GRAND CAYMAN, Cayman Islands

To remember your visit to Stingray City sandbar, you can buy a souvenir video for $55. The picture will be of you. But you won't hear your voice.

The video instead uses music "to cover up the screaming," explains a ponytailed videographer aboard the little boat Amazon as it chugs into glistening North Sound.

Screaming? Cover up the screaming?

Not to worry.

You do scream when you jump into the ocean to meet schools of stingrays, but not because they hurt you. You scream because it feels really strange to be bumped by rubbery sea animals. You scream because you're standing on a sandbar miles out in the sea.

"I don't like the ocean, but I loved this," says Denny McKee of Knoxville, Ill., dripping wet and smiling after his brush with the rays.

More than a year after a stingray barb pierced the heart of "Crocodile Hunter" Steve Irwin and killed the naturalist off the Australian coast, stingray tourism half a world away in the Cayman Islands is as busy as ever.

"We never had any downturn," says Clara Bush-Young, operations manager of Cayman Land and Sea Cooperative, which runs daily tours of Stingray City sandbar. "Here, they are tame. People hold them, kiss them, hug them."

Half of all overnight visitors to the Cayman Islands visit Stingray City. Half of all shore excursions from cruise ships head there, too, according to the Cayman Islands Department of Tourism.

At the sandbar, 25 minutes by boat into the sound, stingrays have congregated in the 4-foot-deep water since fishermen started throwing scraps off boats decades ago.

There, even the most timid vacationer can slip into the warm emerald water and let the fish with the long black serrated tails glide past their legs.

The diamond-shaped rays are big, 3 or 4 feet across. You would be big, too, if you had a constant diet of yummy hand-fed squid, provided by tourists from a white plastic bucket.

"Don't try to feed them through their eyes," a guide warns. It sounds obvious, but it's a rookie mistake, because a stingray's hooded, inky eyes are on top of its flat body; its mouth is on the bottom.

Some people use snorkeling equipment to see the animals underwater, but there really is no need because the water is so clear and shallow. Guides grab hold of stingrays so you can kiss or pat one for a few seconds, just enough time to take a picture.

And what about poison-spined barbed tails? These rays are a gentler species than the bull ray that killed Irwin, says Bush-Young. "The stingray that hit Irwin, he was wild, he was not tame and he was scared."

The Caribbean's original stingray attraction can get very crowded. There were about 40 people and four boats when I was there on a fall morning visit, but by the time we left, 10 boats were arriving and hundreds of people were going into the water.

While animal advocates are appalled at the existence of Stingray City with its fish-feeding tourism, new Cayman government regulations are at least putting some weak restrictions on the site. The maximum visitor limit is 20 boats and 1,500 passengers, less food is to be fed to the rays and boats must be licensed.

The busy Stingray sandbar isn't for everyone. Strong swimmers, snorkelers and divers should head instead for the deeper part of Stingray City or fish-rich dive sites such as Barrier Reef or Coral Gardens. The Cayman Islands is one of the world's top diving destinations.

But for lousy swimmers and scaredy-cat snorkelers, this place lets them feel just for a moment what it's like to mingle with undersea life.