Snuggling Stingrays and swanning around with sharks!

Snuggling Stingrays and swanning around with sharks!

Anyone who knows me will know that I am deathly afraid of seaweed. If you want to see my cry like a 2 year old, throw a bit of kelp my way. However, when the magical opportunity to swim with sharks and snuggle up to stingrays arose in Moorea, French Polynesia I took it without! Not just once, but twice!

From the minute the ship enters the lagoon of Moorea, the scenery is spectacular! To get to the stingray and shark area from the ship, you need to board a boat and travel to the western side of the lagoon. Forgetting about what you are about to swim with, the scenery is just out of this world!

So, a little bit of information about stingrays of Moorea – they are not, as many people think aggressive and out to sting you; they are curious, gentle animals. They watch you like they are trying to work out what you are! The important thing to remember is don’t chase them and don’t grab them – like any creature in this world, if you surprise it or upset it it will lash out (I’ll explain this theory better when I talk about sharks.)

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The sandbar where you begin your stingray and shark adventure!

The stingrays of Moorea are fairly well acquainted with humans – they are very tame and very relaxed around everyone in the water (But this is the beautiful Moorea – how can anything not be relaxed in such a beautiful place?!)

 

 

You’re probably wondering about the fear factor. Some of these stingrays were heavier than me (not such a difficult feat) and my hubby! The first time I was a little worried (Maybe they will zoom at me and knock me over? Stingrays are not that vindictive – as I said they are gentle) but I figured that lots of people do this all the time here and I will be absolutely fine. I was more than fine – by then end of the encounter with them I didn’t want to leave!

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They just loved the guide! 

So we grab our snorkels (no flippers please – stingrays and flippers don’t mix we are told) and head into the water. The tour guide little to my knowledge has some food (I’m not 100% sure what they eat but I know for certain it’s not people!) for them and they begin zooming around because they know what’s coming.

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A stingray handshake! Brushing against hubby’s legs to say hello!

Their way of saying hello is to brush up against you or gently run into you with their nose. What I wasn’t ready for is how they actually feel – It’s like a very soft rubber! I expected slimy (why, I don’t know) but from that first touch, I was totally hooked – I just HAD to pat these guys!!!

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Getting a bit more confident – I can and will have a snuggle with a stingray!!

I am a total animal fanatic – if anywhere in my vicinity there is an animal I can touch, I absolutely will! Dear Husband however doesn’t share this obsession.  He prefers to watch animals rather than touch them, and that’s totally ok. I’ve known one other person in my life that feels the same about touching animals so I get it. However animals really like him – it’s probably because he doesn’t bother them. Having said that, for that morning he stepped out of his comfort zone and touched a stingray! Bossy little me said “You have so got to feel them – it’s amazing” and he did.

 

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You so had to experience this! I think deep down you liked it 🙂

So I’m sure you want to know exactly what was going through my mind when I thought it was a good idea that we swim with sharks. Firstly, if I wanted to swim with stingrays, the sharks were part of the tour, secondly, are they really going to let a whole heap of cruise ship passengers become lunch? I think not. Thirdly was “This is really going to be interesting to look a shark in the face”. I don’t think I told Mum until after I had done it 🙂

The sharks you swim with are not exactly dangerous. They are small, black tipped reef sharks. Small in the shark world still weighs about the same I do. I was a little bit apprehensive (All sharks have pretty impressive teeth) but I REALLY had to do this! This is bucket list material! Swanning around with sharks – count me in!!!

We were told not to chase or pat the sharks – they don’t like it. Dear husband re-iterated to me the “Don’t pat the sharks” part just to make sure I really understood (I’ll explain about my fish obsession in a later post).  We watched them, I swam close to them, hubby I think got a bit worried I was getting too close, but on the whole they really couldn’t care less that we were there. They were on the sandbar for the food and when that was gone so were they. I managed to take some pretty amazing photos though!

It’s a common misconception that sharks like people to eat. This is absolutely not the case. We have a nose to smell with, and they understand what things are by biting them. They actually don’t like human (but in our wetsuits we often are mistaken by the more dangerous ones for seals). Secondly, and I’ve explained this to a few people – Sharks’ defense is their teeth; they don’t carry a gun or a baseball bat. What would you do if a shark came strolling into your lounge room un-announced and made its self at home? Of course you would attack it. We are in their world, and we have to respect that.

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I was asking our tour guide every question under the sun in the hope we could stay another ten minutes and I would get another stingray snuggle before we had to leave!

If you are ever in Moorea, no matter what you feel about the water take this amazing tour! From the scenery you experience on the way there, to the amazing once in a lifetime encounter you have with these amazing animals it is worth every single cent!

Until next time in another amazing corner of our planet,

Marina 🙂