Yesterday a problem with our boat engine meant a change if plan and an extra day spent around Padar Island. Today a boat arrived carrying the important spare part, and our manta safari is back on!
We said goodbye to the jagged hills of Padar, and headed north. Our plan was to make up for lost time, and head straight for Karang Makassar, also known as Manta Point.
The tide was still still rising when we arrived at Manta Point. The rising tide pushes nutrient-rich waters from the south, carrying food for the mantas. This should be the perfect time to find manta rays.
With our equipment on and buddy checks complete, we jumped into the water. For the past few days we have braved shiver-inducing water temperatures of 21°C. Here to the north, the waters are a warmer 28°C and we felt the relief
We began searching for mantas, drifting with the current. An eagle ray, a marbled ray, blacktip and whitetip reef sharks. Lots of marine wildlife, but after 40 minutes of searching still no mantas. Despite being hidden behind masks and regulators, the disappointment was clear on all our faces.
But then a hazy shadow in the distance. It’s difficult to be sure through the shimmering water, could that be a flash of white wingtip?
Communicating by hand signals, our team changed direction and briefly fought against the current to get into a better position.
And there it was, our first manta! Remembering the code of conduct we all settled to a clear patch of sea floor to observe. And with our team positioned close to the sea floor, the manta must have felt more confident. He swam straight towards us and glided overhead, presenting a perfect view of his identifying marks between the gills.
But no time for celebration, there’s another manta. And another and another. Seventeen in total during the final minutes of the dive.
After our small delay yesterday, and a disappointing start to this dive, we’ve all learned a valuable lesson. Never give up! A change in fortune could be about to happen.
See what else the interns have been up to this week in the video below.