Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mantas of Rasfari

The Manta rays are so shallow, it's perfect for snorkeling!
Even though the water is crystal clear, and we can see a huge array of marine life on our doorstep, myself and Josie have been receiving requests to see Manta rays over Easter. Whilst it isn't our Manta season, it's the perfect time of year to take a smooth 30 minute speedboat ride to the West of the atoll where we can spot the Mantas at a site called Rasfari! What is special about this cleaning station is how shallow it is! At 2m deep, you have to lie flat on the surface to make sure the Mantas can pass beneath you untouched! 
With the biggest brain of any fish, we wonder what this girl was thinking!

So many cleaner fish made getting a belly spot ID impossible!!
We were lucky enough to swim with three of these gentle giants on our last trip! They hover over the seabed, which acts as a spa for the huge rays, where tiny cleaner fishes nip away blood sucking parasites and old bits of food from the Mantas gill rakers. With so many cleaner fishes, it was almost impossible to take clear belly photographs to identify the individuals by their unique spot patterns! Seemingly oblivious to the snorkelers on the surface, we had to actively swim out of their way as they wheeled about to find the best cleaning spot! 

Sites like the one at Rasfari are of vast ecological importance- a special place for the Manta rays to come to ensure healthy skin, and possibly to engage in courtship activities. Whilst it is an exciting experience for snorkelers, and a great opportunity to get up close and personal with these harmless sea creatures, it is always important to ensure we do not disturb them or their natural behaviour. To do this, we always brief our guests before entering the water, and we ask our readers to ensure they never touch, chase, or alter the swimming direction or behaviour of Manta rays during snorkeling and diving activities. Remember that many snorkelers will come to these sites, and if we do not give the Mantas space and respect, they will no longer come to these amazing cleaning stations, which is not only a huge shame for tourism, but may also impact upon the welfare of the Mantas in the area! Always listen to the guides in the water, who are trying to ensure everyone has an incredible experience in a way that will sustain the site as it is for years to come! 

Anyone on their way to Gili over the next month? A trip to Rasfari to see these shallow water giants is a must! On the way back, we can even squeeze in a spot of turtle snorkeling! 

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