(If you have seen Finding Nemo, you will know what I mean by the title….)
One cloudy sunless day at Half Moon Cay in the Bahamas, we went to meet the sting rays. This was Day Six of our 7-day Holland America cruise.
At first, I was hesitant to do this activity, because, Steve Irwin.
But we needed to have an excursion otherwise we would go crazy after the previous day spent at sea with absolutely nothing done but eat, read, lounge, exercise a bit, eat, read, nap, repeat. It certainly made for a very “relaxing” (read, boring) day indeed!
Stepping foot on Holland America’s private beach was much welcomed even though the weather wasn’t cooperating that day. I can still appreciate the fine white sand and the turquoise blue waters despite the overcast skies and slight drizzle. In fact, out of the other beaches (Grand Turk and St. Thomas) we have visited, this one tops it all. I think it was because there was more beach here, stretching all the way to the tip of the island so it didn’t feel as crowded. But then again, this was a private island so you don’t get other cruise ships docking.
Upon signing our
life away waivers for the sting ray activity, we waited for a few minutes for the group to converge and then we were herded to a waiting safari-like truck where we were brought to the other side of the island. This was where most of the water sports were done since it was in a lagoon with no beach but lots of rocks around instead. The sting rays were corralled further up the cove.
After a brief safety orientation, we were given floating vests and water shoes. We brought our own snorkeling gear for sanitary reasons. And then off we went down the dock where our guide was waiting for us.
Oh but the water was sooo chilly! Everyone was taking their own sweet time descending down the steps trying to get acclimatized to the temperature. Once we were in the water and fully submerged, it was okay, tolerable the least. Dang, the lack of sunshine!
So we snorkeled for a few minutes (I was trying to stay away as far away as I can) just watching the rays and the fish swim by before we were all called to the shallower part of the lagoon where we could all stand in chest or waist deep waters, depending on how tall or short you are. We were asked to form a circle while the “sting ray guy” was standing in the middle. He babbled another set of instructions and gave us some information about the sting rays he was in charge of. Because of his thick island accent, I could barely understand him plus the fact that we were surrounded by at least 10 or 15 sting rays, my mind just simply focused on watching these creatures while I froze in place.
He told us to touch them from the top and to avoid their tails and to shuffle on the sand when walking. Later on, he warned about getting a “sting ray hickie” when feeding them.
Because the sting rays knew him, they started converging en masse, excitedly flapping their wings and some of them even splashing the surface! I was excited and petrified at the same time. Every time a ray’s wing or whatever body part touches my foot or ankle or leg or worse, thigh, I emitted a loud screech-like giggle that my hubby gave me weird looks. I was the loudest I believe because some one said I was having so much fun that they enjoyed looking at me. What the?!?
One ray liked my friend a lot that he tried to climb up her back while I felt another’s tail brush my thigh. It had rough little sharp spikes and I was afraid I would get a rash or a little scrape from it. Thank God I didn’t get anything!
After a few minutes of observing and touching them, I did not, because they were already all over me (their skin felt velvety smooth), it was feeding time. The sting ray whisperer gave us another round of instructions on how to hold the squid the right way. The ray’s mouths are located on the underside of the belly so they would have to suction the food from below.
The guide went to each and everyone of us, standing beside us and showing us the right way to do it, guiding our hands lest we panic and forget all the safety instructions. There were a couple of squeamish folks who gave a tight grip on the squids and were having a back and forth battle with the sting rays. That would have been a sting ray hickie right there. I was lucky my squid got sucked to the ray’s vacuum mouth quickly, without incident. Phew!
We spent about an hour there and by the time we were done, my fingers were looking like dried prunes. Yes, it was still cold. It was a great experience for every one. The kids enjoyed it most especially, an educational experience for sure.
I just wished it was a sunny day!