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Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters, Anna Bay

Home > Port Stephens > Animals and Wildlife | Environment | Family | School Holiday Activities | Zoos
by Sue W (subscribe)
Lover of exploring, family, food and fun!
Published December 15th 2022
A magical, interactive experience
The Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters is located on the corner of Jessie Road and Nelson Bay Road on the way into Anna Bay, Port Stephens. Despite its name, there are no Irukandji jellyfish on display (at the time of writing) - this large property concentrates on creating an interactive experience with the variety of stingrays and sharks which live in our oceans. It is also home to a non-profit rescue and rehabilitation organisation called Sea Shelter, which rescue local marine animals.

My daughter had previously visited this property with her local school, but she was eager to go again and introduce me to the magical, interactive experience of feeding stingrays. I booked our tickets online and when we arrived, the friendly receptionist at the front desk signed us in and then took us over to a TV to watch an introductory video. We then met an enthusiastic guide who showed us an aquarium with white-tipped reef sharks and clownfish, before we took off our shoes and walked into the outdoor pool area to view the stingrays gliding seamlessly through the water. We couldn't wait to get in and learn more about them!

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Feed the stingrays and learn about the different species


My daughter and I booked the Shallows Encounter, where we took off our shoes and waded knee-deep into the water (if you would like a wetsuit, they are an extra $10 per person). When we arrived at the pool, Michela the guide was in the water with the stingrays and asked us if we would like to feed them. We picked up a feeding stick with a metal peg on the end and she attached some raw fish, then explained how to feed the stingrays with the stick close to the sand, to feed its mouth underneath.

Her love of the stingrays swimming around our feet was contagious and we were completely enamoured with the beautiful sea creatures, which swam up to slide over our feet in search of food. We lightly stroked their backs, which were slimy and smooth, and Michela explained the different species that came by - each with their unique markings and names. It was clearly evident from watching the staff with the rays that they had a tremendous bond with these stunning animals. It was easy to see why - we fell in love with them ourselves!

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The stingray pool, with a sandy base to walk into


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Wade in up to your knees, or hire a wetsuit if you want to go deeper


Our group then moved up to the smaller pools, which had smaller species of rays for us to feed. Michela explained to us interesting scientific facts about rays - such as the fact that if a female doesn't find a suitable partner to mate with, she will then have babies who are clones of herself! No male required! It is called parthenogenesis - see here for a 2018 article about it happening at SeaLife in Sydney.

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Feed the males and smaller species in the rock pools


The 10am stingray talk then began in the main pool, where the engaging guide explained to us about the larger rays that were in the pool, while another guide called out to them to come and do a "swim by" of our feet so we could look at them closer. The size of these beautiful animals was astounding, with one aged 40 years old and the size of an outdoor umbrella. The talk was fascinating - all the guides were very passionate, friendly, approachable and entertaining.

We were then directed over to hear a talk at the shark building, about 100 metres away (take your shoes if you don't want to walk barefoot). There was a large pool in the centre that was split in two with a sandy beach on one side with a variety of rays and sharks (which you could feed), and the other side had larger sharks swimming around. Michela the guide explained the types of sharks that they had in the pool, conservation and how we can each protect them.

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Learn more about their larger rays at the talk. Image: Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters Facebook


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Walk over to the new shark building, with rays, sharks and baby sharks


Every guide finished their talk with a conservation message, which hit home about what we are doing to our environment and the animals. For example, when we buy fish and chips as a takeaway, we should ask the shopkeeper what fish they are using. If they say flake, skate or boneless fish, then it could be shark or ray that they are serving - a practice that is happening all around the world.

My daughter and I were there for 2.5 hours and the time flew by. We left with a feeling of wonder about these amazing sea animals and felt fortunate that this unique and fascinating facility was in our local area. Importantly, my daughter also learnt that if every person does one small thing to help save them, like picking up plastic or choosing a sustainable fish to eat, then these changes can create a bigger effect.

Why don't you experience the wonder at the Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters property for yourself, this weekend? It is an experience you will never forget.

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Feed the baby sharks...(while your child will probably sing the song!)


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Image: Irukandji Shark & Ray Encounters Facebook

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Why? An interactive experience you will never forget!
When: 9am - 5pm daily (see website for public holiday closures)
Phone: 02) 4982 2476
Where: 2 Jessie Rd, Anna Bay NSW 2316
Cost: See website for options and prices
Your Comment
That's an interesting experience. Stingrays have a certain mystique about them.
by Gayle Beveridge-Marien (score: 4|10397) 34 days ago
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by Girlie Diaz on 29/04/2016
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