Manta Rays are sometimes very shy, and sometimes very gregarious. We’ve had the best luck spotting them when we are paddling around. Perhaps they aren’t too keen on the sound of the boat motor.
In Hanavave, Sabrina and I were paddling our SUPs in the early morning and came across a school of 6-8 Manta Rays, feeding in the shallows by the point. We wished we had our snorkel and masks!
That afternoon all four of us went looking for them aboard the Lambordinghy. No luck! We snorkeled around a big arch, watching small colorful fish around the rock walls.
We went to the opposite side of the bay to look for Mantas. The fish were very sparse. Furthermore, the water was fairly turbid due to river sediment. This seems typical near shore in the Marquesas; hence this archipelago is not well-known for snorkeling.
On the other hand, the currents at this latitude bring a lot of plankton to the surface. This doesn’t help the visibility, but it attracts a lot of pelagic (open ocean) marine life. This is why Manta Rays are fairly common here, along with deeper water fish like tuna.
As the light was fading, we were just going to have a final swim. Our skiff was drifting along and Sabrina jumped in the water. She immediately poked her head out of the water:
“Mantas, directly below us!”
I plunged into the water. Deena and Spencer quickly fumbled and put on their masks, leaning precariously over the dinghy’s edge. We all saw the two Manta Rays just six feet below Sabrina. They did a slow sweep by her, then gently flipped upside down and went into deeper water.
“Whoa!” We all exclaimed. “They were so close!” It was wonderful to have a brief moment in the proximity of the elusive Manta Rays.