Swimming With a Stingray Bigger Than Me

Galapagos Islands Animals, Galapagos Marine Life

It was a gorgeous sunny day when we set out for Tintoreras Bay in a tiny panga boat. Our guide Karla advised us to keep our eyes peeled and we would see sea lions, tropical fish, and rays.

I was on an island-hopping Galapagos tour, and I’d already seen a couple of small rays at each of the sites – stingrays and spotted eagle rays as well.  So I wasn’t too excited, that is, until we came across this monster. 

Spotting the Stingray

Our awesome tour guide Karla first spotted it off the side of our boat, the water was clear and you could see it clearly on the bottom. Our entire group went a little crazy pointing and snapping hundreds of photos.

Some wanted to jump in the water for a closer look but our boat was headed for the rocks to see the penguins and finish our tour.

Stingray off the port side!

Swimming With the Stingray

After finishing our bay tour, we jumped in the water to snorkel. First I saw tropical fish floating above rocks, and a couple small eagle rays swimming by.

I found the stingray that we had spotted from the boat after a grand total of 5 minutes. After all, in shallow crystal clear water it isn’t hard to spot something that’s as big as you are!

The monster was resting on the bottom of the sandy bay, its gills fluttering. I swam around it in disbelief. I swam to the front, and looked it right in the face. It looked quite calm, flat as a pancake against the sand, but who knows when the stinger would whip up for attack.

I took a lot of pictures, and the stingray stayed where it was. I think I was too small to be a threat as a predator, and too large to be an appetizing lunch.

Does this stingray look friendly to you?

Would you like to swim with a prehistoric-size stingray?

Is Swimming With Stingrays Dangerous?

Stingrays are normally docile creatures, and do not attack humans unprovoked.

Giant stingray

However, stingrays inhabit the bottom of the ocean and can sometimes blend into the sand. When snorkelers or divers accidentally step on stingrays, stings can occur. They have a flexible, barbed tail that they can whip up in defense.

Visitors to the Galapagos are well-advised to keep a sharp eye out for stingrays when wading through shallow water (shuffling your feet will scare them away), and not to swim directly above them.

Read more about how exciting it is to snorkel and dive in the Galapagos.

Have you gone swimming with stingrays? Let us know in comments!

Meet the Author

Lisa Cho is an expat living in Ecuador, originally from San Francisco, California. She writes about the Galapagos Islands on this site and about her mainland Ecuador adventures on CuencaCultureShock.com

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