Fasten your seatbelts! You are about to embark on a journey, a 5 day manta ray education trip divided into three blogs. With all of the animals and experiences described you will feel like you are right there with us! Manta ray education is a cornerstone to Wicked Diving’s commitment to ethical diving and marine conservation through education.
As the day began, our check dive was done at Sabolan Kecil. A school of about 60 batfish were found on the outer reef, nudibranchs, lionfish, a yellow edged moray eel, big pufferfishes, an eagle ray and the ever amazing big and beautiful sea fans. Slightly rocking we headed up North after the dive. The first manta presentation that evening was about manta biology and ecology. The fact that our lovely guests came to a manta ray education trip is already a success. It gives us data to show that mantas alive are a lot more valuable then when they are being fished out. Which is very important data considering the threats they are facing. Beside that everybody was enthusiastic about becoming a SSI Manta Diver.
The next day we started with a possible manta dive. No mantas were seen, but Lighthouse is a stunning reef nonetheless. Turtles, white tip reef sharks, nudibranchs, giant trevallys, moray eels, four eagle rays and lots of batfish were seen. The current dropped so the dive was finished on the pinnacles on the corner. They are just stunning; the variety of the colours of the corals, the light and the bright blue visibility were amazing. The second dive at Castle Rock had a little surprise for us. Now, before you get excited it wasn’t a manta;-). The current was fairly strong and all groups therefore jumped in the split on the current side. We hit the reef and parked ourselves in the split. There were white tip reef sharks everywhere, a possible 9 different sharks were seen. But beside that after about 5 minutes 2 grey reef sharks appeared! One was a nice big stocky female, the other one a smaller female. They kept on returning to the reef and basically together with the white tip reef sharks stayed with us for about 25 minutes when it was time to get to the lee side. Giant trevallys passed and a Napoleon wrasse came to visit as well. There was just action everywhere!
We finished the day with the Cauldron. As almost always, people are not only having lots of fun going through the cauldron via the shot gun, they also are stunned by the wonderful and stunning topography. The wall at the start of the dive, the sand with the garden eels and white tips cruising and resting, the cauldron with the fishbowl, the shotgun to get out and then the beautiful soft coral garden at the end. Some groups saw turtles already before the cauldron, others on the coral reef afterwards. And beside that the last group actually saw a little manta just after the shotgun. Estimation so far is that he or she was not much bigger than 1,50m (mantas when they are born are about 1,10m-1,30m). It was playing in the current and by the looks of it with a cheeky smile on its face!
So an awesome first day of diving! The extreme beach clean up was between singles versus couples and was won by a highly motivated couples team, although the singles did find a rare transformer toy as part of their garbage! Then we all went up the hill to enjoy a beautiful sunset with a beer (bringing the empty cans back as part of the rubbish of course!!)
After dinner it was time to learn more about Manta identification. What is important data, how do you identify males and females, different species (manta birostris and manta alfredi), how to dive with mantas and how do you take an ID shot for the Komodo Manta Database were the subjects covered. Over the past year in manta ray education trips, Wicked Diving has collected data on dozens of different Manta Rays and certified more than 150 of our guests as Manta Ray specialists. This data and the popularity of our trips has helped make Komodo the newest Manta Ray sanctuary in the world! More then 7000 square Km is set aside as protected (also for sharks and several reef species as well!!!)