Manta Experiences in Costa Rica

Article Written by Liby Glister

Its taken me six months to see my first manta… I can imagine some people may think “6 months? I haven’t seen a manta before.” In fact Lots of divers and snorkelers don’t even know what they look like!

I arrived in May just as manta season ended, that didn’t stop the odd few visiting our divers and DM’s on dives out at murcielagos (bat island). This did only happen once or twice, but why wasn’t it happening to me?

Finally November approached and manta season was back! By now everyone  knew how badly I wanted to see a giant pacific manta ray, even the captains knew my desperation! It had got to the point where all I would dream of was manta rays!

And then the day finally arrived… I was in the middle of an open water course with my ten  year old student, we came round the corner to moor our boat  at one of our local dive sites (shark shallows/tiburones). All of a sudden I hear the captain shouting “Liby! Liby! Manta! Manta!”

WHAT! A MANTA! I ran to the front end of the boat to look up at Daniel, the captain, and he pointed to a darker patch of the ocean and told me there was a manta! My student and I frantically rushed to get our fins, mask and snorkel on, our divemaster Quinn got ready just as quick as we did and grabbed his go pro.

Eager to get into the water, our captain moved the boat so we could get a closer swim with the manta, he then told us when to go.

Now, ill have to admit I was a little scared, it was my first manta and those things are huge! Plus I have a weird fear of swimming around the surface in low visibility even though I know whats underneath me! So I strategically swam behind Quinn along with my student as we approached the huge black shadow lurking in-front of us. The manta glided by us and we got a brief glimpse of the white, underneath the huge fins that almost looked like wings! It was a magical experience however quick it may have been.

Its now dry season which means the visibility gets a little disturbed by the wind and it can be quite choppy. So all we really swam with was a shadow of a manta but it was still exhilarating and I was finally able to say I had seen a manta!

We are now in January, and boy let me tell you when they say manta season they mean manta season! I can honestly say I think I’ve had a whole week with a  manta everyday! Towards the beginning I would just get the one buzz past me on a dive but then more started to appear and more often. Its begun to feel as though they are following us, in all reality we are following them but they are always there!

Las Catalinas has been the place to spot multiple manta rays but this has been the worst year they have seen for a while! The reason for this you might ask? Killer whales! Yeah! Killer whales in costa rica! Who would have thought!

I’ve heard that they may quite often migrate past costa rica they just do it so far off the coast you rarely see them. This year they are near to the coast and they’ve got a good reason for it! Manta rays! Many of the catamaran tours had spotted the pod of orcas eating the manta rays! This may also be why we have all of the mantas out at our local spots, and I mean all the mantas! We were even so lucky to see what we thought was an albino manta, and what I now, after some research think was a leucistic manta ray. This is a morph of the species and much like the all black manta we have seen (melanistic manta) its an all white manta so it has notably reduced or no pigment at all and looks like an angel of the sea!

This may be my first manta season but it’s definitely not the dive centers first manta season, so they have a very good idea of where and when to find them. This past week, once again during an open water course I was teaching, I had the best manta experience I have had of all! A manta ray has two cephalic fins in the front of its head that help to guide the plankton in. These can be rolled up or uncurled for when they are feeding.

We were on our third training dive and had just finished the last few skills when we began to swim round the dive site to find the many manta rays we had seen on the surface. I then passed Jason who shook his noise maker to signal there were mantas up ahead so we continued on our way. We reached a thermocline and I knew the mantas were near by. I turned back to check my students were okay and just as I did so a huge black and white manta flew over top of us! I shot my arm up and pointed towards it for them to see. My divemaster and one of my students just kinda floated in awe of the huge but majestic creature circling us, my other student and I however tried to keep up with it as we swam side by side. It’s huge wing/fin span and mimicked his movements with our arms. It twirled and tipped and looked us in the eye! It was incredible! We all shared a very special moment that will never sound as magical in words as it was in real life.

I truly love manta rays and to have shared that with people who had just been introduced to the underwater world makes it even more spectacular! The ocean and the world continues to surprise me with these incredible experiences and I couldn’t be more lucky to be where I am today! Keep up for more blogs about becoming and instructor and all these wonderful animal encounters I get enjoy!

Article Written by Liby Glister

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