Stingrays are common throughout the Great Barrier Reef and Whitsundays. They are often spotted hiding underneath corals or near reefs, and are commonly spotted at Whitehaven Beach, living in the shallows.
Stingrays are rays that are related to sharks and have cartilage instead of bone. They are flat and wide with a long whip-like tail and live on the bottom of the ocean, where they hide and feed. Their teeth are also flattened to crush shellfish rather than cut them, making them adapted for living on the sea floor. Stingrays swim by the motion of their large pectoral fins which are commonly mistaken for 'wings' and move them in wave like motions. On their tails they have a barb, which is also known as a stinger, which is razor sharp. Their tails can grow up to 37cm long and their barb is used in self-defence.
On the underside of the spine are two grooves containing venom, which are only used as a last resort for these animals. Their first act of defence is to swim away, which they can do very quickly!
They are extremely docile creatures and are an amazing sight to see while snorkelling or at the beach. However when attacked by predators or stepped on, they are whip their tail around the inject their attacker with their venomous barb. Due to their size and their tendency to live on the ocean floor, if a human is stung, it is generally in the foot or ankle area. It is very unlikely to be stung by brushing against a stinger and generally only happens it the stingray itself strikes you. Being stung by a stingray in the foot or ankle isn't too serious and requires little medial attention, although it may hurt a bit!
There are a few types common stingrays around the Whitsundays and you will often see them while visiting the beautiful Whitehaven Beach or snorkelling in one of out many reefs. Keep an eye out for their tales sticking out from beneath the coral and do your best not to scare them - they can move pretty fast if they want to get out of your way! If you're visiting Hill Inlet Lookout on Whitehaven Beach, you can also spot stingray dotted throughout the shallows below, visible from way above even with the naked eye.