Tag Archives: Manta Rays

Magnificent manta rays

Two manta rays in the waters off Hawaii

Yesterday, my wife and I hadn’t been in the water long when we saw large shapes ahead. There were two manta rays in fairly shallow water that was a bit churned up and cloudy. I took photos, but wasn’t optimistic they’d turn out in the conditions. The mantas swam away and we followed at a distance. There’s no point chasing mantas. Like most things in the water, they can put on a burst of speed that would leave us far behind.

Two manta rays in the waters off Hawaii

The mantas didn’t go far before they curled around and came back towards us. The water was clearer in this area and sunlight illuminated them as they headed our way. The lead manta was quite a bit bigger than the other one, probably around a 14-foot wingspan. They passed close beneath us, then turned again, looped around and headed back. They did this back and forth three times before finally moving on.

Later, when I was coming back, I saw the big manta again. It was in deeper water that was more cloudy so I didn’t get photos, but I watched as it did a couple of loop de loops and some sharp banking and turning. It just seemed to be having a fun day in the ocean and in doing so, made it a fun day for us, too.

A Manta Ray zips by

A manta ray swims in the waters off Hawaii

It’s been quite a while since I last saw a Manta Ray while snorkeling, so I was thrilled a few days ago when I saw a familiar shape heading towards me. It was low down in the water and when it saw me it veered away a bit, carrying on at a good clip despite swimming into the current running that day.

The manta was big, with a 10 to 12 foot wingspan, and a lot of pale markings on top. It seemed in good shape though its left wingtip appeared to be permanently curled up. I hoped it might slow down or turn, but that was not to be and it soon disappeared to the south.

Oddities in the water

A manta ray in the waters off Hawaii

Today marks the start of the last week of this month’s Becky’s Squares challenge theme of ‘Odd.’ See more responses here. The ocean is full of oddities so I thought I’d include a few here.

Above: A Manta Ray encounter is always something special, but there’s no getting away from their odd appearance. This one has the added wrinkle of one of its cephalic flaps being damaged.

Top left: Bluespine Unicornfishes not only have a horn protruding from their foreheads, they have dayglow blue scalpels at the base of the tail and an array of expressions that are mostly odd.

Top right: Who knows how many scorpionfishes I’ve swum past? Masters of disguise, I could stare at a spot where one is perched and not see it. Even when I do see one, it’s not always clear that it’s not just a rock, as this Titan Scorpionfish illustrates.

Bottom left: Nudibranches are inherently odd looking, and this Clumpy Nudibrach is no exception. It suggests to me some top chef’s idea of an exotic entrée, but one that keeps sliding off the plate!

Bottom right: Blennies are indisputably odd, but absolutely endearing. The Hawaiian Zebra Blenny is no exception and, in addition, has an uncanny ability to launch itself into the next tidepool if someone disturbs it.

A look back at 2021

A Hawaiian monk seal resting
January: Hiwahiwa, a male Hawaiian Monk Seal born in 2020, rests at Upolu. Haven’t seen any monk seals since this encounter. (Link)

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘2021 in Your Rear-View Mirror.’ See more responses here. I’ve gone with a favorite photo from each month of 2021, with a caption and link to the post the photo first appeared in.

Wainanali’i lagoon at Kiholo, Hawaii at Kiholo, Hawaii
February: I love hiking at Kiholo Bay. There’s plenty to see and shady spots to rest awhile. (Link)
Spinner dolphins in the waters off the Big Island, Hawaii
March: Swimming with dolphins! Need I say more. (Link)
An I'iwi calls in a forest off Saddle Road, Hawaii
April: Another favorite hike, on Pu’u O’o Trail off Saddle Road, and an endemic I’iwi singing its heart out. (Link)
Close up of a coastal manta ray approaching
May: This inquisitive Manta Ray kept returning, probably wondering how something so clumsy-looking could survive in the water. (Link)
A Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly perched on a twig
June: I like seeing little creatures, such as this Roseate Skimmer Dragonfly, and I’m thrilled when the photos turn out. (Link)
Three palm trees in Hawaii
July: I like palm trees and word play so this was too tempting to pass up for Becky’s Tree Squares. (Link)
A school of mackerel scads, or Opelus being hunted by a rainbow runner off Hawaii
August: An instant in the water – a school of Mackeral Scads chased by a Rainbow Runner. They went by in a matter of seconds. (Link)
Red-masked parakeets at Kohanaiki Beach Park.
September: These Red-Masked Parakeets are not native, but they’re oh so tropical. (Link)
Early morning lights at the port of Kawaihae, Hawaii
October: When I have time, on my way to work, I stop at Kawaihae. I might see anything from a glorious sunrise, to a tiny crab on the beach, to these port lights. (Link)
The lava cone and lake at Kilauea Volcano in late 2021
November: Kilauea erupted again so I had to go look. The eruption is still going, but a little erratically these days. (Link)
A Green turtle, with a slender remora on its shell, checks out the photographer
December: A recent encounter and maybe my favorite Hawaiian Green Turtle photo. (Link)

More manta rays

Two coastal manta rays in the waters off Hawaii

My most recent manta ray encounter happened a few days ago. I was swimming along and saw a familiar shape in front of me. It was a manta ray heading in the same direction. I tracked it for a while, hoping to catch up, but knowing that doing so was entirely up to the manta. Eventually I did draw level for a short while. Then the manta pulled away again.

As it disappeared, I thought at first I was seeing some kind of weird reflection in the water. Then I realized it was a second manta swimming toward me. As it approached the first manta turned and followed behind. Both were pretty large and up near the water’s surface, creating reflections.

A coastal manta ray in the waters off Hawaii

They passed by, and receded in the direction I’d come from. I hung around for a while hoping they’d reverse course again and, sure enough, a few moments later the two of them came back toward me. On this pass, I could see that one had a badly damaged cephalic flap. It looked like an old wound and didn’t seem to trouble the manta much, but I don’t know how it would affect it when it came to feeding since they use the flaps to funnel plankton into their mouths.

A coastal manta ray in the waters off Hawaii

Eventually, the mantas headed away and out into deeper water. I stayed out for a while on the off chance that they’d return, but wasn’t surprised when they didn’t. Still, it had been another wonderful encounter and I headed back toward shore in a very good mood.

Two coastal manta rays in the waters off Hawaii

Manta ray maneuvers

A manta ray approaching
A manta ray approaching

Becky’s October Squares challenge theme is ‘Past Squares,’ which is to say one can use any of the themes previously used during the challenge’s four year run. I’m going to run photos for earlier themes, before I started doing this challenge. So this is for the challenge theme of ‘Past Squares – Blue.’ (See more responses here.)

I’m starting with a manta ray encounter from a couple of months ago. This was a very playful manta, which seemed to take great pleasure from its underwater ballet of swoops and loops. In these photos, it carves a turn through somewhat cloudy blue water. I posted a couple of other photos of this encounter a while back, which can be seen here.

Manta ray encounter

Acute halfbeaks pass in front of a manta ray off Hawaii

My most recent manta ray encounter was notable for the sheer exuberance of the ray. It swam up to my wife and me, then curved away, then came back again. At one point it moved farther off, into murkier, shallow water (which is why I didn’t get photos) and did several loop de loops for no apparent reason. It swam along with us for a while, closer to the shore, until we lost sight of it.

The top photo shows it approaching. I love it when they come straight towards me. They look so strange and yet so amazing, and there’s nothing to fear whatsoever since they’re plankton eaters and among the least dangerous creatures in the water. It wasn’t until I processed my photos that I noticed the acute halfbeaks passing between us. Ironically, this might be one of my better photos of them, captured unintentionally.

The bottom photo shows one of the ray’s curving passes with its mouth closed which, when I think about it, might be the first time I’ve seen that.

A manta ray swimming off Hawaii

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.