8 – 23 February 2010
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!
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.
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.