Updated 10.04.2018: Swimming with stingrays is our favorite South Pacific cruise excursion. Period.
Alan and I have cruised the South Pacific four times, and on each sailing, we look forward to connecting with these gentle sea creatures. And if we had to pick one location in French Polynesia that’s a favorite, swimming with stingrays in Moorea would be at the top of the list.
Our experience swimming with stingrays in Moorea
Alan and I are already smiling about what’s to come as we board Silver Spirit’s tender for the Motu Island and Snorkeling Adventure excursion. At Moorea’s small pier, palm trees sway overhead, shading handicraft booths displaying black pearl jewelry, tropical printed sarongs and other trinkets. It’s a good spot to browse until time to board a smaller boat for the ride out to swim with stingrays in the crystal clear waters of Moorea’s lagoon.
Motu Island and Snorkeling Adventure is a 6-hour excursion that includes lunch on a tropical islet with plenty of time for communing with stingrays. The Silversea excursion also provides snorkeling equipment and the boat has a covered top for sun protection. Restroom facilities are available on the islet and on the boat.
Meeting Stingrays in the Moorea Lagoon
On the 45-minute ride to the lagoon from the pier, the boat stops for guests to take photos of the mountainous scenery at Opunohu and Cook’s bays. A guide offers insight into life on Moorea and talks a bit about the island’s history.
Arriving at the lagoon, most of our fellow passengers don snorkeling masks and fins but Alan and I opt for fins only. We’re here to play with our favorites rather than snorkel. And Alan is anxious to test out the Olympus TG-4 Waterproof Camera that we purchased for this trip.
Stingrays appear quickly as the group of snorkelers disperses around the boat. The ballet between humans and stingrays has begun.
I hold my hands out flat at the water’s surface, lightly touching the silky smooth tops of the stingray bodies floating by. One bumps into my legs. I giggle. That’s what stingrays do to me. Another pushes into my chest, hoping that I’m holding a small fish to eat. Alan is talking to them. Yes, we like stingrays.
Black tip sharks dart in and out of human legs and floating stingrays. I don’t remember the sharks coming this close on my last swimming with stingray experience. My biggest fear is that I’ll reach down to touch a stingray and grab a shark instead. It doesn’t happen.
Solving a Swimming With Stingray Mystery
Alan and I have always assumed that the stingrays’ stingers had been broken off to make this a safer experience—not that we would approve of that practice. And so I ask the guide.
“No madam, the stingers are still there,” he says in English tinged with a lilting French accent. And then the guide pulls a stingray out of the water, flipping a wing back to expose the short barb of a stinger. “Stingrays use their stinger when they feel threatened. As long as you are not aggressive with them, they will not sting you.” Whew.
Lunch on a Motu
Alan and I could have interacted with the stingrays for the rest of the day. But this excursion includes lunch, so guests re-enter the boat to motor to an islet where a meal is being cooked for us.
After watching a demonstration on preparing poisson cru, we fill our plates with grilled fish, chicken, salads and local fruits. Picnic tables are scattered about underneath the trees. Of course a fine tropical view of beach and turquoise blue water is included with the meal.
With a couple of hours to spend at this hideaway—slightly too long in our opinion—guests spread out to create their own tropical experience. Some find a sunny spot on the beach for sunning themselves. Others explore the sandy paths. One brave woman (and the oldest among us) swims the channel to an islet across the way.
Learning to Feed the Stingrays
Alan and I enter the water to cool off. Two stingrays approach gently fluttering around our ankles. Yes, I giggle some more. One pushes against my chest, looking for a handout.
The guide notices our stingray love and offers to show us how to feed them. We spend the rest of our time feeding stingrays, petting their backs and giggling as they trip us up. We copy their movements in the water. There’s something about the way they glide that’s relaxing to mimic.
As in other swimming with stingray experiences, Alan and I are the last to get out of the water and back into the boat. It begins to rain on the ride back to the dock before the sun comes back out as the boat passes a series of over-the-water bungalows.
However Alan and I aren’t smiling at the view. We’re basking in the gentle experience of swimming with stingrays.
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