Today marks exactly a month in Bora Bora for Graham and I and I’m pleased to say that the manta rays got the message and decided to join us for a one-month celebration! After a week of barely being able to see the end of our own noses underwater, we haven’t exactly had a great manta to dive-time ratio. That’s not to say that the mantas weren’t there, we’ve certainly seen a few dark shadows in the gloom (Cue internal dialogue: ‘Arrhh! What-the? Please be a manta, please be a manta. What else could it be...? don’t think about that! Please be a manta.’), but we stood no chance of photographing and identifying them. Today however, following a storm free Saturday afternoon and minimal rain in the night, the visibility was far better at over 10m. Clear enough for us to spot manta rays but still misty enough for them to make a dramatic entrance; like cloaked magicians appearing from a cloud of smoke.
Here is a little clip of a manta ray gliding over our heads and nearly blocking out the sun. Please excuse the shaky images, the camerawoman was a little overexcited.
As each couch-sized ray casually swooped past we did our best to capture as much data as possible: size, gender, visible injuries, tail length, species, spot patterns… thank goodness for underwater cameras. There was one ray on this dive, however, which stood out from the others for an exciting reason. A big, beautiful and incredibly pregnant female! This heavy, hampered lady was swimming around in the shallow corals and looked absolutely fit to burst; reminding me of some of our friends when they hit the ‘I just want to get this thing out of me’ phase of their pregnancy. We have our fins and fingers crossed that we might spot her new-born on another dive very soon.
Manta rays have a long gestation period of 12-13 months and only produce one baby at a time. They are ovoviviparous reproducers which means that an egg develops and hatches within the womb and the female later gives birth to a fully formed, mini-manta. It is believed that female mantas only reproduce once in every 5-6 years so they are not at all fast at replenishing their numbers. Not enough is known yet about manta reproduction but what is clear is that with few natural predators, mantas haven’t evolved to cope with the pressure of heavy predation making them very vulnerable to overfishing.
Tonight perhaps a new baby manta will be born somewhere nearby? A comforting thought before bed.
Thanks for reading,