The second day of our manta safari. I woke up early, and enjoyed a beautiful sunrise and a hot cup of coffee before our first survey at Manta Alley.

Fabi briefed us about the divesite and then, after our buddy check, we jumped into the water. The cold water of south Komodo was a wake up call for all of us! But even though the water was cold and murky, we were still excited to find manta rays. After only a few minutes, a manta passed by so suddenly that we were unable to catch its ID photo. We ended the dive one hour later, cold and shivering, but happy and ready for breakfast.

On this safari we are honoured to be joined by Abraham Sianipar from Conservation International, and over breakfast he told us more about his work conducting satellite tagging and DNA sampling of manta rays throughout Indonesia. His work has taken him to many places, such as Raja Ampat, Sangalaki, Nusa Penida, and Komodo.

After breakfast, it was time for us to give a manta briefing! We have two guest divers who have joined this safari. Olga and Fernando are from Brazil, and they are both curious to learn more about manta rays. Retno and Miko were on duty, and they explained about manta conservation, the code of conduct, and how to interact with mantas responsibly. We talk and laugh and discuss manta rays, and the time flies passed. Before we realise it, it is time for our next survey dive.

Retno and Miko give their first manta briefing

Retno and Miko give their first manta briefing

This time we are at the southern part of Rinca, where we’ve heard reports that oceanic mantas have been sighted. We were really excited about this dive, hoping to find an oceanic manta and a chance to explore another new site. Like before, the water was cold and murky. But I don’t mind, I’me excited to discover this new site. Although we did not find any mantas, there were many cryptic species clinging to the steep wall, and camouflaged against the rocks.

Diving and mantas is not enough today, because next it’s time for dragons! We jump in our speedboat to get a close and personal encounter with the dragons on the shore of Rinca. Two wild dragons approach our boat cautiously, tasting the air with their tongue. I think they think we are food! Then three more dragons appeared from the trees. We took so many photos, our jaws open in amazement. The Komodo dragon only lives in this part of the world, here on the three islands of Komodo National Park. I can’t describe how lucky I feel to see both mantas and dragons in the same day. For me, this trip is just so memorable.

Rafid meets his first dragon

Rafid meets his first dragon

After an amazing experience with the dragons, we did our final survey dive at Padar Kecil. This is a shallow dive where mantas sometimes come to feed. But today we were unlucky.

Next we planned to go north, but the fierce Komodo currents were too strong for our boat! We took shelter, and waited for the tides to change. This gave is a chance to enjoy the rest of our afternoon reviewing our mini tests and discussing conservation. As the sun goes down, its back to our laptops to record today’s data.

We’ve gained so much knowledge and new experiences so far during this trip. As well as learning and sharing awareness, meeting mantas and dragons means this day could not get any better!

Muhammad Ichsan

Muhammad Ichsan

Ichsan earned his M.Sc. Conservation Biology from the University of Queensland, Australia and B.Sc. Marine Science from the University of Padjadjaran (UNPAD), Indonesia. Drawing on the experiences he gained during MIP-2012, Ichsan successfully submitted his undergraduate thesis on the environmental factors influencing the temporal distribution of manta rays in Komodo National Park, Indonesia. He founded […]