Nusa Lembongan, Bali – 7th of April 2014
Dive parameters: max depth 14m, dive time 52 mn
Most of you have understood by now that since I have been diving here on Lembongan where we are lucky enough to have a resident manta ray population, I am completely smitten and fascinated by them. Not that I wasn't before, but the more I dive with them the more I love them. They might have become my favorite underwater creature. Remember, I told you about them already a few months ago.
In this post I was telling you how I got lucky enough to name a manta and how he was called Black Casper. After months of not seeing Casper, I finally got to see him again on the 7th of April...on a very special dive.
The day did not start in a great way for many reasons that are not really important. Even when you live on a beautiful beach and wake up to the ocean every day, there are days where you want to sulk, and this day was one of those. So that precise morning I was clearly not in my finest mood. I did not have to dive for work, it wasn't very busy, and so I was contemplating going back to bed after dealing with some stuff in the office, when my colleague and neighbor and friend Jojo told me "Come dive with the mantas, it always makes you feel better". And since I couldn't be bothered dealing with anyone underwater that day, I said "OK but I'll take off on my own and get some time alone with the mantas". She agreed, and off we went.
Here I am on the boat sulking, we go to the north manta site when there is no mantas to be seen, so we head down to the south of the island to the other manta dive site. We get there, I can see a few manta shadows under the surface even if the visibility looks pretty poor, we get ready and jump in. I have agreed with Jo I will go down with them and then disappear for a bit. It turns out a couple of divers are not great, so it takes a good 10 minutes to get everybody down and happy. Jo is struggling with a couple of them so meanwhile I watch the others who made it to the bottom, and I already see a couple of mantas cruising by, not feeding like they often do but just swimming along the bottom, chilled, beautiful, graceful as always.
After everybody is sorted and the group of divers is all good, I let Jo deal with the crap and I take off. The cleaning station where the mantas come and swim is only a couple of minutes away, it's like a little hill underwater and you can float next to the bottom of it and watch them. It turns out later that there were so many mantas where we dropped that these guys did not even make it there, which is why I ended up on my own for ages there (and luckily enough there was no other boat around at that time). I get next to the cleaning station, stop there, and within minutes I am surrounded by mantas EVERYWHERE. I don't even know where to look because they keep coming from every direction, small ones and bigger ones, males and females, after counting 12 different ones I give up and just watch the show.
Their behavior is pretty unusual. They don't seem to be feeding, they are just swimming around, looking like they are playing with each other, with me also, coming very close to check me out when I am being super careful about not getting in their way. It is probably the closest encounters I have ever had, several times I could just extend my hand and pet them (which I don't obviously, DO NOT TOUCH STUFF UNDERWATER!!).
For a while I forget I have taken a camera with me, then I realize I am still holding it and I start taking pictures with the poor visibility. And then, icing on the cake, I see Black Casper and his little ghost face belly swimming over the cleaning station, too far away for me to get a decent shot but close enough so I recognize him.
Suddenly I'm already 50 minutes in and I have to come up before these guys start to worry. I swim away from the cleaning station, I still see a couple of them while I make my way up. Sitting on the safety stop, I stare at the bottom and see their silhouettes passing by, so pretty.I also realize only then that it is 24 degrees and that I am freezing my ass really bad! The fact that it didn't hit me before is a clear sign of how intense the whole thing was, because most of you know I don't do cold very well!
When I break the surface, everybody is up already and I am asked if I'm OK and I am not too sure what to answer. I climb back on the boat, Jojo asks me if I had a good dive...and I just start crying. Too much joy and beauty and emotion and everything, overwhelming. So I get hugs and cuddles from my lovely friends, and we make our way to the second dive site.
I was quite out of it for the rest of the day, honestly, like I was a bit high.
All the pictures are from that day.
What else to say? I love the ocean, I will never get bored of it.