Another childhood dream fulfilled: swimming with manta rays (Manta alfredi) in the warm tropical waters of Indonesia. I had never swam with such large oceanic creatures before, and it was impossible to grasp their size until you swam close enough to touch them. When I first jumped into the water I followed a manta from a distance as it dove towards the sea floor, and in an instant my visual field was engulfed by a wall of black as a black manta came over me. Adult reef mantas attain lengths three to four meters and have two large cephalic lobes for directing water into the mouth where gill rakers act as a sieve to trap massive quantities of plankton. It was fascinating to see the lobes open up to reveal the interior of the ray. The mantas swam against the current to maximize the intake of plankton particles, so this made swimming alongside them difficult. At first we would spot the mantas from the boat, jump in further up-current, and follow the current down to intercept the mantas. Then it was a challenge to see how long you could keep up with the mantas as they gracefully soared into the blue.
Filmed in Komodo National Park, Lesser Sundas, Indonesia