Giant Pacific Manta Ray
You have arrived in the beautiful country of Costa Rica ready to continue or start a new diving adventure with Rocket Frog Divers. The sky blends into the water on the horizon the same shade of blue making it hard tell where one ends and the other begins. The local Tico’s have already yelled a “Pura Vida” to you and the howler monkeys have woken you with the sunrise to greet you good morning. Parakeets are flying from branch to branch in flocks of green and reds and yellows. Morning comes early here but you are eager to get your day started. It feels like paradise on the land but what awaits you under the surface will make everything else pale in comparison.
The friendly staff have your gear already set up and waiting for you on the boat appropriately named The Devil ray, or The Orca or Tiburon. The Pacific Express is one the fastest boats in the Gulf which will get you to your dive site in a hurry! As you settle in and start to chat with other divers you listen to the dive site briefing. You will be diving “The Wall” today at the Catalina Islands and you hear the words you were hoping for: The Giant Pacific Manta Ray. With the largest brains in the fish family and wingspan of up to 7 meters they are gentle and graceful giants that leave divers in awe.
Your gear is on and pre-dive check done, now you back roll off the boat and descend 40 feet into the world waiting for you below. Almost instantly you are surrounded by schools of tropical fish, puffer fish are swimming slowly by, angelfish and massive schools of Jacks, butterfly fish are hanging out on the tanks of divers and you soon spot a frogfish hanging on to the side of a rock.
As your dive leader takes you through a tour of the dive site keeping The Wall to your right you spot octopuses in the rock crevices and white tip reef sharks in a channel swimming slowly on the sandy bottom. You snap a couple of pictures of the harlequin clown shrimp eating a starfish and think about their bright purple or orange colour they get from their food. You can hear dolphins off in the distance and hope to catch a glimpse of them on your surface interval or maybe a humpback whale that has been spotted in the area. Then you start to see the rays there are devil rays, spotted eagle rays, bulls eye rays, bat rays, mobular rays, and various other forms of stingrays. As exciting as they are, they are not quite what you have been anticipating. You near the end of the rock formation towards the open ocean and the dive you realize has taken you a little deeper at about 70 feet.
Something catches your eye from above and the rest of the group can feel it as well. Your dive leader is pointing above your head and flapping their arms in a wide motion. Everyone takes a look above them and there they are. Massive spotted underbellies that can block out the sun filtering down from the surface. You see where they get their name Manta, as they look like a giant cloak gliding through the water. While the Giant Pacific Manta ray is a deep diver, they come up near the surface at the dive site to visit cleaning stations or to filter feed on what the water current has brought in.
You all hang around for a while trying to conserve your air and not miss any time with these magnificent creatures that seem to be floating around you.. They are welcoming you to their world and offering you a glimpse at their life under the surface. You watch them as they open their horn-shaped cephalic fins and drift catching plankton. Your dive leader signals that it is time to surface and you start to ascend to your safety stop. To your surprise you are not above them but floating level with the mantas as they flow with the water around you. One comes gliding towards you as you try to take video to capture just a little bit of their beauty and he gives your camera a little tap as if to give you a high five. It might be one of the best safety stops you have experienced and feels like the dive is coming with you. The minutes go by quickly and you have a feeling of melancholy to be ending a dive of a lifetime but mostly just pure contentment at being able to share your experience with others around you.