May 15, 2011

Swimming in the Sea

Both yesterday and today’s posts might be more correctly titled “Procrastinating over deadlines”… But then I came up with another name for being off the boat exploring when I should be earning money to pay for a new rudder, a replacement outboard and Marquesan-priced lettuce: Research. I’m not slacking off, I’m researching future stories.


Yesterday—when we were on a cliff some 400’ above the ocean we saw a bay filled with big black manta rays. I’m not sure if you’ve ever looked down from the top of a 40-story building, but from up there even cars look small, which made us think that mantas that looked big from over 400’ must be awfully big.
the four dark shadows are mantas
 So this morning we got another early-ish start (well, it was meant to be an early start…) and headed out in the kayaks. Ev and I used to ocean kayak all the time—we’d go off on week-long expeditions and could paddle for hours on end. This was in nice fibreglass boats though. These days we have floppy inflatable boats that make you work for every stroke, and here, with the breeze, choppy seas and big swell, we worked really hard.

But eventually we were out of the bay and around the point and aimed at where we thought the cove was. The swell, which had been unnoticeable from 400’, lifted us and sent us surfing toward a volcanic-rock reef. The waves refracted off the cliffs and exploded on the rocky shore. The mantas, which were so obvious from above, were no where to be seen.

Ev and Maia paddled their double one way, while I aimed myself at a frothy area in the middle. Pausing and looking down I saw a fast-moving cloud’s shadow darken the water. Then I realized the shadow had a diamond shape to it. “It’s bigger than my kayak. I saw a Manta and it is way bigger than my kayak!!” Continuing forward I saw a turtle and then I saw more mantas—a dozen or more.
 In the Sea of Cortez we saw loads of mobula—most with a wing span of 3-4 feet and the occasional one would be 6’ across. Here though a 6’ wing span was just the start. And as the massive creatures glided under and around our boats, wings nearly brushing us, Maia asked if we were absolutely sure that they were gentle creatures.

We had planned to jump in and swim—but the cove, which looked so inviting and peaceful from above, turned out to be frothing and tumultuous. Maia slipped in though and held the kayak while she drifted on the surface. A parade of eight or nine mantas swam past her on one side, then the other, then dove beneath her to get a better look at our funny little fish.
Maia's attempt at getting a whole manta in the camera frame
 When she climbed back in the kayak we asked if she was ready to paddle home yet. “No, not quite yet,” she told us “I’m still working to memorize this.”

I think we'll need to go back though--our little waterproof camera fogged up and never did the trip justice.


Lynda Halliger-Otvos said...

"...still working to memorize this” is the coolest thing I have hear a kid say in years. You all are doing such a fine thing for her. We lived offshore Key West for many years and saw smaller rays playing in the shallows with the nurse sharks and the queen conchs.

Mike said...

We had a similar experience off Tahaa in the more settled French Polynesians... anchored off a sandbank along a channel between a motu and the lagoon, a herd (is that the right expression?) of 12' span mantas glided past, reversed direction, came past again, and we scrambled into the water (quietly) to see them come back again, within 4' at closest approach. Wow. Hard to say which party was the more curious.

You are living life to its fullest. Thanks for the updates!