April 19, 2018
Antigua is the larger of two main islands which make up the Caribbean nation known as Antigua and Barbuda. Antigua has between 90 and 100,000 people and Barbuda is much smaller and 20 miles away. Their location is the Leeward Islands of the Lesser Antilles. Barbuda was almost flattened by two hurricanes, Irma and Maria, and almost the whole population had to come to Antigua. Now many of them are back on Barbuda, but not the school children because the schools have not yet been rebuilt. There is a real affinity the people have for each other and it is heartwarming.
We visited Antigua many years ago and went to the beaches then. The island is said to have 365 beaches, one for each day of the year! Beautiful.
This visit we signed up to do something I have wanted to do for a long time and something always happened to prevent it. Swim with the stingrays! These are Antigua’s Southern Stingrays.
We boarded a small van to go to the Atlantic Ocean side of the island, about a 30 minute drive. Our guide on the van was Daria, and the driver was Romeo. He was careful to tell us that it is name only! Daria filled us in on lots of facts about Antigua.
Most of the population is Anglican with Catholic a close second. There are levies that the people pay which cover education, health care and taking care of the retired people. Once retired, even your medications are free. And it seems that if you buy a property for $250,000 US, you get citizenship in Antigua! Some people wanted to move immediately!
She talked about “pocket houses”. This is the term for the houses that people build in stages once they have the actual money in their “pockets”. They add rooms as they get the means to do so. They don’t have a mortgage obligation to a bank that way.
Here are some of the sights we saw on the way to Stingray City.
The next picture was a holding pond for water before they had the facilities for running water. The entrepreneurs made it into a car wash! They have many solor paneled light posts!
Cricket is big here and they have a nice stadium built about 10 years ago for the world cup.
When we arrived at “Stingray City”, we got an orientation to these wonderful fish. We learned that their mouths are underneath them and they have a powerful suction “that rivals a Hoover”! We will get to hold them and we learned how – and that they can detect stress so the calmer you are the longer they will allow you to hold them.
We boarded small boats that took us out to a reef in the Atlantic, the water was just about chest high, and they provided us with masks and snorkels. This is the natural habitat of the stingrays, they are not in an enclosed pool somewhere.
Once we got into the water, the stingrays were all around us, swimming with us, brushing up against us and we were able to get photos, hold them and feed them squid. I have a video too and will try to add it. It was so amazing, we can’t wait to do it again. They are so soft and friendly. They now have a very special place in our hearts.
After about an hour with the stingrays we took the boat back to shore and had rum punch made with the local rum from Old Antigua Rum Distillery, the only remaining distillery on the island.
They had lots of birds there and we enjoyed relaxing before the ride back to the ship.
We walked around the town a bit and then returned to the ship for dinner with Alice and Tom in Tuscan Steak restaurant.