Manta Rays from the Air

6am, Hanaiapa Bay. In the monotone grey of dawn I saw something moving in the water. 

It was far away… could they be little black wingtips gently breaking the surface? 


“Sabrina, there might be Mantas out here!” I hushed.

She jumped out of bed and climbed the aft cabin ladder to peak out the hatch. “Oh God I stood up too fast. Woooo,” said Sabrina, dizzy and excited. I scampered on deck to drop two SUPs in the water, which we keep handy when at anchor. We reached into the dive locker and strapped our masks around our necks. Moments later we were paddling, searching the bay for the black wingtips. 


After a few minutes we came across the Mantas. The  underwater visibility was very poor. Yet, standing up on the SUPs offered a great vantage point to see the beautiful white markings that flow along their black bodies. Each Manta has a unique identifying pattern, which seem to flow out of their flared mouths like the designs on aerodynamic jet planes. 


Laying down on the board made it difficult to see. The higher up we were, the better we could look down upon them. This gave us an idea: “Let’s fly the Honey Bee!” 


Pierre and Chris and a friendly Manta Ray


Back on Aldebaran, Pierre and Chris rallied and took over our SUPs. “Which direction to the Mantas?” Pierre asked, scanning the horizon. “About 100 yards towards the big rock,” I said. 

As they paddled away, Sabrina and I launched the Honey Bee from the foredeck. The drone zoomed over our mast as the sun crested over the valley. 

The glare of the sun now made it difficult to see the underwater creatures. The fellas were paddling around, searching. We flew Honey Bee high up in the air and turned the camera to point straight down. Immediately the distinctive shape of the Mantas clearly popped up on our screen. “Right there!” Sabrina said. 


Chris and Pierre followed the Honey Bee, which we parked high above the Mantas. Given the poor visibility of the water, we were amazed at how well we could see; even fish swimming along the surface showed up clearly. 

Flying forwards while filming downwards is very confusing, but we got lucky with a few moments when everything lined up: the fellas paddling with the Mantas swimming past. 

I’m glad we woke up early and saw them; encounters with marine life are so uplifting! We feel fortunate to see these graceful beings from up close, and share the experience with you (using the cool aerial perspective, thanks to the Honey Bee, and all our Patrons who helped us purchase it!)

See our Patron site and get cool Green Coco goodies as thanks for your support:

Uploaded with wifi in Hiva Oa

5 thoughts on “Manta Rays from the Air

  1. Hi Kristian,

    Thank you.
    These are stunning photos. Oh, man! Given what I’m feeling now, I can’t imagine what you all were/are feeling.
    Once again, thank you.
    John Mead

  2. This is an incredible post:)
    The photos are stunning. The size of the mantas in relation to the SUPs is startling.

    Thank you for putting in the effort to do this 🙂

    – Brian

  3. Absolutely fabulous! That must have been so exciting to be so close to something so special.
    Honey Bee proved its worth that day as the arial photographs clearly show. You could never have captured this with a regular camera. More Honey Bee photos please.

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