesn’t make the trip but he’s happy to come out of the house to visit before and after the trip. This man is truly a living legend and a joy to know that he’s still with us. God bless you Captain Marvin

  2. August 29, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    looking forward to doing this when we come down on September 10th!

  3. February 9, 2014 at 8:56 pm

    Does captain Marvin have a jet ski tour

    • February 10, 2014 at 11:24 am

      Have a look at his website Rick -

  4. February 18, 2014 at 12:43 am

    1993-1998 we were in Grand Cayman and always went out with Captain Marvin to Stingray City. Awesome trips and he always had best potato salad which I think was his wife’ s fixin and was so good. He is a truly a dear person and loved what he did. God bless you Captain Marvin! Always and your family. I think when we heard from you , your beloved wife had passed as she was having health problems. Hope to see you again. Jay and Marie

  5. June 18, 2014 at 10:30 pm

    We’ve made 17 trips to Grand Cayman, spent our honeymoon there in 1984 & love Captain Marvin & Stingray City/sandbar. We will be there in Aug. to celebrate our 30th anniversary. We’d like to renew our vows & we’re wondering if Captain Marvin can do this. Thought it would be really different to renew at Stingray Sandbar. Is this possible?
    Looking forward to seeing Frisbee & Beverly!
    Thank you!

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