Friday, June 14, 2019

Swimming with sting rays on idyllic Antigua

The sting rays we swam with were friendly and enjoy people. The creature has one or more large sharp barbed dorsal spines near the base of the whiplike tail and is capable of inflicting severe wounds, and even death.  We braved an encounter recently.

Christene Meyers, right, holds a sting ray with help from a naturalist.

GENTLE GIANTS OF THE SEA MAKE HUMAN CONTACT ON BEAUTIFUL ISLAND

The man in blue is the naturalist, guiding tourists
from Germany, Australia and the U.S. 

STORY By CHRISTENE MEYERS
PHOTOS By BRUCE KELLER

IF YOU have never taken a swim with a sting ray, why not stretch yourself a bit, widen your horizons, try something new.
I am not a water baby like much of my family or my part-amphibian partner.
But I love nature and enjoy the bonds I've made with other species.
So I entered the water and for a brief, happy time, making friends with a pair of sting rays off Antigua.
Southern rays are the brightest rays in the
It's believed to be good luck to kiss a ray as they snorkelers do.
Caribbean. As promised, we found them friendly, gentle and as interested in us as we were in them.
According to my partner, photographer Bruce Keller, they have learned to trust humans because they get food from them, and because people treat them with respect.
WE FOUND the experience "a thrill of a lifetime," to use an overworked but accurate cliche.  The cruise line billed it as "a unique opportunity to interact and feed the rays."  What do these graceful guys and gals eat?  Animals that are smaller and live on the bottom of the sea: worms, clams, oysters, shrimp, squid and fish smaller than they are.  They're carnivors, like lions and tigers. Speaking of tigers, a segue to the incident with naturalist Steve Irwin.  His bizarre death by a sting ray was caused because the creature believed his shadow was that of the tiger shark, the ray's greatest predator. That was a fluke. But the byword is still be careful and make slow movements. 
The sting rays are friendly and swim up to humans.
 The lure to visiting Stingray City is two-fold:  besides the sting ray opportunity, Antigua offers some of the most magnificent snorkeling with brilliantly colored coral reefs and wildly colorful tropical fish. 
WE TOOK a bus from our cruise
 Captain Keller
on the boat to 
swim with the rays.

You will be in a group when you venture out to swim with the sting rays.
ship terminal, then boarded a speedboat for a 15-minute ride which whisked us to a shallow pool with a white sand bottom surrounded by beautiful coral reef. You may stand up or swim with the rays. After feeding, snorkeling and taking pictures with our new friends, we returned to our land base for punch and a rinse off. The "city" has a small bird zoo, with disappointing small cages. The sting ray experience is the highlight.
TO CHECK on Antigua travel given recent safety issues, use a free service for travelers or nationals living abroad: Smart Travel Enrollment Program, or STEP, issues updated advisory on global travel safety, sanctioned by the U.S. State Department: step.state.gov.; stingraycityantigua.com


UP NEXT: Blue Hawaii beckons. That's Blue Hawaii Helicopter. Ride with us high above the clouds for a breathtaking adventure. The top-rated helicopter tour of the islands is waiting for you and we'll take you along on our journey above volcanic mountain tops, the city skyline of bustling Honolulu, the gorgeous canyons and beaches that make Hawaii famous -- and beautiful from a bird's eye view. Remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday for a novel look at travel, art, nature and family.  

4 comments:

  1. Massachusetts MavericksJune 15, 2019 at 6:02 AM

    Fun read as always. Enjoy following the travels of two intrepid souls.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Beverly Hills BaskersJune 15, 2019 at 6:17 AM

    Hoping to do this in November. We will follow the news on Antigua. Thanks for this.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Bethesda AdventurersJune 17, 2019 at 11:21 AM

    Sting and manta rays are the ocean's most graceful creatures. Thank you for this tribute.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Cowardly Cody KidsJune 18, 2019 at 9:25 AM

    Wow! You are braver than we are. Grabbing the gusto, great! Continue thus!

    ReplyDelete