To say that Coral Bay is a magical place is no exaggeration. Not only is it beautiful and serene with amazing views and sunsets, but it also has an abundance of wildlife. On our first evening we noticed rays swimming around in the water and we waded in up to our knees to see them up close. As we walked around in the warm water we noticed hundreds of little anchovy sized fish swimming around in the water. We moved slowly and as we began to “blend in” to ocean background, they began to swim carelessly around us – close enough that I could get some macro shots of them (above).
Occasionally, a larger predator fish would come to “hunt” the anchovy pack and they would flee in all directions including out of the water. One time, one of them jumped up and smacked right into my chest, bounced back into the water and swam away at high-speed. I was quite surprised and then we had a good laugh about it. The fish didn’t seem to be too worried about our presence and Andrea was able to reach down into the water and give the fish a tickle before they shyly swam away.
During the day time the snapper fish were quite aggressive and eager to find a tourist who would offer them some bread or crackers. Knowing that a human based diet wasn’t the best for them we scavenged some snails from along the shoreline and offered them to our scaled friends. The snapper ate them quickly and when they grew to trust us they would eat them right from our hands. For the next few days they followed us around the ocean like stray dogs waiting for their next meal. In hindsight, we probably shouldn’t have fed them as it distracts them from their own foraging – if they become too dependent on food from humans they may forget how to hunt for themselves.
About an hour before dusk the various rays become quite active and begin feeding. We found that if you wade out from the shore in knee-deep water and move very slowly, the rays don’t seem to be very disturbed by our presence and we could get relatively close without spooking them. We were able to get just a few feet away from dozens of rays and take photos of them. We saw Spotted Rays (below) and Manta Rays and one or two other varieties.
If we stood very still in the water, often the rays would swim right up to us and then gracefully glide by. It seemed as if they were flying in the water rather than swimming; their bodies had the motion of flying birds and their wings seemed to flap in the water like bird wings in the wind.
If you want to go ray spotting, be sure to move slowly. It is better to stay outside of the radius of the ray’s tail as he has a nasty barb that can leave a nasty sting. In the photo below you can see how long the ray’s tail is – despite his size, he has a long reach.
As each day passed we began to notice the same rays would hunt in their own piece of turf (surf) each day. We began to notice particular scars and markings and we could identify some of the rays by sight. Aside from the snorkeling, a visitor to Coral Bay can see a world of ocean wildlife just by walking around in knee-deep water. Unfortunately, most of the other swimmers we encountered were too impatient to wait for 10 or 15 minutes to see a ray, snapper or other fish. Most of the other visitors we saw would walk away if they didn’t see something after 2 or 3 minutes. If you want to see wildlife, take a pause and just wait, it is amazing what will happen by (or swim by)!
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