Moorea’s stingrays are soft and friendly. They are like sentient roombas searching for the best things to eat. Their excellent sense of smell guides them to what they love most: food.

Snorkel with a fistful of sardines and they will quickly identify you as an object of love. They show their love in a physical way: by gently roomba-ing your entire body in search of the source of that delicious smell. Place a clump of sardines into the wrinkled, smiling food port located on the bottom of their body and watch them erupt with affection. Now they snuggle into your arms, rub against your back, and swirl around you, excited for more sardines.

Food = love to a stingray.

Most people who visit Stingray City on Moorea’s north coast do not feed the rays. Tour operators bring fish and dole it out to the excited rays while swimmers snorkel nearby. Wary Blacktip Sharks join the party, too, but are not interested in taking food from people.

The stingrays are happy to receive pets from swimmers who don’t feed them, but will snuggle up to the ones with food. We noticed this during our first visit, and decided to bring food for them during our next visits. We wanted to feed them and see if they would cuddle with us, too. Magic was anchored near Stingray City so we could visit the rays as many times as we wanted with our dinghy.

We arrived with several cans of sardines and found out why the tour operators were the only ones doing the feeding – the rays bite! They don’t have teeth, but their mouthplates can deliver a startling nip which sometimes breaks the skin. They don’t mean to hurt you, they are just eating and your fingers get in the way. Initially, a couple gentle love bites would not deter us. We learned to keep our fingers away from their mouths. We accepted the nibbles as the price of admission.

We returned to Stingray City three more times, each time getting better video footage and photos of the sharks and rays. Our dinghy became greasy and sardine scented.

We didn’t care. We would never forget our cuddly “Roomba Rays”, so friendly and food motivated, always ready to star in another video and brighten our day by climbing into our arms and searching our bodies for treats.

Tips for feeding the Roomba Rays of Moorea

1. Keep your feet on the ground. The rays cruise along the bottom, following scents, and when they find your feet they know to swim upwards and investigate.
2. The rays love canned sardines. Fill your fist with sardines and hold on tight. When you swim in the water the rays will smell the sardines and come over to give you love.
3. Once you have their attention, break off small clumps of sardines and put them into their strange little mouths. You see, it’s difficult for them to find the food because their suctioning mouth is on the bottom of their body while their eyes are on top. You can make feeding easy for them by placing the food directly in their mouths. They will love you for it.
4. To avoid getting bitten, feed them larger clumps of food and keep your fingers away from their mouthplates. Hold your fingers together tightly and don’t allow them to munch on your thumb.
5. Bring at least three cans of sardines per person. You will go through the first can quickly learning the best feeding techniques.

Stingrays are wild and unpredictable creatures. As the name suggests, they do have a stinger which they will use to defend themselves. Feeding stingrays is not a risk free activity, but Moorea’s rays seem to genuinely enjoy interacting with snorkelers. And it sure is fun when you muster the courage to stuff food into their mouths, and they cover you with gentle roomba kisses. It’s such a sweet reward.


Lisa Hackett

About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, drive from Idaho to Alaska solo, live and work in a van in the wilderness and dodge encounters with wolves and bears. Seriously. More

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About the Author

Hi, I’m Lisa. I’m a tall, blonde superhero and I live in a van and on a sailboat with my superhero husband, Brian. I do it all. I rappel big waterfalls, scuba dive with sharks, dodge encounters with bears and wolves, and work remotely as a full time computer programmer.
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About the Van

Hi, I’m Vanifest. I’m a big, 4x4, off-the-grid van complete with solar panel for power. I'm a 2000 Dodge Ram Van and Lisa has had me since 2009. Read more about me here.


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