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    Steve’s happy Manta dance

    August 11th, 2007 by steve

    Most people that come to this speck of the world are divers because the waters around Derawan are known for their abundance of marine life, particularly manta rays. These have specifically eluded us in our underwater adventures so we were excited to have yet another chance to see them. Sangalaki island is the manta magnet with its constant currents, rich cloudy water, and numerous cleaning stations. We saw mantas on 3 out of 4 dives. But it’s not just seeing these graceful rays with 9 foot wingspans that’s amazing here but the fact that you can lay on the sandy bottom like coral and watch them hover over the cleaning stations just five feet away, basically reaching distance, for minutes at a time (an eternity for underwater viewing). As an intermission they swim a lap then come back for more.

    We even saw a rare all black manta up close. We inched towards him until we were almost directly below the edge of his wing.Our fingers dug into the sand trying to get enough grip to keep from being pulled away by the current. It felt like we were watching a Discovery channel show live while lounging on a sandy sofa under 50 feet of ocean. All we needed were the chips and dip. I guess we did have sashimi at our fingertips. Then he glided right over us so that his belly was 4 feet above our heads. He hung over us for a while as we stared up in awe from his shadow. Even the snorkelers saw 4 mantas. I thought I’d save you from watching Steve’s actual dance by not taking video.We did see some other cool things while diving here like a 7ft leopard shark that let us crawl up to his tail to get a closer look. Also a jawfish with eggs in its mouth, some frogfish, and schooling barracuda. Yeah, even if you didn’t include all the typical idealic island attributes like crystalline water, pristine strips of white sand spits (like the ones in brochures), and friendly natives this place was more than worth the effort. Get on the next plane!
    –Mary
    editor’s note: i did catch mary trying to draw the manta closer …

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