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Friday, 19 February 2021

Snorkeling with Stingrays at SeaQuest Littleton

Have you ever snorkeled with stingrays before? It sounds a little terrifying doesn't it?  

As scary as it sounds, this is actually how Lola, Mathilde and I spent an afternoon last week, and it was any thing but terrifying. In fact, it wasn't at all scary in the slightest. It was such a magical experience being in the water with these beautiful creatures and we never wanted it to end

Ok, I know what you're thinking... we live in landlocked Colorado. There's no ocean. Where are the stingrays? They're at SeaQuest in Littleton!

SeaQuest Littleton is an interactive aquarium with over 300 species of animals on display. It's not all just sea creatures though, with reptiles, birds, and some furry friends on display too. While most of the animals are just on display for visitors to view, as they would be in any other aquarium or zoo, there are some critter friends that visitors are able to interact with. Visitors can purchase tokens to exchange for food for certain animals including the stingrays, ducks, chickens, rainbow lorikeets and a friendly tortoise. There are also add on activities available such as private tours, going behind the scenes to prepare food for certain animals, and of course, snorkeling with the stingrays.

We started our visit to SeaQuest with a quick look at some of the animals in the aquarium area including baby stingrays and sharks. We then moved to the staff only area where we were shown how the water is treated to make sure that all of the sea creatures are in the best possible water for their needs. While back here we also prepared some fresh food for our first animal feeding of the day - a puffer fish! Just what does a puffer fish eat? Crab legs! 


Ok, now I know you want to hear all about our experience snorkeling with the stingrays. That was up next, so let's get into it. 

Snorkeling with the stingrays was definitely the highlight of our visit to SeaQuest. Mathilde had been a little worried before we arrived that one of the friendly stingrays might accidentally sting her, but once she was in the water with these graceful creatures her fears were washed away and replaced with a sense of wonder and curiosity. 

Before we hopped into the stingray tank we needed to get prepared. This meant preparing ourselves as well as preparing some tasty snacks for the stingrays. We went behind the scenes with our animal whisperer guide who showed us how to prepare shrimp for the stingrays, and then we got changed into our wetsuits. We were given the option to wear snorkels and masks or our own goggles. Mathilde was a little freaked out by the snorkel so she chose to go with her own goggles. Lola went with the snorkel and mask, but as you can see in the pics she wasn't too sure about it! She looks a little scared but she was actually just trying to work out how to breath with the snorkel on!


We climbed into the stingray tank and swam across to a clear box on the other side. This box is where we were able to sit and feed the stingrays. The stingrays obviously know that food is coming when people sit on this box as we were swarmed by them right away! Ok, that sounds a little scary, but it really wasn't. The stingrays swam around us and rested on our legs. Have you ever patted a stingray before? They feel smooth and slick on the underside and a little like velvet on top. We had to be a little careful when moving around to make sure we didn't accidentally sit or step on a stingray, but they were generally pretty good at moving out of our way. This clear box that we sat on is the same one you can see the girls sitting underneath in other pictures. In fact, when we first sat on the box there were people underneath us looking up at the underside of the stingrays - and the underside of us! I'm glad we were in wetsuits!


The water in the tank is mostly around 5 foot deep, so guests taking part in this experience need to be able to swim. As well as the clear box there are also large rocks dotted throughout out the tank. Mathilde spent most of her time swimming from rock to rock, checking out the stingrays and fish as she went. 

After about 20 minutes of swimming around we made our way back to the clear box for feeding time. If I thought we were swarmed by stingrays the first time we sat down on the box, I was in for a surprise! Once the fresh shrimp that we had prepared earlier came out, even more stingrays appeared. Some we fed by hand while others we fed by dropping the shrimp into the water. There were a few times when I had no choice but to drop the shrimp into the water as the eager stingrays knocked it out of my hand! It definitely was a new experience and something that we'll remember for a long time.

We swam around for a little longer after feeding the stingrays before making our way out of the tank to shower and get changed back into our clothes. 

Once we were dried off and dressed we were met by a member of the bird and reptile team for a tour around the aquarium. He gave us a little information about many of the animals as well as taking us for a behind the scenes look at the food prep area. We prepared some food for the wallaby and hopped into the enclosure with it for a pat. He also took us into the water monitor enclosure for a close up look at this giant lizard. 


From then on we were on our own to explore the aquarium at our own pace. SeaQuest offers visitors plenty of hands on interactive experiences with the animals. When you you purchase your ticket you can also purchase tokens that can be exchanged for animal feed or experiences getting up close with certain animals. 

First up we used our tokens to enter the rainbow lorikeet aviary and feed the birds a berry smoothie mix. The girls each held a small container of the mix and the lorikeets landed on them to eat it up. Lola was a little freaked out at first (which you can probably tell from the photos!) and spilled the mix on her dress. It washed out easily, but you probably won't want to wear white if you take part in this experience!


We then moved onto the tortoise followed by the silkie chickens and the ducks, all of which were much less messy to feed. The ducks share a pond with lots of koi which were keen to get in on the feeding action too. Look at all those mouths! 


Our favorite animals to feed were the stingrays. We'd already fed them fresh shrimp from inside the tank, and now we used our token to feed them dried shrimp from outside the tank. Once again, the stingrays know where snacks come from, so as soon as we arrived at the feeding area lots of stingrays appeared. Mathilde was convinced that one stingray in particular recognized her from our time in the tank.


After feeding the stingrays we made our way to the underside of the glass box that we'd sat on earlier to feed the stingrays inside the pool. Here we were able to sit and watch the stingrays glide overhead. It was such a peaceful spot and I could've sat there for hours watching the stingrays. 


We then took one last walk around the aquarium to say goodbye to all of the animals. 


Oh, and we made sure to take some cheesy photos before leaving. You didn't think I'd miss a chance for cheesy photos, did you?


Inspired to go snorkeling with the stingrays too? Here's everything you need to know:
  • Visitors need to be able to swim independently to take part in this experience. Children under 10 will need to have an adult in the water with them.
  • Visitors will need to bring their own swimsuits and towels. Snorkels and wetsuits are provided but you can also use your own. Anything brought into the pool will be sterilized first to ensure it's safe for the animals.
  • A waterproof pouch can be provided for using cellphones in the tank. I also brought my GoPro but the memory card was full after a short time, so I was glad to have the cellphone option too.
  •  Free lockers are provided for visitors to keep their belongings in while swimming with the stingrays.

SeaQuest Littleton is located at 8501 W Bowles Avenue, Littleton on the lower level of Southwest Plaza. 

Entry tickets start at $10.95 for children ages 2 - 11 and $16.95 for adults and 12+. Tickets can be purchased at the door or online in advance at https://littleton.visitseaquest.com/ Tickets for experiences such as snorkeling with the stingrays should be purchased in advance. An entry ticket will also be required.
  
SeaQuest is open 11am - 5pm Monday through Friday, 10am - 6pm on Saturdays, and 11am - 6pm on Sundays. 

For more information and to purchase tickets visit https://littleton.visitseaquest.com/

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