Pictures are going to do most of the talking here. Just think about the size of these amazing creatures, ten, twelve feet wing span (Manta Alfredi get up to 18’ across). Watching them move, like huge underwater birds, is mesmerizing. One bunch of six or seven literally bowled us over. You can find them in this spot pretty reliably because it’s a cleaning station. Diana was hooked. Another boat came to join us, Jacaranda, who we knew from their blog and got to know on the Single-Sideband radio net that covers this part of the South Pacfic (called the Polynesian Magellan Net, at 8173 USB, 0800 and 0600 local time). Linda is as crazy about looking for new fish as Diana, and she and Chuck had some amazing experiences hanging out with Manta researches on the remote island of Socorro in Mexico. I spent the morning writing, but Diana and her dive buddies got out with the Mantas early each morning. During one of their best sessions they watched a pair doing a courtship dance and then mating which is a rare thing to observe in the wild.
Diana dove with the Mantas twice a day for the week we hung out and took, you might imagine, thousands of pictures. Some of those she sent to an organization called the Manta Trust, (https://www.mantatrust.org) which uses the unique patterns of spots on a Manta’s belly to identify individuals. They encourage people to send in their photos, and then experts in each region identify and catalogue them. Diana sent them pictures of seven distinct individuals. Six of them had been identified before, and they shared some of the information they had from previous sightings, where when, doing what. One of them was brand new to the researchers. They told Diana that they have identified 70 mantas just in Tikehau, so now that’s 71. The next fun part, was that all seven had numbers for identification but needed names. So Diana gave them Polynesian names. Haley’s boyfriend suggested that ‘Liam the Manta’ would make a fine name, though inspiring a Manta name as that would be, it did not make the final cut.
Meet the Mantas:
Ma taa raara – (A shining, or bright eye)
Vavevave – (Speedily!)
Atae – (Surprise)
Marema re – (Sparkling as the saltwater at night)
Tamure – (Dance Together)
Atavai – (Elegant)
Manino – (Calm, Smooth)
Polynesian beauty with an Emperorfish. I brought the dinghy over to say hi and see what they were up to and she shared two fish with us for dinner.