Moorea, Society Islands, French Polynesia
Most of the guidebooks about Moorea will at least mention feeding the sting rays.
Typically, you would need to rent a boat or hire a tour guide to go do this but since our old friends on FLY AWEIGH pulled into port a few days ago they offered to give us all a lift out to the reef.
We expected to see some rays at a distance and toss them a few fish. The rays had other plans and were happy to educate us on how this whole thing actually worked.
It’s important to first note that everyone had a really wonderful time spending the afternoon with these amazing and gentle sea creatures…however, when 60 seconds after getting into the water there are 8 five foot wide sting rays surrounding us and jumping up in our faces like puppies looking for a snack…well it can be a little unnerving at first.
Some important things to understand the basis for our reaction here:
1) One or two sting rays climbing up on us, no problem. Greg had at least 8 and they had completely surrounded him.
2) Sting rays are related to sharks…and they have teeth
3) Remember Steve Irwin? Crocodile hunter dude? Yeah, a sting ray killed him.
4) If you step on a sting ray, you will get a spike though your leg. (remember the part where they had surrounded Greg?)
Now, the odds of a sting ray getting a kill shot on one of us were next to zero. However, we are acutely aware that we are, again, in one of the most remote places in the world. Does Papeete have a hospital? Yes, and we’d rather just avoid the whole “find out what it’s like to catch a spike in the leg” thing.
The difficulty is these rays have become accustomed to people feeding them. Translation: they have lost all fear of humans. While this is cute and nice and we’re really glad that everyone is being friendly to the animals and all, it leads to some problems. For example, before you realize what’s going on you find yourself literally dog piled by large sea creatures who do have the capacity to cause you a bit of hurtin’ should they choose to. Now, granted, the rays are giving you the equivalent of a fishy hug but if you’re not prepared for it, it can be pretty freaking scary until you figure out that they are actually quite hospitable.
Also, a few of the rays had cuts on their bodies from where they had gotten too close to the props of small boats and gotten cut.
So it’s not ideal and as we found out, feeding the wildlife does have its consequences. That being said, the rays are gorgeous and odd creatures that actually “fly” through the water instead of swimming like all the other fish. Once they had figured out we were out of food, they backed off a little bit and we were able to swim with them and get a close look at wild sting rays (and a few of their friends) on their home turf.