Antigua is known for it’s beaches, but there is oh so much more to the island. We went in search of some culture and marine wildlife on a tour with Tropical Adventures
thanks to the Antigua and Barbuda Tourist Authority
when we visited the island.
The Island Safari and Stingray Fantasy is one of a number of tours offered by Tropical Adventures on the island, and costs are $125 for adults, $80 for kids and $25 for infants. Stingray City and a bit of off roading is included within the price.
Perfect way to see more of the island with a local guide
Many visitors to Antigua are based in resorts, and don’t have access to a car. This can mean that you just don’t get to explore the variety that the island has to offer.
The Tropical Adventure tour picks you up from your hotel, and, though a six hour experience, helps you to engage more with the island’s attractions. Your tour guide can help considerably too, and Davy (our one) was helpful in pointing out specific fruits, as well as sights, particularly during the morning off road sessions. The full tour includes:
- St John’s Town (check in),
- Bendals Village,
- Body Pond area (off road),
- Table Hill Gordon (off road),
- Bethesda via main road to Seatons,
- Sting Ray City (swim),
- Betty’s Hope (for lunch), and
- Devil’s Bridge.
Make sure you can easily change into your beach wear for the Sting Ray tour – you start the overall tour at 9am, and aim to get the 11am Sting Ray boat out to sea.
Be prepared for a bumpy, but fun ride through the villages, and off road tracks on the West and then to the East side of the island. My kids loved this experience, as they have never been in an off road truck before. Plenty of bumps, bends and great views, but not so much as to worry about them being thrown off the back of the truck.
Though to be honest…sometimes it would be nice to get the break… ;-)
Your kids will be a bit afraid of Stingray City but will then just LOVE it
Throughout the morning in the truck, the children were a little apprehensive about what to expect on the Sting Ray Tour asking lots of lots of questions about what the Rays were like, and what they would be doing. The briefing before the trip takes places on a small beach, just away from Sting Ray City, which is a brief boat ride from where you are dropped off after your morning off roading.
The most important information given in the briefing is to learn the…
….Sting Ray Shuffle. ;-)
This is the way to walk to make sure that you don’t step on the Rays as they hide under the sand in Stingray City in Antigua. You just need to shuffle your feet forwards, to give them ample warning that you are coming, so they can get out of the way. This way, you won’t get stung. Southern Stingrays, which are the Rays within the City, are not deadly, but you would still want to avoid their stings of course.
The way this was explained was sufficiently fun to make sure the kids weren’t too worried, and were looking forward to dancing with their Stingrays.
Get away from the crowds to really enjoy the Stingrays
I have to admit, I find this type of trip both wonderful, and conflicting. It provides an excellent opportunity to teach kids, and others about these majestic animals. But, at the same time, the “City” was created by repeatedly feeding the Rays over a period at a specific place and habitualising them to human interaction.
However, after spending time with my kids, and seeing the initial fears melt into excitement after interacting with these graceful creatures, my worries were somewhat tempered. The Rays are treated well, and come to feed willingly. Once they have been fed their fill of squid, they are off, back into the wild ocean.
THIS is where you should spend a little more time trying to see them too.
Swim away from the main crowds, and you will see them in the deeper water when you take your snorkel that little bit further out.
The time we spent here at the end of the tour was worth the money alone; just to see them moving in and out of the sand, and settling themselves on the bottom of the sea to contemplate their next meal.
Betty’s Hope is a must for learning about Antigua’s history
After visiting the Stingrays, the tour moves for a lovely lunch at the Betty’s Hope Sugar Mill and Plantation within the island. Sugar production used to be critical to Antigua in the 18th century, and the island’s treatment in this appalling period of human slavery should not be ignored.
At its height, there were over 200 Sugar Mills producing for trade on the island, but only 100 remain, as stark reminders of how terribly we can treat our fellow man.
The museum at Betty’s Hope shouldn’t be missed, as it presents a fascinating insight into a disturbing period of history for humanity. If nothing else, Betty’s Hope should help to teach our children about the importance of equality.
Chills to thrills at Devil’s Bridge
The final stop of the tour takes you to a natural rock bridge on the East coast of Antigua, not far from the Verandah Resort and Spa that we stayed at.
The contrast from the calm waters of Stingray City to the crashing of the waves onto Devil’s Bridge couldn’t be more profound.
The name comes from local legend where slaves used to throw themselves off the bridge in despair, to be taken away by the Devil.
It is wise to be vigilant here, and don’t attempt to cross the bridge. Keep an eye on your kids, who will love it here, watching the waves. They WILL be tempted to cross though, so make sure you don’t let them ;-)
The visit the Devil’s Bridge is the last of the day, and completes a thoroughly enjoyable tour, which offers a great insight into the different faces of this beautiful island.
Let us know if you take a tour to Stingray City, Devils Bridge, or any of the other sites we mention. What did you think?
We were given this excursion for free (after booking a holiday with Tropical Sky) in return for writing about the Island, all opinions are our own.