Tag Archives: Manta Rays

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.

Uplifting moments from 2020

This week’s Sunday Stills challenge theme is ‘Your 2020 Retrospective.’ See more responses here. Also posted in response to Becky’s January Squares challenge theme of ‘Up.’ See more responses here.

In this retrospective I’ve focused on events and photos that were uplifting for me during the difficult year that was. Most of these photos haven’t run before, but were taken at the same time as those in posts that ran in 2020. Links to the original posts are at the end of the captions.

Swimming with a manta ray

First sight of the manta ray coming toward me.
Sliding by to one side, showing an eye and its cephalic fins, while it catches the light.
Dipping lower in the water, its upper markings clearly visible.
Heading away over the coral.

My usual posts feature a single photo or perhaps two or three, but today I wanted to give an idea of a recent encounter I had in the water with this manta ray. The photos are a sequence, top to bottom, from the time I first saw it, to it fading from sight into deeper water, about a 10 minute period. The ray swam quite slowly during that time, allowing me to keep up with it.

There are two kinds of manta rays. M. birostris, also known at the ocean manta, is the larger of the two species with a wingspan of 20 feet or more. The manta in these photos is M. alfredi, or reef manta, with a wingspan of 18 feet or less. This one was probably around 12 feet across.

Starting to turn.
Crossing below me.
Coming back up over some coral.
Out of the way, little fish.
Heading my way, mouth open, but mantas aren’t menacing.
Time to say goodbye.