One of the magical and slightly mysterious creatures in the Caribbean sea are stingrays, which surprisingly are related to sharks. Mostly found in coastal tropical waters, there are about two hundred and twenty different types of stingray species organized into ten families and twenty-nine genera. An example of cartilaginous fish, you can get up close to them in Antigua by visiting Stingray City Antigua.
History of Stingray City Antigua
One of my favorite things to do in Antigua is visiting Stingray City Antigua. Opened in 2002 by Andrew Moody-Stuart with the Antiguan environmentalist Foster Derrick, Stingray City Antigua is located on the north-east coast of the island in Seaton’s Village. After introductions and a safety briefing, a short 10-minute speed boat ride takes visitors to Barge Reef in Mercer Creek Bay, where water levels around the floating platform are typically four to five feet depending on the tide levels. Increasing in popularity, Stingray City Antigua currently attracts about 3,500 visitors per month.
Southern Stingrays and other fish at Stingray City Antigua
At Stingray City Antigua, visitors have the opportunity to interact with around thirty to forty southern stingrays (hypanus americanus). With a mud brown upper-body and white underbelly, they are large, flat, and diamond-shaped like elephant ears. They are wild and not held in captivity but come when they hear the boats which they associate with food. On the menu for the southern stingrays is squid served up by the guides, many of whom have been working at Stingray City Antigua for a while and can identify them individually. In fact, the guides have given each southern stingray around Barge Reef a name. These names a mix of tradition and quirky include Surface, Lulu, S class, Popcorn, Sugar, Squid Table, Samantha, and Jennifer.
Note: Beyond the southern stingrays who flutter about in the shallow waters of Barge Reef, those who swim and snorkel at Stingray City Antigua have the opportunity to see other types of fish, including angelfish, snapper, blue tan, red hind, grouper, and barracuda.
Safety at Stingray City Antigua
Southern stingrays are bottom-dwelling species and for the most part, harmless. However, they are sometimes portrayed as dangerous as their barbed tails contain venom, which is used as protection from predators like hammerhead sharks. That said, the tour guides – all trained professionals provide a full briefing before heading out to Barge Reef and once there, they also provide further instructions and guidance on how to interact, feed, and safely hold one of the stingrays who are used to human presence. Held the correct way, southern stingrays are docile, and it is incredible to touch their silky-smooth skin.
How to visit Stingray City Antigua
Stringray City Antigua is open year-round every day for tours that start at 9 am, 11 am, 1 pm and 3 pm if there is demand. The tours last about an hour and twenty minutes, and all are welcome — there are no age restrictions! The current price for the tour to swim with the stingrays is US$50 per person. Children four years and younger get to experience Stingray City Antigua for free. A popular activity for both stay-over and cruise visitors, Stingray City Antigua, is about a 30-minute drive from the capital city of St John’s.
To avoid the crowds, I would recommend visiting Stingray City Antigua on a Sunday when it is less busy. Another option would be to schedule for the first or last tour of the day! In terms of what to bring, I would recommend coming along with your swimsuit, towel, sunscreen, and underwater camera if you plan to snorkel. Snorkeling equipment is provided at Stingray City Antigua, and life jackets are available for non-swimmers, though not necessary as the water is pretty shallow. If you don’t have a waterproof camera, don’t worry as one of the guides will be takings pictures of the experience which you can purchase at the end of the tour!
How to book a tour at Stingray City Antigua
You can book a tour for Stingray City Antigua by making contact via their website. You can also book with a local tour operator like Island Safari Jeep Tours Antigua, who depending on your schedule, can also take you to other sightseeing spots in Antigua.