Bahamas Stories and Tips

Swimming With the Rays

Swimming with rays Photo, Nassau, Bahamas

All of a sudden and much like Carnival, string rays have earned a reputation they do not deserve. First, and tragically, the late Steve Irwin was killed by the barb of a string ray. Then a few weeks later another person was barbed by a ray. So now they are moving up into shark status as man killers. Both of which is asinine.

These are usually very shy and gentle creatures. Their barbs normally are not fatal to humans. Unfortunately Steve was barbed in the heart, and nothing is supposed to be penetrating the heart. It was a terrible loss of someone who only wanted to do good in the world. Somehow or another I would imagine Steve would have rather gone this way then slowly dying in a bed from a ravenous disease.

One of the first things you learn when starting to dive or snorkel is that you are venturing into these creatures habitat and to do so you must respect their home. You also know that entering the water like this has its own set of dangers that can include death. But then so can getting in a car and driving down the road. Yet we don’t let that stop us from getting in and taking off.

We caught our boat near where the cruise ships embark. After settling in we were off to island paradise. The 20 minute boat ride to blue lagoon was pure heaven. We charted through turquoise blue waters, past the Nassau lighthouse in the distance, and from the top deck we could see any number of sea creatures. All too soon we were pulling into the island and ready for the next phase of our adventure.

This island is the setting for many different shore excursions so there will be plenty of people along for the ride. In addition to swimming with the rays, there is snorkeling, diving, kayaking, and just relaxing at the beach or snoozing in a hammock. You do have to purchase your shore excursion in advanced to take advantage of the water sports offered here.

Now you actually buy time here on the island and not a specific time to go snorkeling. You’re told what time the boat will pick everyone up and then the day is at your leisure. Since we didn’t have to be in the swimming area at any specific time we just enjoyed the island first. Our first stop was at the restaurant on the premises. This is an open grill with tables setting around it on the beach. Nothing fancy, but you’re on the beach so they don’t need to be. They serve burgers and hot dogs as well as local specialties such as seafood and jerked meat. We had wanted some of the jerk chicken that was so artfully grilling away, but we didn’t know they didn’t accept credit cards, so we only had enough for burgers and fries. Still good and the jerk season are used in the hamburger patties giving them a spicy kick. After our taste temping meal we decided to wait a while before swimming. I don’t know if that old wives tale is actually true, but I didn’t feel like diving in the water after immediately eating anyway.

There are hammocks stretched across trees and tucked into ever nook on the island. John and I found two together in a nice secluded patch of palm trees and just plopped in for a while. We just swayed back and forth as the gentle breeze from the water almost lulled us into a nap. After about 45 minutes of enjoying our romantic surroundings we decided to go play with the rays.

We followed the path to where we would begin the second part of our day. They have bathrooms and lockers located on the path to the pool area. John and I both wore our swim wear under our clothes and when we arrived on the island we just striped down to our swim wear. We went inside and secured a locker and were on our way. We donned our snorkel gear and waited with other guests for our guide. Within a few minutes, Damon, came over and went over the rules and what to expect. Then off to the pool.

This area was specifically chosen because the rock formations have set up a natural pool area thusly keeping currents from the ocean at bay. Making it safe for all levels of participants. This was our first snorkeling adventure so I was a little nervous. At first I was being cautious, barely venturing from the safety of the steps nearby and hanging on to them for dear life. There were plenty of beautiful fish just swimming around this area. Eventually I felt confident to swim out closer to where the rays were.

The rays tended to stay near the bottom and swimming up on occasion to interact with the curios people above who had made this trip specifically to see them. The 2 divers would swoop down with fish in hand to encourage these guys to come up top for a bit to give their guests a closer look at these amazing creatures. John and I swam around enjoying the beauty of these creatures and there are some pretty amazing fish here too. But before long our time had quickly flew by and we needed to head in to change before making our way back to our boat.

Once again we boarded the boat that would be taking us back to Nassau. Once we were headed back the DJ started spinning a few tunes and everyone got into the party mood. Rum punch was free flowing and sodas for kids and those of us who are tee tottlers. On our way to the island, John and I sat topside in order to take full advantage of the amazing view. On the way back it had become cool and we decided to stay inside and just relax and amazingly enough one of John’s students and his family had been on the island as well. So we just sat around talking with them over our island getaway.

Swimming with the rays was an experience I will never forget. This excursion is offered with just about every cruise line and resort. If your cruise or resort doesn’t offer this option you can just got to the visitors booth which can be found at the cruise ships docks and someone there can help arrange it for you. For more information simply go to  

Tip#1 Make sure to bring cash with you. There is a restaurant on the island but they only take cash. They also have a gift shop here and they do take credit cards, but they do not have an ATM.

Tip#2 No matter what time of year you are coming make sure to pack a sweatshirt in your bag with you. Temps here average in the 70’s year round making it very nice. But after you have been in the water then you are out in the water on the boat it gets very cold. We were here in December and about froze our butts off on the boat ride back. When I was a travel agent I had several clients tell me the same thing and they went in the dead of summer.

Tip#3 If you think snorkeling is something you might be interested in doing again, invest in good equipment. You are provided with everything you needed on the island and the masks and snorkel are soaked to sanitize them. I still don’t like putting something in my mouth that has been in someone else’s mouth, I don’t care how much they sanitize it. Go to your local dive shop and let them help you. You can get sets at sporting goods shops for about $30-$50. They are junk! Good equipment will cost you (my diving mask alone was $150) but will last a very long time. While there you can also take snorkeling classes. Once you start, who knows, you may decide to take the plunge and learn how to dive!

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