Stingray Alley in Hamelin Bay
One of the world’s most incredible wildlife encounters awaits in Western Australia’s breathtakingly beautiful Hamelin Bay.
Hamelin Bay is tucked away in the southwest corner of Western Australia, about 310 kilometres from Perth.
The sky here is startlingly blue. The sand, blindingly white.
But the real stars of Hamelin Bay are the fever of particularly inquisitive stingrays that call these shallow turquoise waters home.
In the 1800s Hamelin Bay was an important timber town.
Today, only a few pilons of the original jetty remain and it is here that the stingrays gather. They take turns to swim closer to shore where a handful of visitors wait to greet them.
Two kinds of rays visit the bay. Diamond-shaped eagle rays. And the larger, darker smooth rays, also known as short-tail stingrays.
They come in the morning and early evening, timing their arrival with the return of fishermen. They hang around the boat ramp hoping to pick up a few scraps.
The rays congregate about ten metres from shore, taking turns to approach they beach.
After being patted and/or fed, the rays move off, heading out to sea to join the back of the queue, letting the next stingray come in.
It reminded me of planes held in a pattern above an airport, waiting to land.
The smooth rays are huge, with wingspans of up to two metres.
They are also the most inquisitive, gliding over your feet in the shallow water.
One thing really threw me, though. I’d expected stingrays to feel rubbery, like the neoprene used in wetsuits. I thought that their skin would be smooth to the touch.
In reality, they felt like mucous.
How to visit the rays of Hamelin Bay
Hamelin Bay can be visited as a day trip in the Margaret River region of Western Australia.
If you’d like to stay longer, the Hamelin Bay Holiday Park offers caravan and camping sites as well as a selection of cabins, including a group of cottages overlooking the sea.
Summer is the best time to see the rays but avoid school holidays when the beach is overrun with holidaying families.
Main image: Boy patting a huge smooth ray at Hamelin Bay (© Peter Moore)