When I first told Claire I wanted to go to Stingray City while we were in Antigua, she was really unsure because of the whole Steve-Urwin-getting-killed-by-a-stingray thing. Before we went I did lots of research and made sure it wasn't cruel to the stingrays, but none of them are forced into a pool or area, it's right out in the open ocean and they choose to come in and interact with people and get some yummy squid. There was heaps of stuff we wanted to do that there weren't any excursions for (or we would need to do multiple excursions), so we hired a Jeep for a day, and did it all ourselves, including Stingray City. It was so much fun!!
I'll tell you all about our day of driving in a coupla days, but for now I'm just gonna tell you about Stingray City. We arrived a little early so got changed and chilled out. There isn't really much at Stingray City, it's literally just a hut and a toilet block, so don't get there too early before your allotted time. Eventually it was time and after a safety briefing we got on the boat to be taken out to the sandbank.
We got to the floating platform in the ocean and got ourselves sorted with snorkels and masks. We could already see a whole load of stingrays swimming around in the ocean over the sandbank. All of a sudden I felt super nervous - what if I stepped on one and it 'barbed' me!? I got into the water and made sure to do the 'stingray shuffle' where you shuffle your feet through the sand to make sure you don't stand on any, Stingrays swum around us, and one knocked me over by swimming right through my legs!!
You have a few guides in the water with you making sure you're safe and teaching you how to hold and feed the stingrays if you want to. We had Clarence looking after us, who was absolutely wonderful and we loved him! He had names for the stingrays, and taught us so much about them and answered all of my random questions. I got the most hilarious video ever where he was helping me feed one, and the stingray sucked up my finger and I squeal and go 'it bit me!!' then he's tryna persuade me to do it again and I ask 'can you put your hand around mine so it bites you instead of me?'. Man I'm such a bitch.
Thankfully the stingrays don't actually have teeth, their mouths are like suction things, so they suck up food (and you fingers...it REALLY hurt you guys). Anyway, we also got to hold the stingrays, I asked Clarence heaps of questions about whether this hurts them or if it's cruel, and he said they choose to come to the area and interact with people, no one forces them to. As long as you hold them properly, support their 'sides/wings', and make sure they stay under the water, they just relax onto you and chill out.
It was super weird. Just having a giant stingray all relaxed on you gently flapping it's sides. You can tell if a stingray wants to be let go because it will flap it's sides violently to try and get away, so you just let go and it swims off. We had one stingray with us who wouldn't leave us alone! We kept stroking her (they feel so smooth and soft), and when Clarence let go of her she kept coming back to us and nudging us to hold her again. TOO CUTE.
It was so crazy having so many huge stingrays swimming around us, and as long as didn't step on them there was no risk or danger whatsoever. They're such gentle creatures and we loved every minute of the experience (even when my finger got sucked into it's mouth)!
The Stingray City experience is pricey, it's £50pp, for around an hour with the stingrays. But in my eyes it's so worth it if you're an ocean and animal lover. It's just one of those 'once in a lifetime' things, being able to interact with them in the wild and learn more about them.
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