Meeting the Hamelin Bay sting rays is a highlight of any summertime trip Down South to Augusta or Margaret River!
I would put meeting the Hamelin Bay sting rays right near the top of my list of best things to do in the Margaret River Region – it is an awesome wild life encounter that costs absolutely nothing, at one of the most beautiful beaches in WA (in fine sunny weather at least).
A couple of months ago I spent four nights at Hamelin Bay with my Mum and sister. While we were there we had the joy of watching and interacting with the sting rays every day.
About the Hamelin Bay Sting Rays
Hamelin Bay is one of the best places in Australia to spot wild sting rays up close. The gentle and friendly, yet completely wild sting ray population that live in the bay are unafraid of people wading in the water and swimming with them.
Throughout the day these sting rays make regular visits to the beach around the boat ramp and Old Jetty, patrolling past in groups of up to 10 or more (although usually around 3 to 5), in hope of being fed some fish scraps.
Watch the video below and be amazed by the frenzy of huge black rays are swimming within metres of the people filming. Some of them almost end up on the beach!
The amazing thing about the Hamelin Bay rays, which include some very big ones spanning over a metre across, is that once they notice you’re there, they swim right up to you and over your feet. Sometimes they’ll swim in so close to shore that they just about beach themselves!
The Hamelin Bay stingrays have very little fear of humans and actually seek out interaction with us as much as we do with them. That is why they’re so frequently spotted in the shallows around the boat ramp and Hamelin Bay jetty ruins where there are always people fishing and boats returning with a catch.
It makes perfect sense for the rays to be so friendly and unafraid when you consider that Hamelin Bay has been a popular fishing spot for many decades. Over the years the sting rays have become accustomed to finding a good feed of fishing scraps in the shallows where the humans like to hang out.
The sting rays are docile and curious creatures that will only become aggressive if they feel threatened. So don’t be alarmed if one swims up to you while you’re swimming, snorkeling or wading in the water. If you stand still and splash the surface of the water, one might swim right over your feet (no doubt hoping for a feed of fish).
All that being said, the fact remains that they’re wild animals with poisonous barbs in their tails, so do take care around them! In particular be careful not to accidentally step or fall on one.
Patting and Feeding the Hamelin Bay Sting Rays
Many people pat the sting rays and hand-feed them scraps of fish. I’m too scared of the barbs on their tails to try this too many times (despite knowing the rays are not aggressive), but I love it when they swim right up to me and over my feet. Other people have no fear at all, and although they’re unlikely to be stung I think it’s wise to be a bit cautious.
To encourage the rays to swim to you, stand still and splash the surface of the water with your hands. Of course it’s best if you actually have a fish or some scraps of fish to give it! If you’re brave you can stand still while the ray swims over your feet and almost knocks you backwards, and maybe even give it a pat.
So when are the best times to see the Hamelin Bay sting rays?
The sting rays are always present in the bay, but you’re most likely to see them in summer. Working out the best time to visit Hamelin Bay for the chance of spotting some sting rays depends on a couple of factors:
- The chance of rays being present in the shallow water
- The clarity of the water, and how easy it is to actually see the rays when they’re there
Why Summer is the best time of year…
The warmer months of the year is the most enjoyable time of year to be down at Hamelin Bay and also generally the better time for spotting rays because the water is clearer and calmer with less seaweed. In addition, there are more people about and fishermen on holidays at the Hamelin Bay Caravan Park.
More people fishing and boating = more sting rays.
Sting Rays at Hamelin Bay in Winter?
If you go down to Hamelin Bay in winter you might see a sting ray and enjoy your time on the beach, but don’t expect too much. There’s likely to be a lot of seaweed on the beach and in the water, and it might be too rough and wavy to see much anyway.
What’s the best time of day to spot the sting rays?
The best time to be there is when the boats are returning with the morning’s fishing catch. On a busy day in summer this could be throughout the morning and into the afternoon. When we were staying at the Hamelin Bay Caravan Park most recently (about a month during peak holiday season) we found that we saw the most rays around mid-morning between about 9:00 and 10:00.
Later in the afternoon can also be a good time because a lot of people fish from the beach then. Even if you don’t spot a sting ray, the beautiful sunset will make up for it.
Just Remember the Sting Rays at Hamelin Bay are Wild Animals
The sting rays at Hamelin Bay may seem tame and friendly, but they are wild animals and as such can be unpredictable. There is no guarantee that they will be swimming in the shallow water when you want them to be there, and some care should be taken not to hurt them or be hurt by them.
The rays will come into the shallows when they want to – usually when people are fishing and there is burley or fish scraps in the water to attract them.
Sometimes you might see up to 10 rays or even more, other times only one or two, or if you’re unlucky none at all.
Sometimes they will swim right up to you hoping for a feed, other times you’ll just see them gliding gracefully parallel to the shoreline for a while before turning back out into deeper water.
Do Not Harm the Sting Rays
A few years ago one of the biggest and friendliest of the Hamelin Bay sting rays, known as “Stumpy” because he was missing a tail, was caught and butchered by a pair of fishermen in front of tourists, including some children who loved the sting rays and were traumatised. After this sad incident (which you can read about here, Hamelin Bay was made a sting ray sanctuary zone. It is now illegal to kill or harm any sting rays in Hamelin Bay, and if one is accidentally caught it must be released.
Marc Russo, the man filming the video below was not looking out for sting rays (he was further up the beach from where they’re usually spotted), but was lucky enough to have two of them swim right up to him while he was fishing for salmon from the beach:
Types of Rays at Hamelin Bay
There are two types of sting ray commonly seen at Hamelin Bay: the smooth ray and the eagle ray.
The smooth rays at Hamelin Bay are the really big dark-grey to black ones that have a rounded shape. They are easier to spot than the eagle rays due to their size and colouring, and they are also more likely to swim right up to people.
The eagle rays are diamond shaped with distinctly pointed wings, rather than rounded ones like the smooth rays. Their body is wider than it is long and they have a more prominent head with eyes on either side. Eagle rays vary in colour, but are often a paler shade of brown or browney-grey or even blue-grey rather than black.
The eagle rays at Hamelin Bay tend to keep their distance more than the smooth rays, but they do sometimes sneak up on you so watch out!
In the following video you see big smooth rays flapping their wings and swimming right up to feet of the person filming, followed by a smaller diamond-shaped eagle ray swimming past. At the end of the video people are feeding and patting a huge sting ray!
Snorkeling with the Hamelin Bay Sting Rays
On my most recent visit to Hamelin Bay I had a go at snorkeling with the sting rays; unfortunately I’d forgotten to pack flippers and found them difficult to keep up with. They’re faster than they look!
It was also hard to get a good photo without the stabling effect of the flippers, but the one below turned out kind of okay.
If you want to snorkel with the sting rays you don’t have to go far. Just hop in the water when a group of them are swimming past, or swim around the reef close to the beach next to the boat ramp and look around for fish while waiting for some rays to appear. To stay safe and avoid frightening the sting rays I’d recommend not snorkeling right over the top of them, and also hanging back in deeper water rather than following them right up to the beach.
One Last Video of the Sting Rays at Hamelin Bay:
Jo Castro’s video shows a medium-sized smooth ray floating through the shallows in crystal clear sparkling water. You can click here to read her thoughts on meeting the sting rays of Hamelin Bay.
More Hamelin Bay Posts:
Last Updated: 12th May, 2015.
First posted on 18th March, 2015 by Bonny.
Subscribe to Keep In Touch!
Wild Western Australia is an ever-expanding website with new articles and photos published every week. To ensure you remember and keep in touch enter your email address to receive a weekly round-up of new posts on the blog: