The islands in the Komodo region of Indonesia are dry and harsh, but below the surface of the water the scene is the exact opposite. Reef slopes drip with colour, and marine life of all shapes and sizes enjoys the rich waters. An animal that seems to enjoy these productive biodiverse environments is an iconic marine giant, the Manta Ray.
A very large number come here and we were lucky to encounter about 20 individuals. This makes for some challenging diving as they swim in strong currents to feed on plankton. They also come to be cleaned by an array of small fish and divers can enjoy the spectacle from these cleaning stations.
The Manta Ray has one of the highest brain to body ratio of all fish. The largest species can reach 7m in width and 1350kg ; yet it is one of the most graceful animals one will ever see. They glide through the water almost like they are flying.
Earlier this year, the government of Indonesia banned fishing of Manta Rays resulting in the world’s largest protected area for these migratory animals. Indonesia has some of the largest Manta Ray fisheries in the world, which feed the traditional medicine trade and so this decision is a crucial victory for manta ray conservation. The economic incentive behind the decision is tourism; a Manta Ray can bring in $1 billion over its lifetime alive, but is only worth $40 - $500 dead.
We had French underwater photographer Greg Lecoeur capturing these memorable moments with the team on one of our dives. In his images the 1.7 metre-long SVII-S camera looks almost small compared to these rays.