Stingrays are found around the world, but you'll never see them any better
than at Staniel Cay in the Bahamas.
Stingrays are winged wonders of Water World. Their diamond-shaped
bodies are perfectly adapted to the shallow waters where they silently
cruise just above the seabed.
This stingray is flying through water that is less than three feet deep. His
buddy, the needle-nose fish, looks down from above as the stingray gracefully glides
along the bottom. Most of the time when we see stingrays, they are
resting on the seabed. As you walk through shallow water or snorkel
by, they move off a few meters to a new location before they put down their
landing gear and go into resting mode once again.
Staniel Key was the first time I saw groups of stingrays cruising
together in the same area. I never thought of stingrays as social
creatures who travel in schools; solitary stingrays have always been the rule.
A week after I took these pictures, I saw a school of five spotted stingrays
swimming in the shallow waters off Lyford Key. Maybe schooling is more
common than I thought.
The reason all of these rays have congregated in this location is because
they are coming to a stingray picnic with the food provided courtesy of the
anglers of Staniel Key.
At the end of a day of sportfishing, the anglers bring their catches to Staniel Cay where they clean them. Several hours later, the carcasses
of mahi mahi and grouper litter the shallow water of the bay.
Stingrays cruise over to the scraps and have their free picnic.
Watching the stingrays devour scraps of fish came as a big surprise,
because we didn't know that stingrays were carnivores. As you can see
in this picture, the rays are happily munching away on remnants of mahi mahi.
Stingrays are beautiful, non-aggressive toward humans, and they have a
simple defense mechanism - the barbed stinger in their tail. That type
of packaging seems to be the recipe for an unmolested lifestyle. It's
an aquatic version of "walk silently, but carry a big stick."
You don't see fat stingrays or obese eels; they are programmed to consume
what they need to survive and nothing more. Animals live in a
consumer-based world in which over-consumption isn't a problem.
Something went awry with the human species. We are one of the few species
afflicted by over- consumption. If we behaved more like animals, we
would probably be healthier, happier, and live longer.
The cruising lifestyle tends to make you lean and mean. You slim
down and shed excess pounds. Like the stingrays, over-consumption
isn't a part of your life, and you feel better because of it.