Talking to Stingrays

Ocean Critters

Ranelle Ivens

SITE AUTHOR

Ranelle's addiction to SCUBA started in 2004. From a young age she has been fascinated by the ocean and the creatures living within it. Her Ultimate dive dream is to swim with Orcas and to dive the world. Ranelle is a certified PADI Specialty Instructor and spent 3 years in university studying Science and Biology.

Typically when I initially tell people that i can communicate with Stingrays, they give me the ‘yep, this one’s a nutter’ look. However, after listening a little longer people usually start to come around.

If like me, you love animals, you know that they can think and feel and have moods and personalities just as we do. You understand that to understand them you need to listen to them. Not just the yips and yelps but their body language. Once you start to understand the looks they give, the tail position, and posture you can start to decipher what they are saying to you.

With stingrays it’s exactly this. It’s only a little trickier because they can’t make noises at you, nor you to them, at least not ones they would likely understand. But, lets not get to ahead of ourselves, first lets talk about their typical personalities.

Stingrays tend to have a certain demeanour

They are very relaxed animal. Most of the time you will see them lounging in the sand, or lazily gliding about. They have this energy that exhumes a calm and cool collectedness. Just being around them I start to feel myself loosen up and relax a little more. In fact, the only time I’ve seen them move quickly seems to be to escape the proximity of an excited diver.

This ‘chillness’, in my experience, is especially typical of southern stingrays, round rays, butterfly rays, and long tail stingrays. Other species such as the electric bullseye ray, guitar rays, and spotted eagle rays, tend to be more active as well as shy.

If they are so chill, why do they always swim away?!

Much like sharks and other underwater animals you’ve encountered they like their space. In addition to this they are weary of humans. Imagine if some weird and scaley sea creature walked up out of the sea with a bucket of water over its head. We humans are ditzy enough to stand there and gape at it with cameras rolling, but the more natural reaction is fear.

In addition to us being weird looking aliens carrying tanks and making bubbles, stingrays have highly attuned senses. Much like sharks, stingrays have electroperception, meaning they can sense electromagnetic frequencies in the water. Or, in other words, your heartbeat.

It’s this frequency that usually scares them off

In the world of a stingray, where everything is calm and serene most of the time, hearing the excited rapid percussion beat of an excited diver’s heart is very startling. In their experience, the only time that it hears elevated heart rates is when a predetor is anticipating a fun chase, or someones prey is frantically trying to escape another’s jaws.

Hence, when a diver encounters a ray and becomes excited, their heart rate goes up. This simulates the predetor and prey relationship. When that large strange looking animal then starts barelling towards the ray it is no wonder the stingrays swim off in fright.

So then What’s the trick?

If you want to talk to a stingray, typically you need to get close to it first. Which means that your heart can’t be pounding out of your chest with anticipation. This is not to say you can’t get excited, its pretty hard not to be excited when you see such a beautiful animal in the wild. However what it does mean is that you need to stop and calm down.

While guiding dives I see people time, and time again chasing after animals and then being disappointed when they swim away. The Trick to getting closer is to stop, breathe, calm down, and the proceed very slowly.

Once you master this you will find yourself able to get much closer to many other types of animals as well.

How Close is close?

After you start employing these methods you might notice that you can get pretty close, but they still swim away. If you can grasp the ‘talking part’ you will be able to get close enough to put your nose on their fin tips.

Story Time!

The closest encounter I’ve ever had was in Drake Bay Costa Rica. I was diving with Pirate Cove and I had sideled up to a cute couple of stingrays. They, as usual, were quite gorgeous, and they didn’t even seem to mind my company. I then looked over my shoulder to see a third ray gliding on over. I looked at the ray and I thought ‘come on over I would love to hang out with you too!’ 

To my delight the ray came closer, and closer, and closer  until it was nearly right on top of me. I watched in a slight panic as he began to position himself to settle right on top of me. As lovely as this may have been I didn’t want to startle the poor thing when I decided to leave before him.

So quick as I could I told him ‘please don’t land on top of me!’ immediately after I sent him this thought, the ray jerked hard startling the other two rays next to me, both of which quickly swam off. the incoming ray then settled in right beside me.

Despite my experience with getting close to rays I was still floored

This ray just sat on the bottom and hung out with me, the moment was awesomely magical. I could feel this happy tingling feeling in my heart, and from the ray the sense of peace and calming that just washes over you. I wanted for than anything to just curl up and nap there with him,but alas there were other dives itching to see the rest of the site.  So instead, I blew him a kiss and thanked him for a lovely visit.

Finally; the talking part

If you read the whole article you for sure know the rays can sense electromagnetic frequencies. You also know that your heart emits one of these frequencies. What you may not know, is that your brain also emits an electromagnetic frequency, one that changes with your thoughts and feelings.

Now if we take this two facts and combine them you can probably start to see the picture. If you begin to think what you want to say, and feel the emotions you want to portray deep in your heart, you can communicate with the rays.

My Experimental Proof

During my diving I have practiced time and time again these methods. Typically, once I get within a few feet of the ray, they instinctually want to retreat. This can be observed by watching their fin tips. Usually the ray will raise them in preparation to jolt away.  At this point I stop and think about feelings of calm and peace, think of observing the ray, and just how amazingly lovely I believe them to be. I look into the rays eyes and do my best to communicate this. At this point the ray usually relaxs back down, setteling into the sand. It then almost always allows me to proceed even closer, and very rarely swims away after this point.

A Word of Caution

Even though stingrays are quite harmless, they are still equiped with a poisonous barb and a long whiplike tail. Like any animal they should be respected and you should remain cautious when approaching them. Try not to approach them from the front and come down on top of them. This makes them feel trapped and can be dangerous if the ray is in a bad mood.

Finally, try not to touch them. Some rays, including manta rays, have a protective coating over their bodies, and touching them rubs this away and can actually harm them. Others can emit an eletric shock.

Also, in someone who firmly believes that clothing is not consent, I cannot support anyone touching a stingray without their verbal consent. So please, don’t harrass the rays!

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21 Comments

  1. Alexis

    We’ve visited stingray petting pools, such a fun experience. I love encountering them in the wild though.

    Reply
  2. Unveiled Tales

    This is so interesting and I loved reading the facts behind the stingrays. They really are beautiful and elegant. Knowing more about them definitely helps in knowing how to show them the respect the deserve.

    Reply
  3. Elizabeth O

    This is so amazing. I really enjoyed reading this post and learning about how to talk to stingrays the science behind it is all so fascinating indeed.

    Reply
  4. Claire

    Omgosh I loveeee sting rays! This post was so interesting to read! Thanks for writing about it.

    Reply
  5. Jess

    This is so interesting! I went snorkeling with some giant rays in Mexico last winter, but I kind of freaked out when they got near me.

    Reply
  6. Sondria Harp

    I wish I would’ve had these tips before I went to the sting ray touch tank at the aquarium. I couldn’t get one near me.

    Reply
  7. Hannah

    Wow, I’ve never have met a stingray in person, but I would love to go diving and meet these beautiful creatures. Love how you transform your energy into peaceful vibe.

    Reply
  8. Aine Mulloy

    Amazing, stingrays are such fascinating creatures hopefully we can stop destroying their habitats so they can continue to flourish

    Reply
  9. mamapret

    Very interesting! I never knew that about Stingrays before!

    Reply
  10. Czjai Reyes-Ocampo

    My closest encounter with stingrays was when we visited the COEX Aquarium in Seoul. My son was fascinated by them!

    Reply
  11. Sarah Stockley

    Wow what an experience. I love rays – they are beautiful creatures, I think their little faces are so happy.

    Reply
  12. Preet

    What a beautiful creature. Stingray is something taht i always wanted to encounter whenever I’m at the beach.

    Reply
    • seareinascall

      They like to hang out in sandy areas! You will need to look nice and close as they often bury their entire body save for their eyes

  13. Linsey Barta

    This is crazy. I never would have been brave enough to research something like this lol

    Reply
  14. Amy

    They are very beautiful creatires. I enjoyed learning more about them and tricks to see one up close. Happy thoughts…happy thoughts.

    Reply
  15. Heather

    I will never see a stingray again without thinking of the Grandma in Moana. I loved her and her character!

    Reply
    • seareinascall

      The ray in moana is actually the gigantic manta ray one of my favourite rays <3

  16. mrhappywork

    Stingrays are beautiful creatures. My wife especially loves them. *looks over at the Stingray plushies on her dresser* 🙂 Thanks for sharing this!

    Reply
  17. Eddie Bowers

    Very interesting, never knew about them as being “chill”. I have never been much of an ocean person. I would be terrified to get close to any thing in the ocean.

    Reply
    • seareinascall

      Ocean animals are rarely aggressive and usually swim off if they enjoy your presence. Its very much true that they are more afraid of you.

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