Stingray City in Antigua holds the revered status as Number 1 on Tripadvisor in the ‘Things to do in Antigua’ category. Hence, I felt the need to dress up for our recent visit.
Hark back to my initial flight to the island from Switzerland (where swimwear had been something of a redundant part of my wardrobe). With great lack of foresight I realised at the last-minute that I was heading towards a tropical island with just one item of swimwear.
I wanted to find a polka dot bikini. But I didn’t.
This was amidst my panicked speed-shop that I inevitably do in the departure lounge at the airport.
As it turns out, I can’t speedily buy a bikini: at least not one that I like.
I bought mascara on the plane from the duty-free trolley instead. The sales brochure hinted that it was a waterproof model. For my grown-up life I have only ever worn one brand of mascara: Lancome. Believe it or not, when I was 21 years old, I did a TV commercial for a French brand of hot chocolate. The make up artist for the shoot used ‘Lancome Bienfait Total’ to moisturise my skin and I have been a devout Lancome follower ever since.
A few years later when I moved to Australia, I house-hopped for a few months from youth hostel to whoever’s-spare-bedroom. I have never considered myself as one of the ‘trendy girls’ (or ‘trirls’ as I like to call them). I am much more of the school geek (yes I always sat in the front row, and to stamp in the cliché even further, I managed the school library!). However, a ‘trirl’ in Australia at one of the houses I stayed in, noticed my Lancome mascara and absent-mindedly commented that Lancome made the best mascara in the world. Little did she know, the influence on my life that her comment would have and that I continue to be faithful to the brand in a weak effort to be trendy. I think her name was Laura.
So I made a mistake on the plane to Antigua: I purchased the non-Lancome yet ‘waterproof’ mascara from the air hostess. “I’ll have a mascara, thanks”.
The mascara gives me huge panda eyes when I mix it with salt water. Great.
I’m allergic to eyelash tint but I still want to look nice on the beach. Perhaps I shouldn’t swim, or ‘get my hair wet’. But where’s the fun in that?
So I hunted among Lisa Eldridge’s brilliant tutorials and discovered that I should merely wear eye liner at the beach / pool. Yay, that works! Now at least I feel like I have made an effort when we head out for a swim.
So when we went to Stingray City, I made an effort. (And I am sure that the stingrays completely approved.)
Ricky the dog came too, of course. We are far too European here: most people have dogs as guard-dogs so they stay at home when their owners go out. Hence when we take Ricky with us we definitely attract some interest. That, paired with the fact that dachshunds are extremely rare on the island: “What is it?” we get asked. Or “Is that a puppy Doberman?” (Yes, somebody really asked that).
The amazing team at Stingray City however, seemed totally unfazed, “Of course the dog can come”.
What is better than a speedboat zooming out to a tropical reef and the wind in your ears?
The reef is a short 10 minute boat ride from their base on the east coast of Antigua and the pontoon lies over a sandy bottom that is only about 3 feet deep. As such, Stingray City is really accessible to everyone – children, elderly, disabled and even Ricky the dog.
There are stingrays aplenty. It is a strange experience to start with (and this is an ex-dive instructor talking, one that has swum with all kinds of sea creatures). The stingrays harmlessly bump our legs and flap their wings. The guides encourage us to take a turn at holding a stingray near the surface (for a photo that you can buy later – hence the need for eyeliner!). The pictures are really great – testament being that I have been 3 times to Stingray City and bought the picture each time.
If you are feeling quite brave you can feed a ray, but listen carefully to the instructions given or you risk getting a (harmless) ‘love bite’. Yes, my ever enthusiastic son got his hand sucked into the stingrays mouth momentarily. He said that it hurt but he didn’t cry, and now he has a good story to tell.
After about 40 minutes at the reef, the boats race (literally) back to the base where there is a really good Rum Punch waiting (fruit punch option available also), followed by an opportunity to buy photos, T-shirts or other paraphernalia – which you most likely will do, seeing as the Rum Punch is so good.
The T-shirts are fun and the photos bright and sunny (‘Stingray City – the brightest rays in the Caribbean’) and both of my kids sleep with stingray cuddly toys at night now.
It is a great day out and justifies the title of Number 1 attraction in Antigua. It is open all year round. Book the day before to discover which time slot is available.
I’m sure we will be back again soon, especially now that I have discovered a make-up that works in the sea. ;-P
Have you ever been ‘kissed’ by a stingray? Do tell.
See you next week here at antiguaviews.com. And you are welcome to sign up on the right, by clicking the Follow button, if you don’t want to miss out on an instalment.