Today, our Marine Biologist Intern Lucía is going to share her time with the fascinating Manta Rays. If you had similar experiences as Lucía, share in the comments below or in our Social Media platforms.
Happy Reading :)
My first encounter with these wonderful animals happened here in the Maldives, just a few days after starting my Marine Biology internship at Coco Bodu Hithi!
Upon arrival, I was very happy to find out that Manta Rays visit Rasfari North, a nearby reef just 5 minutes away from Coco Bodu Hithi, from December to April. Rasfari North is a special place Manta Rays visit to be cleaned, small cleaner fish feeds on the dead skin and parasites of their bodies. The cleaner fish even enters Manta’s mouth and gills and clean the wounds that Manta Rays may have.
I became super excited knowing that I would be contributing to Coco Collection Manta Ray Identification Project in association with Manta Trust. This meant I would be swimming with Mantas frequently. A dream come true!
To identify a Manta Ray, you need to look at its underside: Each Manta Ray has a unique spot pattern on its belly. This ventral view is not only important to identify individuals but it also reveals the sex of the Manta!
Swimming with Manta Rays for the first time was such a breath-taking experience! At first, I panicked while watching this 3-metre wide animal swimming slowly towards me. However, my discomfort was gone in a second when I started observing the amazing Manta gracefully swimming right under me, turning in circles while enjoying its cleansing fish-treatment.
Ever since that day, I was enchanted! Taking interested guests out for excursions to Rasfari North and enabling them to have the same magical experience as me, became the best part of my Internship.
I would like to thank every guest who contributed to the amazing 238 recorded Manta sightings at Coco Bodu Hithi in 2016!! Thank You :)
One of the most memorable experiences I had at Rasfari North cleaning station was rescuing M656 SLOTH from a fishing line! With the help of Shafiu from Coco Bodu Hithi Dive Ocean team, we cut and removed the line from the female Manta Ray.
One week after her release, I spotted M656 SLOTH again at the cleaning station. Her wounds from the entanglement had already healed, with the help of the tiny cleaner fish.
As soon as I realized the Manta season would end, every single encounter was even more special! On April 13, M127 PELICAN, the last identified Manta Ray of the season, showed her beautiful spotted belly to my camera and bid farewell until the next manta season at Rasfari North cleaning station.
Participating in the Coco Collection Manta Ray Identification Project and therefore swimming with Manta Rays every day, has been the most mesmerizing and unforgettable underwater experience I have ever had! Should you ever have the chance to snorkel with Manta Rays: Do not hesitate, go straight ahead! I promise, only a few things in life can get close to the joy of swimming with Manta Rays!!