Smack! Without warning, a mobula emerges from below the water near our boat, its long flat body glistens in the sunrise. Flap, flap, maybe a somersault or two, and then smack! It happens all around us. Elegant flips. Comical belly flops. Choreographed group leaps. I see one mobula leap a few times in a row; while others leap only once and then disappear. Then the school moves away; wing tips at the surface, they fly on.
While we watch them leaping free from the sea it is hard not to feel shame. In John Steinbeck's memoir Log from the Sea of Cortez. Steinbeck wrote of a sea that was “ferocious with life.” “There was food everywhere. Everything ate everything else with a furious exuberance.” We are warned against anthropomorphizing the motives and emotions of the animals we encounter. But with creatures of the sea—which are so foreign and fantastical, it's hard not to imagine what they feel. Steinbeck called it “joyful survival”.
There are moments though when I encounter a reef, which should be thick with life, but it is nearly deserted that I long to see joyful survival. But then, the mobulas come. Few people have ever seen a school of rays glide by underwater. It's truly a thing of wonder, the salt water thick with strange and wonderful creatures as they fly past, living a life we barely understand.