Encounter with a Mega-Manta

Filed Under (Special People) by Alexa & Cindy on 22-06-2010

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Last month, we saw a news headline featuring an ocean photographer-diver who had captured some stunning underwater images of  a Manta ray (Manta birostris) while diving in the Pacific, off the Socorro and San Benedicto Islands, at the tip of the Baja peninsula. Rays are among our favorite sea creatures, so we had to have a look.

We quickly found that this ray was a bit – different – than what we were expecting to see.

For starters, it was 16 feet wide!

And this Manta was not shy, as they can often be around divers in the water. Such giant Mantas are well-known and highly sought after by divers in the area, but they’re not always willing to come out and pose for the underwater paparazzi.

Such giant Mantas, also known as devil rays, Atlantic Mantas and Pacific Mantas, are the largest of their kind and are closely related to sharks. These mantas don’t have stinging spines and are truly considered harmless. They can leap high in the air and are often seen with Remoras hanging around to feed on parasites that attach themselves to Mantas’ bodies.

We figured that this must be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for even a seasoned pro like Franco Banfi, 50, who lives in Cadro, Switzerland.

So we caught up with Franco and asked him for his personal account of his time with this awesome sea creature, and found out it was pretty amazing not just to us, but to him, too.

Here’s his account of his swim with the Mega Manta:

With my partner, Sabrina, we went on board the Solmar V to Socorro to see and photograph the giant mantas. On our second day we met the dive almost at the end of the dive and we were already happy to pass some time with the manta.

We found the manta so friendly that we went back on board, changed tanks and went back into the water.

During this time the manta was round the boat, almost like it was waiting for us.
We went back in the water to find the manta and start to photograph it. The manta went close to Sabrina and back, swimming around, rolling on itself, turning on its belly upside down and waiting for Sabrina to come close.
We stayed in the water more then one hour, all the time with this manta. On this trip I started using the digital camera, of course I was lucky because in the film era I could do only 36 images before changing film. With the camera I shot 140 pictures, and I was surprised and frightened because before going in the water, my camera said that I could do 114. I understood later that these images with a lot of blue and not many colours are smaller in size, to make possible to save more images on the memory card.

What do YOU think about this Mega Manta encounter? Leave a comment and tell us what you’d do if you could play with one!

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i would love to play with one

Hi, Kalista! Wow, don’t you just wish you could have been there? ~Alexa

I have been swimming with these in Mozambique 1998 it is a wonderful experience and brings back many memories ..

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