The ultimate manta ray experience
Updated: Jun 6, 2020
Manta Ray or Manta Yay?
Many years ago I went to a tattoo studio with my brother, he was carrying with him an underwater picture and once he showed it to the tattoo artist, he was excited and eager to work on that unique piece.
He had brought with him a picture of a Manta Ray he took personally in the Maldives during one of his working seasons as a scuba diving instructor, and I remember the proud look on his eyes when he said: “I want this exact subject on my skin”.
He told the story behind the picture to the tattoo artist, who was fascinated by the way my brother was describing that particular encounter and I believe this helped him to add some sort of poetry to the drawing.
I thought it was a cool idea but other than that, I was more focused on seeing my brother’s pain while the needle was leaving the ink right on the side of his abs; don’t get me wrong, I was absolutely suffering with him! I remember those hours as if it happened yesterday and when the session was over. After my brother had lost 2 kg in sweat, the result was just magnificent and perfect.
My brother always loved manta rays, it was just one of his spirit animals and he was always happy to find them underwater. I happened to be on several dives with him and the mantas in the Maldives, but I never had that special excitement and thought it was ok anyway because not everyone must share the same exact passion.
During my IDC (Instructor Development Course) in Bali, I had the chance to dive in Nusa Penida at “manta point”, and although we had a rare encounter with a completely black manta, I was still feeling the same about them.
When the manta came to say hello!
When I arrived in the Maldives to work as an instructor it was January 2019 and in North Male atoll, during that time of the year, manta rays are around. The resort I work in has a manta cleaning station 10 minutes away so it is surely an attraction for many guests, not only divers but also snorkelers.
On my second day diving on the beautiful housereef of the island I live on, guess what? A manta ray appeared just on top of our heads, only for a few seconds, as if it wanted to say “Hello, I am here” and then disappeared in the blue. I was with my former colleague who was showing me the dive site, while she was teaching a young girl who later became a Scuba Diver she got spoiled for life after such an encounter so early on in her diving life!
Once again, I was happier about the colorful flatworm I had found in the lagoon and the several hawksbill turtles busy eating in the shallow waters rather than the big stuff. But hey, don’t judge me, please!
The day a manta touched my soul
If I close my eyes and I look back at what I am about to tell you, goosebumps come back on my arms and my chest warms up from the inside.
After one week after my arrival in the Maldives, I had a couple of divers that I took by myself on a dive at our “manta point”. The dive site is a cleaning station, it is a very shallow water area where we can lay on the bottom and wait for these marine animals to come and give us a dancing show while small cleaner fish are busy removing parasites from them.
As soon as we had reached the area, our very efficient boat crew spotted a couple of manta rays, so we got ready, jumped and dived in. We patiently waited on the bottom trying to be a whole thing with the environment around us.
After a few minutes, three manta rays started to swim in circles only a few meters away from us and in a blink of an eye, I found myself in another world.
One individual, particularly curious, started to widen its swimming circle to get closer to us, it decided to come straight at me, glided on my side in a way I swear seemed to me in slow motion, and suddenly it looked at me in the eyes.
Hey, who am I kidding? It looked right into my soul. It touched my soul.
I never felt that way with any other previous encounter I had with the same species; it was something incredible, my heart stopped for few seconds, everything around me slowed down and I felt like the power of the ocean touched me.
You are for sure allowed to think I am completely crazy mad, and I am totally fine with that.
Because at that moment, during those few seconds that seemed to be endless minutes in my head, I felt chosen by that manta. It was almost as if the manta ray had me checked out to see if I was worthy of being in the water with its group, I felt minuscule next to this gentle giant and in my mind, I ran back to the day I went out with my brother. I suddenly remembered that sparkle in his eyes, years ago at the tattoo shop. I felt him. I smiled through my regulator. And within seconds, my eyes filled up with tears of joy. It was the day I understood that manta rays have souls too
Interested to dive with manta rays?
Manta rays can be found in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific oceans. Some popular diving locations for manta rays include Australia, Indonesia, the Maldives, and Hawaii. Seasons vary upon migration patterns and it is important to check your desired location when is the best time to go. Although these gentle giants are generally not social animals, they can be found eating together which is known as a squadron of manta ray or cleaning station gatherings.