I have incredible admiration for Manta Rays. How many huge creatures remain calm and comfortable as you swim 3 feet away? (The Whale Shark is another incredibly graceful animal).
Mantas are the ballet dancers of the sea; voyagers of the oceans; playful and delightful beings. Since we arrived in French Polynesia we’ve had the great fortune to spend hours watching Mantas.
We often swim with Mantas in “cleaning stations” where they circles slowly as tiny wrasse fish clean them of parasites (this is a common practice by many large fish, including sharks and groupers).
I remember taking my parents (age 80 and 74) swimming with Mantas while a squall was dumping rain on us, and underwater it was perfectly calm and beautiful!
Another memorable experience with Mantas was Sabrina’s first freedive in 3 years after battling an ear injury: it was simply sublime.
Occasionally we see Mantas in less predictable places: roaming around Reef Passes, or feeding on plankton… sometimes right under our boat! Such as this unforgettable day, video originally posted to our Patreon page.
It was really lucky to see them. I once told a friend, admiring her ability to attract great things to her life, “You are so lucky.” She responded, “Nah, I just go outside the house with positive vibes. Good things are bound to happen!”
This was the case here. Effort is needed for luck. From the surface we saw nothing. Thanks to Sabrina and our crewmate Erika going swimming to the beach (instead of taking the easy option, the dinghy), they saw the Mantas feeding right in front of the boat! Lucky are those who make the effort.
Some interesting information about Manta Rays. There are actually two types: the Oceanic Manta Ray and Reef Manta Ray. All the Mantas we show here are Reef Mantas. Note that the main differences are:
- Size. Oceanic Mantas are much bigger with wingspans up to 29feet, while Reef Mantas are plenty big with wingspans up to 15feet.
- Habitat. Oceanic Mantas roam the open ocean, Reef Mantas stay close to coasts
- Coloration. Oceanic Mantas have more dark areas but fewer spots on their underbelly, compared to Reef Mantas.
Another amazing characteristic shared by Mantas: self-awareness.
As the University of Washington’s School of Marine Affairs describes: “Chimpanzees preen in front of mirrors, elephants inspect themselves in reflective surfaces, and dolphins name themselves with individual whistles. Surprisingly, manta rays are in the same category as these charismatic mammals when it comes to intelligence tests. A recent study found that giant manta rays display the distinct behaviors humans assign to self-awareness.”
Mantas have the biggest brains of any fish studied so far (in terms of brain mass to body mass ratio). One manta asked a freediver for help to remove hooks from her under-belly: watch it in this video!
Manta Rays are phenomenal creatures and we feel so blessed to spend time with them.