The twin islands of Antigua and Barbuda are filled with many natural attractions, from snorkeling and diving the pristine coral reefs, to hiking in the lush rainforests and spotting many rare bird species. One unique natural experience in Antigua is to swim with the graceful stingrays at Stingray City.

stingray city in Antigua

Where can I swim with the stingrays in Antigua?
Visitors who want to swim with the graceful stingrays should head to Stingray City, located in a shallow reserve on a sandbar on the west of Antigua. Its closest point on shore is Mercers Creek Bay. The rays in Stingray City are very used to humans as they have been coming here and interacting with them for years.

What is a stingray?
Stingrays in Antigua are related to the shark family and there are eight different types of stingrays including eagle rays, whiptail stingrays and butterfly stingrays. The rays located in Stingray City are Southern rays. Southern stingrays live in the tropical and subtropical waters of the Western Atlantic Ocean and can be found along the coast from Brazil up to the East Coast of the US. Southern rays are known as the ‘puppy dogs of the sea’ as they are very playful and friendly. They can be identified by their muddy brown color, white undersides and barbed tails.

What is it like to swim with the stingrays at Stingray City?
You will begin your stingray adventure at Stingray City’s land base, where you will learn all about the rays, as well as how to handle and feed them. The base is also home to a number of other animals such as parrots and monkeys, which you can also visit. After a safety briefing, a short speedboat ride will take you out to the shallow sandbar where you will be able swim and touch the rays. You may also be given small pieces of mollusks, fish or crustaceans to feed them with.  The surrounding area is filled with many colorful coral reefs which can also be explored by snorkeling a short way out. Other creatures you may spot include sea turtles, barracudas and small tropical fish. Back at the shore, visitors can take a refreshing shower under a coconut tree and enjoy a complimentary rum punch.

How do I know it’s safe?
Many people have a fear of stingrays because of their poisonous barbed tail, however most people don’t understand that the rays only use their barb or sting for self-protection against predators and never use it to attack. Your Stingray City guides will explain how touch and feed the stingrays so that you remain safe at all times. In the extremely unlikely even of being stung, the injury, although painful is rarely life threatening. Most visitors to Stingray City quickly overcome their fear and enjoy this unique wildlife experience.

Where to stay?
There are many Caribbean holiday deals available in Antigua and Barbuda, which are home to a range of accommodation options, from beachfront villas, to luxury resorts and laid back bed and breakfasts. If you’re after a spot of true luxury, try Blue Waters Resort, recently named as Antigua and Barbuda’s Leading Resort at the World Travel Awards 2013.