Stu Beckingham, winner of a Manta Month Award for the most manta sightings, is relatively new to Komodo. But in just four months working as a dive guide he has made a great contribution to local manta ray conservation efforts. Stu shared his magical manta moments and his thoughts about manta conservation with us.
Stu’s first manta encounter was in Pulau Weh, north Sumatra.
“It was one of the most unforgettable dives I did there,” he remembers. “It was quite funny, I’d swum away from the reef and I stumbled across a big oceanic manta on a cleaning station. Nobody else on the boat saw the manta, just three of us who went off on our own. We all felt very privileged to experience this giant for the first time, and I was keen to see lots more after that!”
Stu got his wish in Komodo, where he regularly guided divers to similar manta encounters at Manta Point or Karang Makassar.
“Mantas are important to me because they’re just the most graceful, magical creatures I’ve ever seen underwater. Showing divers for the first time, they can’t fail to be spellbound by their grace and beauty underwater, their sheer size and also their intelligence as well. I love it when you’re relaxing by a cleaning station watching them, and then they come over and have a closer look at the divers. It never fails to blow people away”.
And it seems that Stu is luckier than most! He was fortunate enough to recently see the elusive oceanic manta, Manta birostris.
Oceanic mantas were confirmed and documented for the first time in Komodo in 2012. Stu contributed to this discovery by sharing his photographs of the experience with the MantaWatch team.
Stu believes that mantas rays are important ecologically, socially and also economically.
“One of the first questions people always ask when they walk into the dive shop is: Can we see the mantas? They are a massive draw for tourism, bringing lots of money into the local economy.”
That’s why Stu supports the proposal to list mantas on CITES, the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species.
“Indonesia should definitely support the CITES listing to protect mantas. Here we have some of the richest waters in the world, and it’s a big draw for people”.
As a committed MantaWatcher, Stu intends to keep diving and photographing mantas wherever he is in the world, and continue uploading his encounters to Manta Trax.
“My favourite thing about participating in the MantaWatch surveys is that my small efforts contribute to a much bigger picture about the health of the manta population. It’s something I’m always keen to educate people about. The surveys are a great resource for learning more about these amazing creatures”.
Stu’s passion and enthusiasm for the marine environment is obvious, and he is always keen to share his knowledge with fellow divers. If you meet Stu on your diving adventures, be sure to ask for his tips on taking great manta ID shots.
Head over to Manta Trax To see more of Stu’s manta photos and dive locations.