Manta Rays - Yap - Micronesia
Yap is probably the best place on earth to see these gentle giants. Over 100 Manta Rays live year round in the waters surrounding Yap. In the winter (usually December to late April) the Mantas congregate in even greater numbers in Mi'l Channel for the mating season. During the summer season, they spend their mornings in Goofnuw channel in the Valley of the Rays.
Every morning, huge Manta Rays cruise into protected channels that penetrate the barrier reef. They come to "Cleaning Stations" where small specialized reef fishes called cleaners pick off tiny parasites that the Mantas pick up in blue water while feeding. The Mantas slowly circle the cleaning station and frequently pass within inches of the observing diver's heads. Small Mantas are generally about 2.5 meters from wingtip to wingtip. The larger rays are up to 4 meters across.
During the Manta mating season (December to late April), processions of as many as a dozen of the huge Rays can be seen cruising back and forth in Mi'l channel.
Manta dives focus on the cleaning stations in Mi'l Channel (Manta Ray Bay, Manta Ridge) and Goofnuw Channel (Valley of the Rays)
The cleaning stations are coral formations elevated from the channel bottom, on an average depth of 10 - 20 meters where small Wrasse and other fishes specialize in grooming the Mantas.
We make a dive to a cleaning station and remain stationary at the bottom, and the Mantas come to us.
The Mantas approach, more often than not two or three at a time, and hover at the cleaning station. The Cleaning Wrasse get into the action and nibble away at parasites in the gills and on the skin, getting a free meal while the Manta gets rid of uninvited and irritating guests.
The Mantas will be as close as a few feet from the divers, and the action often goes on for quite some time. The shallow depth and the divers remaining stationary at the cleaning station allows for extended dive times, a typical dive can last for 45 minutes with several Mantas or groups of Mantas being "serviced" at arms length! This is an experience that cannot be put in words.
Some simple rules for the dives:
- NEVER touch the mantas. They don't like it, and we respect that.
- Don't use video lights.
- Avoid hanging on to living coral. There's plenty of rock and dead coral.
- Avoid blowing large bubbles under the mantas.
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