Gibbs Cay Snorkeling with Stingrays

I Heart Gibbs Cay

While vacationing in Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos Islands last year I went on a snorkeling trip to the small island of Gibbs Cay. Referred to as “Stingray City”, Gibbs Cay is about a mile off the eastern coast of Grand Turk. I have been on many snorkeling trips but Gibbs Cay was one of the most memorable due to the remarkably clear water, white sand beach, and the abundance of stingrays and other underwater treasures. I have a bad history with stingrays and was a little reluctant about going anywhere near them. Eight years ago while boogie boarding in Newport Beach I was hit with a stingray barb on the top of my foot. This was one of the more painful experiences I had ever had and even a month later the wound festered up requiring the doctor to open it and remove a remaining piece of barb. I must have stepped on the stingray or brushed the tail and have since learned that it is best to shuffle while walking in shallow water as to not bother these mostly harmless animals. I worked through my fear of stingrays and am so glad I did because this was an incredible experience with these amazing creatures swimming all around me showing their personalities by flapping their “wings” wildly when touched. I highly recommend getting to Gibbs Cay if you have the opportunity to visit Grand Turk. 

Akumal Beach, Mexico

One of my best experiences snorkeling was with sea turtles at Akumal Beach, Mexico. While staying at Playa del Carmen we were told about a great place for snorkeling and lots of turtles. Even though our schedule was packed, I quickly researched Akumal Beach and squeezed some time in for the trip. Since I love turtles so much, swimming with them in Mexico was a must. The beach was about 20 miles south of Playa del Carmen and the same distance above Tulum, which we had already planned visiting for the day. When we arrived there were lots of vendors trying to recruit us for their tours. We went ahead and booked a tour which made it easier for us to store our personal items in a locker, use a life vest, and shower after the swim. Our guide was very good and not only did we see a lot of turtles, but also stingrays and beautiful coral reefs. I took my iPhone inside a LifeProof case and my GoPro Hero 4. The LifeProof case worked wonders and I was able to use my phone for taking underwater pictures for over an hour. Of course my GoPro took amazing pictures. The turtles were so beautiful swimming around us eating grass on the bottom of the sea, coming up every few minutes for air. If you plan to come here remember sea turtles are endangered so DO NOT TOUCH THEM as this can do irreversible harm. Parking along the beach is a little dicey so just drive around until you can find the cheapest and safest place to park. Obviously do not leave any valuables in the car. Rental cars in Mexico are huge targets because they have a large paper plastered on them designating they are rental and most likely belong to tourists. This was one of my favorite snorkel experiences except for what happened to my hair after we were finished. Even though I had it in a braid and bun, somehow during the swim it got loose. When I got out of the water, it was in a gigantic tangled ball.  We ran around town trying to find conditioner and after finally finding some I put an entire bottle in my hair. It took three hours to separate the hairs one by one until the knots were all out. I learned a lesson about ocean swimming from this terrible ending. I now put a lot of heavy conditioner in my hair, leave it in, make many braids, and then a bun. After done swimming I wash the goo out of my hair and it’s much better.