Here our Travel Specialist Kit shares his experience of diving with Giant Manta Rays in the Galapagos Islands.….
It was a talk by Peruvian Conservationist and Rolex Prize winner Kerstin Forsberg in 2017 that first alerted me to the existence of Giant Oceanic Manta Rays. These vast, majestic Rays can grow up to 9 metres across and spend their lives circumnavigating the world’s equatorial waters. Gently gliding through the water filter-feeding on microscopic plankton, small fish and crustaceans.
Sadly, like so much of our planet’s incredible wildlife, they are under threat by fishing practices, both as bycatch and through direct fishing (their gills are viewed as “remedies” for chickenpox and cancer in traditional Chinese medicine). Their long reproductive cycles delivering once about every 2-5 years means that even the slightest pressure from fishing puts the long term viability of the species in jeopardy.
The prospect of seeing these magnificent creatures first hand was one that developed into a fascination. Earning my PADI Open Water and Advanced qualifications in quick succession in 2018. I spent 2019 racking up as many dives as possible, finally, I felt ready to tackle the Galapagos.
I arrived in Puerto Ayora at the Shark Bay dive centre to try on my wetsuit. After a weight check, it was back into the boat for the first dive. Within minutes of entering the water, we had an encounter with the first of these majestic giants. My following days were equally bountiful having close encounters with Hammerheads, Galapagos Sharks and Sea Turtle, but nothing came close to that sheer sense of awe at my first encounter.