Eye to eye with a curious manta ray

A coastal manta ray approaches
A manta ray approaches.
Close up of a coastal manta ray approaching
A close up view.
A coastal manta ray showing spots and gill slits
The spots on the underside are unique to each manta ray. This shot also gives a good view of the gill slits and cephalic flaps.

Yesterday, my wife and I went snorkeling at our usual spot. The visibility was pretty good so, on our way back, we decided to cross the bay and see how it was on the other side. The visibility got worse, not awful, but with more particles in the water.

Suddenly, I saw something large off to my left. I pointed to it and turned to my wife to see her pointing in the same direction. We’d seen this coastal manta ray at the same time. The ray was crossing in front of us and I snapped a couple of photos knowing they wouldn’t be good, but to at least have a record of the encounter.

A coastal manta ray close up
A close up of the manta ray’s head.
A coastal manta ray turning
The manta ray makes a turn.

The ray looked set to disappear into the murk, but then it turned and came back towards us. It passed in front of us again, turned again. Back and forth the ray went. On different occasions, it went by so close in front of each of us that we could have reached out and touched it. It was clearly as curious about us as we were entranced by it. Finally, it made one last pass and seemed to wave at us as it receded into the distance.

A snorkeler comes face to face with a coastal manta ray
Mutual curiosity as manta ray meets snorkeler.
A coastal manta ray approaches
The water was quite murky, so more distant photos show suspended particles.
A coastal manta ray diving down
The manta makes a dive and turn.

This was a smaller ray with maybe a 6- to 8-foot wing span and most of this time it was swimming near the surface, so we got great views of it. Manta rays are plankton feeders and have no poisonous spines so they’re amongst the least dangerous creatures in the ocean. I hadn’t seen one since last August so this made the occasion even more special for me.

After it left, we headed back in. It would have been hard to top that encounter.

A coastal manta ray waves farewell
Finally, the manta waves goodbye as it heads out into deeper waters.

19 thoughts on “Eye to eye with a curious manta ray

  1. naturebackin

    How fantastic. You must have left the water feeling on quite a high! I loved seeing the photos – even if the viz was not perfect they are still beautiful of such an awesome animal. Quite humbling that such a grand animal took an interest in mere human snorkelers!

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Graham Post author

      We were on our way to check out another area in the water, but after that we headed back to shore. Hard to top that. A few days later, we encountered another, larger manta ray and it wanted nothing to do with us, staying low in the water and carving a broad arc before heading out to deeper waters!

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
  2. Kitty

    It always surprises me how big these wonderful creatures are compared to a diver. They’re my all time favorite and I truly enjoy looking at your pictures of these gentle giants.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. Graham Post author

      Mantas are huge but they’re among the least threatening things in the ocean. It’s a thrill every time I see one and this encounter was one of the best I’ve had.

      Like

      Reply

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