One of the most captivating creatures found in the Caribbean sea is the stingray, surprisingly related to sharks. With about 220 different types of stingray species organized into ten families and twenty-nine genera, these magnificent creatures are mostly found in coastal tropical waters. If you’re looking for a unique experience of interacting with southern rays, Stingray City Antigua is the place to be.
History of Stingray City Antigua
Stingray City Antigua was opened in 2002 by Andrew Moody-Stuart and Foster Derrick, an Antiguan environmentalist. The floating dock site for Stingray City Antigua is located on the northeast coast of the island in Seaton’s Village, and it has become one of the most popular tourist attractions in Antigua, attracting around 3,500 visitors per month.
Stingray City Antigua Snorkel Adventure
A scenic 5-minute speedboat ride from Seaton’s Village takes you to the shallow stingray pool, where you will be greeted by experienced guides who will provide a full briefing before heading out to Barge Reef. Once there, they also provide further instructions and guidance on how to interact, feed, and safely hold one of the stingrays that are used to human presence. Held the correct way, southern stingrays are docile, and it is incredible to touch their silky-smooth skin.
Brightest Rays and Magnificent Coral Reefs
At Stingray City Antigua, visitors can interact with around 30 to 40 southern stingrays (hypanus americanus), the brightest rays that flutter about in the shallow waters of Barge Reef. With their mud-brown upper body and white underbelly, they are large, flat, and diamond-shaped, like elephant ears. These captivating animals 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 traditional and quirky, include Surface, Lulu, S class, Popcorn, Sugar, Squid Table, Samantha, and Jennifer.
Beyond the southern stingrays that flutter about in the shallow waters of Barge Reef, visitors who swim and snorkel at Stingray City Antigua have the unique opportunity to see other types of marine life, including colorful tropical fish such as angelfish, snapper, blue tang, red hind, grouper, and barracuda. The coral reefs surrounding the area are magnificent, and the white sand bottom provides a stunning backdrop for photos.
Stingray City Antigua opening times
Stingray 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. Once at Barge Reef, visitors get about an hour and twenty minutes to swim and interact with the stingrays. All are welcome on the Stingray City Antigua tours — there are no age restrictions!
How to get to Stingray City Antigua
Stingray City Antigua is a popular tour for both cruise passengers and stay-over tourists. It is located in Seaton’s Village, which is a 30-minute drive from Saint John’s, the capital city. You can get there from the cruise port or hotel via a taxi or organizing a trip via one of Antigua’s popular tour operators.
Popular Tours to Stingray City Antigua
Two popular tours to Stingray City Antigua include:
With pickup from most major hotels in Antigua, this tour to Stingray City includes a three hour visit to Barge Reef where you will be able to swim, snorkel and interact with southern stingrays.
This six hour powerboat trip around Antigua includes passing by and stopping at some of the island’s more popular tourist attractions. This includes:
- Great Bird Island (pass by)
- Stingray City (one-hour stop)
- Nelson’s Dockyard (pass by)
- Pillars of Hercules (45-minute stop)
- Rendezvous Bay Beach (45-minute stop)
Tips for visiting Stingray City Antigua
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 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!
Stingray City Antigua has a land base where you can find a collection of merchandise, including souvenirs, t-shirts, and hats. The site also offers complimentary rum and fruit punch, which you can enjoy under a coconut tree while watching fellow guests interact with the stingrays.