8 – 23 February 2010

Manta Sandy
Manta Slope

How do you describe the feeling of utter happiness you have to pinch yourself underwater to remind yourself it's happening?

How do you describe the feeling of utter happiness you have to pinch yourself underwater to remind yourself it’s happening?

How do you describe the feeling of utter happiness you have to pinch yourself underwater to remind you it's happening?

Our artist friend Robert Strachan sees me as a hobbit about to be engulfed by a ringwraith . . .

There are very few places we know where you can find, almost guaranteed, mantas in a cleaning station. There are many cleaning stations known, yes, but few guaranteed! Depending on the number of divers underwater, i.e. if you were sharing the site with a liveaboard or not, we have been graced with a manta show of the most spectacular nature – from one manta the whole dive with 20 odd divers, or eight mantas with just three divers – ourselves and our dive guide. Yesterday was such a day, we were the only ones in the water!

The minute we reached the cleaning station, eight mantas were busy getting their skins, gills and mouths cleaned by wrasses and butterflyfishes. They came so close they touched Yogi’s camera many times!

A brilliant photo of Yogi at work by Claudia Pellarini-Joubert, Sorido Bay Resort's dynamic manager and photographer extraordinaire

A brilliant photo of Yogi at work by Claudia Pellarini-Joubert, Sorido Bay Resort’s dynamic manager and photographer extraordinaire

We are wonderfully hosted by Papua Diving’s Sorido Bay Resort – the first Raja Ampat dive resort situated on Kri Island. The resort’s pioneering owner Max Ammer is a passionate conservationist, a committed and religious man who started Papua Diving 18 years ago. He is a great story teller. He tells the story of how the manta cleaning stations were discovered five years ago.

Like a slealth bomber, this black manta flies low accompanied by a her wingman

Like a stealth bomber, this black manta flies low accompanied by a her wingman

Mantas must be so healthy with all this cleaning . . .

Mantas must be so healthy with all this cleaning . . .

One day Max was flipping through a marine book where there was a picture of a manta on the page. One of his staff was changing a bulb behind him and said there were lots of mantas in the Arborek Island area near Mansoear where the fishermen go. After 13 years of operating in this area, mantas could be seen now and then but never a guaranteed site as finding a cleaning station. When Max investigated, it was like hitting a goldmine, two sites were found – Manta Sandy and Manta Slope. Both with incredibly hard working wrasses eager to nip off anything alien from a manta’s body.

Total grace in motion, three mantas fly above us

Total grace in motion, three mantas fly above us

On flat calm seas, you can even see manta wingtips come out of the water!

On flat calm seas, you can even see manta wingtips come out of the water! We snorkelled with about three and the water was full of crustacean! So much food in these waters for marine life

Stella snorkelling in a soup of plankton with a feedingt manta

Snorkelling in a soup of plankton with a feeding manta

They fly towards Yogi for a contant portrait. They can't seem to have enough flashing from the camera strobes!

They constantly fly towards Yogi for a portrait. They can’t seem to have enough flashing from the camera strobes!

And they glide past an extremely busy cleaning station jampacked with fish of all kinds!

And they glide past an extremely busy cleaning station jampacked with fish of all kinds!

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