My recent stingray adventure at Disney’s private island Castaway Cay taught me one thing…that I’m mildly afraid of stingrays. But let me back up first and give you a background on this unique activity.
Although one can happily spend their time on Castaway Cay doing absolutely nothing (and more importantly, spending nothing), as this was our second time there, I wanted to try something new. On our first visit to the island we had basked in the sun, eaten, swam, rented bikes but that was about it. So when perusing the list of excursions offered on the island, the stingray adventure stood out. The promise of being able to get “up close and personal” with this sea animal greatly intrigued me. The excursion would consist of feeding the stingrays and then the chance to snorkel with them. Fun…in theory.
The Stingray Adventure is offered hourly starting at 9 AM (for reference a Disney cruise ship lets people disembark from the ship starting at 8:30 AM) and going until 3 PM (passengers have to be back on the ship by 4:30 PM). I signed up for the first tour of the day at 9 AM. My reasoning for this was that the area where the excursion takes place is relatively near to the “beginning entrance” of the island (i.e. where the activities are) and since I knew that we would be spending the majority of the day at Serenity Bay which is even deeper into the island, I didn’t want to backtrack.
There were a ton of stingrays in the 40,000 square foot lagoon where they reside. Their dark coloring makes them easy to spot in the water. Just seeing them swim around, sometimes in a group, other times individually, made them seem somewhat eerie.
A benefit for doing the first adventure of the day is that it wasn’t crowded at all. There were the two of us, a mother and her child, a family of four, and a family of three, so 10 in all. The next adventure at 10 AM was noticeably more crowded, at least had 25 people.
The adventure begins with a sort of “education” about the stingrays as well as the island’s conservation efforts. All of the stingrays that are part of the adventure were once wild (caught right there on the island) and they go through about a month of “training.” I learned that there are dozens of stingray types, that the female is considerably larger than the male, and that all of the stingrays at Castaway Cay that are part of the program have had their barbs trimmed (the stingers, the part that can make stingrays quite deadly).
After the lesson, we ventured into the lagoon along with a trained staff member. It was feeding time. We waded into the water and stood around a “feeding tray” that one of the staff had around his waist. Basically the stingray would come up into the tray, be fed, and exit the other way. As the staff member said, it was like drive through at a fast food place; there’s a route you need to follow.
I liked being able to see the stingrays up close but I couldn’t bring myself to feed them. You were instructed to put a piece of food between your fingers (shrimp, squid, or a “jello” that is specially prepared for them as it contains nutrients), place it on the tray and then wait for the stingray to eat it. I wasn’t afraid of being bit because I knew they don’t do that, it was just more the extreme closeness of a stingray eating from my fingers. This went on for a bit and it was a cross between comical and cute seeing how they ate and would almost queue up to do so.
The other thing that was slightly creepy was that I had never been in an area before where big sea creatures were just swimming around. While I have previously snorkeled, I only ever saw fish who were always more scared and would swim away if I got too close. Stingrays, they’re just going about their business and if they happen to graze a human leg, no big deal. There were also a ton of fish in the lagoon, big and small, so they were also causing me to want to jump around a bit every time I felt something graze my body.
After feeding them, we were able to swim and snorkel in the lagoon. I just couldn’t get into it, but in all honesty I just enjoyed seeing these creatures that are seldom ever shown (at least in a good light).
The stingray adventure is definitely an experience you won’t get in a lot of places and the fact that the barbs on the stingrays have been trimmed makes it an incredibly safe adventure. One of the children in the group looked to be about five and while she was panicking at times, it was definitely more about her apprehension to putting her face in the water, and not the many creatures swimming about (I don’t even think she really noticed them). I believe this would be a fun experience for children but only if they really enjoy being in the water.
First travels of 2014
Disney Cruise Review-Magic (Part 1)
Restaurant Review: Disney Cruise Ship’s Palo
Disney Cruise Review-Magic (Part 2)