Swimming with Manta Rays in Fiji (Guest Post)

Swimming with Manta Rays in Fiji (Guest Post)

Swimming with Manta Rays is something that I have never done, but luckily, Amy from Map the Gap is here to tell us all about her experience when she swam with Manta Rays in Fiji!…

“In 2010 I was in two minds about whether to stop off in Fiji after a year backpacking in Australia and New Zealand. Thankfully I did – and I discovered that, if you’re prepared to get off your hammock and do some exploring, you can experience some incredible adventures…

I’m in the twenty bed doom room, rummaging through my backpack, when a horn sounds far off in the distance. I leap to attention – it’s the signal I’ve been waiting for all day – they have been spotted.

I’m staying in the aptly named Manta Ray Resort, on Manta Ray Island – part of the Yasawa Group in Fiji. Every year, during the mating season from May to October, manta rays swim in the waters just off the Islands here.

 Yasawa Fiji

Yasawa, Fiji

Swimming with Manta Rays

Manta rays are the largest species of Ray and they reside in the tropical waters of the world, usually around coral reefs. Today, I’m going to be swimming with them – an experience several of the resorts offer during the appropriate months.

A small group of us pile into a small tin boat, which drives towards the sighting. The manta rays aren’t attracted to the area by artificial means – they come naturally, of their own accord.

Using the term ‘swim with’ is a bit misleading; mantas use the current to propel themselves along, gliding gracefully with their huge ‘wings’ – which means that they move at an alarmingly fast rate through the water. It wouldn’t be possible, even for an Olympic swimmer, to keep up with them, so instead you overtake them in the boat, and enter the water in their path. That way, you can watch them glide past and try to keep up for as long as you can.

In typically Fijian style, the whole event is rather hectic. The boat stops and I race to put on my flippers and mask. My ‘graceful’ dismount into the water leaves a lot to be desired. There are a few seconds when I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing. Then, the guide points to the direction of the rays, and I swim frantically with the group towards them. Various flippers splash in my face. In a few minutes, the ray has moved on. I haven’t seen a thing.

But the day isn’t over yet. Second time round I’m much luckier – I notice a dark shape move underneath me, and when I put my head in the water I get to watch the grey surface of a ray move elegantly away. Later, I receive an even better view, as one swims directly in my path.

Captivated by the sheer size

At first, I’m astounded by the sheer size of the thing – on the website, the resort claims it’s seen one spanning 6.5 meter across, although 4.5 is a more normal size. Then I’m captivated by the wide open mouth, reminiscent of the Scream – no wonder they call them the ghouls of the sea. I panic as he comes closer and closer to me – will it hit? Of course not, he takes a sudden dive below – but only when he’s a few inches from my face.

The water and the rays are so tranquil that they make you feel like you’re on another planet, and when I get back onto dry land I’m full of energy and excitement. It’s been a fantastic experience, and well worth stopping off at the Islands for. My insider tip? Don’t forget your underwater camera like I did – you’ll really regret it!”

Written by Amy Heritage from mapthegap.co.uk*

And because Amy neglected to bring her underwater camera with her, we dug out this photo of a mighty Manta Ray to give you an idea of what she encountered!!

 Manta Ray Close Up

* Map the Gap is a website dedicated to helping people make the most of their gap year or career break, with news, features and advice.

Have you had a similar experience with the wild? If yes, we’d love to hear all about it, so just drop us a comment below or leave a link to your own account of your amazing ‘animal adventure’…

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