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Diving with Mantas

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Recently I got to spend time snorkeling with over 100 manta rays (closer to 150 to be precise) in Komodo National Park. It was one of the pinnacle sea moments of my life.

I was on a dive boat with about a dozen others when the captain shouted from the distance the huge school of mantas. We turn the boat around, stop about 100 feet from the manta pathway until we approached them at a safe distance. It was one of the most exciting times for me. But sometimes we get caught up in these beautiful moments that we forget how to interact with marine life responsibly. This is why I am sharing with you 5 ways to interact responsibly with these sea creatures.

1. Keep Noise to a Minimum
When you encounter manta rays, don’t be that person screaming at them to come over to you and then doing cannon balls right next to them. Not that I think you are, but there’s always that “one person.” Keep noise to a minimum and avoid jumping in abruptly if you’re on a boat. Keep your fins underwater to avoid creating big kicking splashes.

2. Allow the Mantas to Swim Around You. Not the Opposite 
When you’re snorkeling, try staying in one area allowing the mantas to swim around you. Don’t swim over to them. Keep calm and avoid disrupting them if they’re feeding close to the surface of the water.

3. DO NOT TOUCH!
Let me repeat. Do not touch the mantas. Do not touch the mantas! I know it would feel so amazing to touch one of these guys, but this code of conduct is an absolute! The manta rays have a protective mucous coating, and when you touch them, you rub away their protective barrier causing them to get sick or get an infection. We don’t want them to get sick. Let’s preserve their existence in these oceans by keeping your hands off.

4. Keep your distance 
The rule of thumb is to stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) away. If manta comes close to you, remain calm and still and let the manta ray control the interaction with you.

5. Do Not Chase or Harass the Mantas 
You want to avoid restricting their natural behavior by blocking their path. Avoid duck-diving when they’re near. It may startle them and interrupt them while in their natural habitat trying to feed or clean.

That’s it! Stick to these 5 and you’ll be to engage with the mantas in a safe and responsible way, and while I’m not a marine biologist or expert, this is simply a guideline I’ve heard through my training. I hope this helps!

Diving with mantas is among one of the ultimate bucket lists for divers and why so many passionate divers come to Komodo Island, but how about swimming with 150 of them?

I started my morning with Wicked Diving on their boat, Charlie, with about a half dozen others who signed up for this full-day excursion. We were already off to a good start seeing dolphins playing in the water on our way to our first dive. We don’t always see a lot of dolphins around here so it was a nice surprise to see them from a close distance as they passed our boat.

charlie

We just finished up our second dive at Batu Balong, one of the best dive sites in the world, and were on our way to Makassar Reef (also nicknamed “Manta Point”), a dive site northwest of Komodo, known for finding mantas hence the nickname.

Our captain and some of our boat crew noticed something in the waters about 100 meters in the distance, and we notice there are about a dozen mantas. Our captain decided to turn the boat around, and that’s when we saw a long stretch of about 150 mantas. We watch the mantas from the second level deck of Charlie, and we are ecstatic. Everyone runs to grab their cameras and watch them in awe as they form a line behind each other looking like aquatic birds.

About ten minutes pass and we decide to keep going but continue to keep seeing mantas everywhere. I want to jump in! Everyone wants to jump in, so the captain and our dive instructor make the call to turn around and allow everyone to grab their mask and fins and hop in!

One of the Wicked staff members joined the boat trip today on her day off has never even seen a manta. This is someone grew up on this island, works in a dive shop, and barely snorkels. She escapes through travel books like the works of Paulo Coelho. Can you imagine the joy she felt not only seeing her first manta but hundreds let alone being able to go out and swim with them?? I’m pretty sure I can vouch for her by saying this is one epic moment in her lifetime.

Or could you imagine a couple who traveled from the other side of the world with only one dream to see a manta and then gets to see an entire sea full of them? Hell, even our dive instructor was ecstatic and said the last time he saw something like this was a year ago.

We all jumped in, and the captain was guiding us about the proper direction to go in, and once we found their path, it was craaaazy!! They were in every direction! On either side of me, below me, coming at me! There was one manta ray that was literally swimming 6 inches below me and so close to flapping it’s wings on me if I didn’t move. I remember coming manto y manto (er, I mean, mano y mano. hehe) with one manta ray with its mouth wide open. I’m thinking, “Oh sh#t! What if stay in place? Will we have a head-on collision?” Naturally my instinct was to get the hell out of its way.

snorkel selfie manta (1)

After about twenty minutes of being able to snorkel with these beautiful creatures, we get on the boat and head to our last dive at Manta Point.

We gear up, take a giant stride into the water, and descend into a drift. Sure enough, mantas are passing by in several directions. Not quite as many as our impromptu snorkel session, but still incredible to see and a different experience. You get to study their bellies as they pass you from above in twos, fours, and sixes or lean close to the ocean ground steadily watching them circle around you.

After experiencing an epic day with nature’s playground, it was no surprise that at the end of our trip back to Labuan Bajo that we were gifted with a beautiful sunset and three eagles passing in the distance. Incredible day!

eagle

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