Dancing with Manta's

Yesterday I danced with the Manta Rays! After our first great dive with Ken from Point Lookout Scuba Diving, at Flat Rock off Stradbroke Island, we came in to Manta Ray Bommie with the hope of seeing some of the rays that had been there during the week.

Manta RayWe could see them from the boat before we even anchored up. One..three..wait!...there's another and another! Soon they were coming from all directions to play around the boat. Graeme dropped the anchor and Bernie, Frank, Jane, Cath and I quickly donned our snorkeling gear to get closer to them. Trying to slip quietly into the water so that they weren't disturbed, we snorkeled out to where we had seen them. They disappeared for a little while, but slowly began to come back in again. Not too close, just on the edge of our vision.
Being on the surface was not good enough. The only place to be was under the water with them. We were quite shallow, with a sandy seabed and little surge, so the conditions were great for hovering and waiting. For a little while, none were to be seen, so Cath and I did some exploring. We found a lovely black and yellow feather star, all furled up, waiting for nighttime to come out and feed and a couple of mowongs hiding under a rocky outcrop. Playing noughts and crosses in the sand and trying to make sand castles kept us busy for a little while as well!

Manta RayJust then, I looked up and saw them - a pair of beautiful rays gliding in from the right. There was an older, larger male, missing his tail and with a few battle scars on his wings and a smaller, perfect female. Both had their accompanying fleet of remora, keeping pace as they glided past. Kneeling on the sandy bottom, we were spellbound as they made passes overhead and around us. Playing in our bubbles? Feeding? Playing with each other? Who knows! They were certainly not afraid of us. Understandably wary, but at ease enough to come back for another look, cruise within touching distance above our heads and then fly off into the distance.

Manta Ray Cath just about jumped out of her skin and grabbed my arm to let me know that I had been buzzed by a smaller manta, just above my head! Turning around to see if there were more coming in, I missed seeing four more coming from my left side! It was almost sensory overload. I started spinning slowly, upright in the water so that I wouldn't miss any more. They came back in again and seemed to be dancing, spinning above and around us in the water. The beautiful creatures almost seemed to be moving in slow motion. It was of the most humbling and peaceful experiences I have ever had in my years of diving.

Today, it is back to washing gear out, planning pool sessions with students, answering telephone calls and sending emails, and spending time with family and friends. But yesterday, I danced with the mantas!

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