Komodo Island: My Amazing Experience Diving With Giant Manta Rays in Indonesia by Sheri B Doyle
In Indonesia, a giant manta ray can span up to 25 feet across. Diving with these beautiful creatures has been at the top of my bucket list for years. One of the best places to see them are the waters off of Komodo Island in Indonesia. The waters here can be quite a challenge, with strong currents challenging even highly trained divers. There are never any guarantees to see them while diving, or even that the conditions will be suitable to jump in the water. On the day I was to dive all the conditions were perfect to attempt to fulfill my dream.
As I suited up and jumped into the water my excitement was almost impossible to contain. For a few hours I had been sitting patiently on the boat, hoping today would be the day I could see these massive creatures gliding elegantly through the blue waters of Indonesia.
Our group of four gathered on top of the water and started to descend with strict instructions for maintaining our group in the current. As we reached the bottom, immediately two massive mantas were spotted just in front of us. We laid our bodies on the gravely bottom and watched as the moved past us. My heart was racing as their “wings” moved gently through the water. When they had gone by it was time for us to move on.
The four of us watched in every direction hoping for another moment with a giant manta ray. Then, the dive master begins to grab us one by one, pull us to the floor and tell us to dig into the ground to hold our positions. As we came into position each of us began to look up and spotted a whole group of mantas overhead. They moved through the water and then four of them began a mating dance. It was like watching a beautiful ballet as they moved over and over each other in a vertical circle, their bodies moving in unison. The other mantas began swimming in a wider circle, sometimes getting so close I could feel the water movement of their bodies. As I tried to take pictures a few were moving so close all I could capture were their bellies or mouths directly over the top of me, shadowed from their massive bodies.
With tears filling my mask I looked to the dive master and started screaming through my gear; the joy had to be released. Suddenly in this moment, nothing else mattered in the world. Here I was, fingers throbbing from digging into the gravel ocean floor, muscles aching from holding on, yet I could feel nothing but the pure joy of the experience.
We saw 25 giant manta rays that day, almost all of them within a 10-foot distance of our group. When it was time to surface each of us came out of the water yelling, laughing and overflowing with gratitude. We later found out it was one of the highest counts of mantas they had ever seen in one dive and the only time anyone had heard of witnessing a mating dance.
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