Posted by: yachtcrewsing | January 21, 2012

Swimming with Stingrays

   “Aaah, they keep rubbing against my leg!” my friend squealed as yet another friendly stingray brushed against her with their large rounded fins. Welcome to Stingray City Antigua, where the sea creatures act like pet dogs and there is an enclosure to keep tourists in while allowing free range to the various fish and ray species.

   Touristy- maybe. Unique- yes.

    My friend and I used Stingray City, on the north-east corner of the island, as an excuse for a little day trip to that region. All within the same area are a plethora of beautiful beaches, the geologically unique Devil’s Bridge and a variety of lovely resorts and restaurants. The 45 minute drive from English Harbour is well worth the effort.

   The stingray experience was multi-faceted, involving cages of adorable monkeys and exotic birds to see before the tour, taking a power boat to the reef, snorkeling and interacting with the stingrays and returning for a glass of rum punch and a shower.

   It was a small group of 7 of us, which meant that there was an average of about 3 stingrays per person. The multitude of rays (the females large and the males small) swum around our ankles, brushed their buttery smooth skin against us and went gliding majestically beside us as we snorkeled. We were also given squid to feed the stingrays- a bizarre experience indeed. Their mouths are located not in front of their face but rather on their underside of their bodies. The method for feeding them, as explained to us, was to hold the squid in a clenched fist with your thumb tucked in should it be mistaken for food, and held two inches away from their mouthes. As the stingray hovers over the food, it proceeds to suck the squid into its small hole of a mouth, the suction of which feels like an underwater vacuum.

   It took a while to get used to the creatures (especially in light of the tragic death of Steve Irwin), but once we had overcome our prejudices we happily warmed to their strangely affectionate nature. The chance to interact with stingrays in their natural habitat was a truly unique and worthwhile experience, one that I highly recommend to anyone presented with the opportunity.

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