Travel Series: The Stingray That Got Away

13 Sep

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Those who know me, know of my love of travel.  I’ve been fortunate to travel and see some of the most beautiful countries  and sights in the world, which has led to some interesting stories to say the least.  However I have realized that in my quest to visit new places, I’ve overlooked visiting my own beautiful country.  So when the opportunity to visit the Exumas on a powerboat presented itself late last October,  how could I say no?

So just sit right back, and you’ll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip.  That started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship!  The mate was a mighty sailing man, The skipper brave and sure.  4 passengers set sail that day for a 8 hour tour….a 8 hour tour.

You didn’t think I would write a whole blog about going out on the ocean and not make a Gilligan reference did you?  Rewind to last October when I had three friends visiting from Trinidad.  They were here for just about a week and we happened upon Powerboat Adventures.  For the uninitiated, the powerboat takes you from Nassau down the Exuma chain, to their private island also known as Ship Channel Cay.  Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to feed the iguanas, stingrays, and view a shark feeding….oh my.

Now I know what you’re thinking.  It’s almost October again.  Where is he going with this late ass blog post?  Well, timing isn’t always everything and besides, I’m a nostalgic writer.  I’ve always believed that life is best understood in the rearview mirror.  On top of which, it provides me the opportunity to take in everything and provide better content to you, the reader.  So long story short, stop being so selfish!

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Left to Right: Parched (Arun), Tirse (Me), Dehydrated (Abas), Arid (Lynda)

Now here’s the thing.  In the days leading up to the trip, I had my apprehensions about this whole stingray feeding thing.  I assume at some point in every young man’s life, he has to do some shit that probably isn’t in his best interest.  But…well…peer pressure.  That being said, I wasn’t the most excited about feeding stingrays.  Why?  Two words.  Steve. Irwin.  A man who wrestled crocodiles for a living, died by the hands/wings whatever the hell you want to call them, of a sting ray.  And yeah, I know.  Stingray deaths are rare, they rarely attack…yada yadda y’all could miss me with that.  Typically, my idea of living dangerously is letting the person making my sandwich at Subway choose my bread for me.  Raises the hair on the back of my neck every time.  In the spirit of adventure (more so not wanting to look like a bitch in front of company), I chose to put my fears aside.  This would come back to bite me in the proverbial ass, but more on this later.

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On our way!

The day started off easily enough.  We arrived at the boat fairly early and were immediately met by the crew and our fellow passengers.  We were informed that the trip would be approximately 45 minutes where we would first stop and feed the iguanas, and then continue on to Ship Channel Cay.  The views on the way down to the Exumas are awe inspiring to say the least.  Outside of a few gallons of Ocean spray nearly drowning Arun, we made it.

So the ship anchored on the shore of this unchartered desert isle, with Jon, Arun too, Abas…and his wife (Lynda), a local movie star, a professor and a lady named Mary Ann.  I’m really trying to get through the whole theme song.  On this island, we met the Iguanas and fed them grapes.  Apparently, they have poor eyesight so all ladies with red nail polish were warned to keep their toes (if they had nail polish on) embedded in the sand…lest the iguana think that your toe was a grape and well…I’m sure you can figure out where this was headed.  Lynda didn’t seem amused.  After a short while, it was time to mount our chariot again and head toward Ship Channel Cay.

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After speeding and traversing the various cays, we arrived and disembarked.  What was interesting was that as soon as the boat arrived at the dock, so did the sting rays & sharks.  Yes.  Plural. They came in droves.  My heart sank a little.  God…knowing that I wasn’t particularly happy about what was to come next, provided liquid courage.

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Minutes before the impending doom.

Before I knew it, they were asking everyone to line up on the beach so that we could feed the stingrays.  Here’s the scenario.  We were all kneeling down next to each other (about 20 of us) in about waist level water.  In front of us was the Atlantic Ocean…with about 217 sharks, 72 sting rays and 319 different types of fish.  Behind us was the beach.  I didn’t like the fact that I only had one escape route but I figured, what was the worst that could happen?  I hate when I ask myself that question because I typically find out.

Well…apparently stingrays don’t have teeth.  At least that’s what our instructor said.  I googled it and apparently they do?  To be honest, I still don’t know what the truth is and  I’m conflicted but I tend to agree with google.  Apparently, they suck in their food and have extremely powerful suction.  Additionally, they have poor eyesight and float over their food and suck their food up.  We were given a few simple instructions.  1.  Don’t break the line.  2.  We were to gently hold a piece of fish between our index and middle fingers, and the sting ray would suck the food up.  Seems easy enough right?

And initially it was!  It was really cool feeling them swim right up against you and them sucking the fish up like a little water vacuum.  Then the instructor gave me a second piece of fish.  I should have stopped while I was ahead.  Maybe I held the fish too tight.  Maybe my fingers look like fish to stingrays underwater.  Hell if I know.  Whatever the reason was, as I was holding his/her lunch, my finger ended up in a stingray’s mouth.

Now here is why I think stingray’s have teeth.  As a child, for reasons I cannot explain, I’ve always stuck my finger into the vacuum.  Nothing provides a rush like thinking a vacuum is about to suck your finger off.  We’ve all done it.  It’s like singing in the fan and pretending to yodel.  If you haven’t done either of these, you’ve never lived.  At no time playing Russian Roulette with the fan however, did my finger ever bleed.  When this stingray sucked/bit my finger, it did.

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Minutes after my near brush with death.  Notice Stingray bite.  I also became the designated cup holder.

So, I did what any sensible person would do when faced with a life or death decision.  I ran like a bitch.  I was O-U-T.  Usain Bolt would have had a hard time keeping up with me.  I dove across the finish line like Shaunae Miller.  I broke the line…see Rule number 1.  Honestly, I could care less.  After a few moments of introspection,  I came to a startling revelation.  Here I am in waist high water, feeding a sting ray.  When was the last time, a sting ray was waist high in the sand feeding me?  I decided right then, that unless this island was on fire, or Rihanna was drowning and needed to be saved, I would waddle in the water for the remainder of the day with a drink in hand.

The shark feeding that followed was simply amazing.  The instructor who I think may not so secretly have a death wish, repeatedly threw out a line with bait on it and we got to watch the sharks eat.  They came in close proximity to the shore and by extension us. After my sting ray bite, which was still bleeding, I may as well had been in Nassau I was so far from the shore.  The amount of power these sharks exhibited was impressive.

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After this it was time to snorkel.  Two things.  The first thing the instructor asked, was can everyone swim.  It’s not that Arun can’t swim…it’s not that at all.  He just has a slight problem staying afloat.  In fact, if there was a competition for sinking…he’d be great at it. We all looked at him (even the people that we didn’t know looked at him) waiting for him to raise his hand, but that never came.  Call me crazy but when I have guests in town I like them to leave alive.  Weird I know.  Second thing was, I was still bleeding.  Anyone that has ever watched Jaws/Shark Week/Finding Nemo or any combination thereof, knows that Sharks in Africa can smell blood in the water in Pluto.  Nevertheless, I was assured that this would not attract sharks.  Oh I asked.  No need to tempt fate twice in one day.  So not only was I ensuring that Arun didn’t drown, but I was also looking around to make sure Jaws didn’t come and nibble on my finger too.  Great.

The reef off of Ship Channel Cay is home to some of the best marine life I’ve ever seen. Granted, I’ve only snorkeled about 4 times.  But it was a very active reef, with exotic fish, sting rays and sharks.  While Abas, Lynda and I enjoyed the sights, we also checked back every now and again to ensure Arun was still buoyant.

After a great lunch overlooking the ocean, and quite possibly the best conch salad I’ve ever had in my life, it was time to head back to Nassau.  Not before running amok and finding random things to do on the island.  If you haven’t, you should definitely check out the PowerBoat Adventures.  Definitely worth the cost and they have a great, informative crew that takes care of your every need.  Won’t be the last time that I go but next time, I’ll wear gloves.  Check out the video mashup from the rest of their trip.

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