Lankan Manta Point is a manta cleaning station off Lankanfushi Island in the North Male Atoll and these were the dives when we were hoping to see Mantas but we were warned not to get too hopeful because the current was flowing the wrong way – into the channel and they preferred out.
The dive plan is very simple – negative descent (no air in your BCD so you sink as fast as possible) to around 15 m, go with the current either towards the area of the larger cleaning station or to the smaller one depending on the direction of current flow and where we were dropped (but not stop on the cleaning station itself), hook on, relax to lower air consumption and wait.
Having arrived and hooked on, the current was clearly strong and reef hooks were essential. That it was strong is
shown by this photo of a Magnificent Sea Anemone where its skirt is lifted.
Whilst I was waiting, it was a matter of eye-spy with the fish to pass the time.
Powder Blue Surgeon Fish
a relative of the Surgeon Fish
and two varieties of pipe fish
This shoal were keeping together in the current
an enormous Napoleon went by
a turtle was quietly resting at at about 16m. Then at about 55min into the first dive, there was a distant sighting of a
Manta but we then had to come up because air was approaching the safety margin. At least we had seen one from afar and even if there were none in the second dive we would not be going back empty sighted.
group of day boat divers found out to their cost when they descended and could not hang on with their hands (amateurs!) and were swept away rapidly.
Then after about 25 minutes of waiting -
hold your ground and they will zoom over you at the last minute (we found this rule also worked with Stingrays on a night dive).
A second Manta arrived and they both gracefully pirouetted above our heads or hovered a few metres away in the
strong current at our eye level for what seemed a long time. We were so engrossed with the Mantas that we took little notice of a White Tip Shark which passed a few feet in front of us – a few days ago that would have been big news - I just managed to snatch a poor photograph to prove it was there.
The Mantas continued to turn above us, pause next to us
and generally show us how graceful they were. 225 pictures later I was approaching safety margins (60bar) and after 70 minutes we had to leave just as a third Manta arrived.
Being that close to such amazingly graceful and enormous creatures for so long was magic.
As a side comment, some of the divers who were there or
appeared whilst we were there seem to lack any form of courtesy. The air bubbles in the above photo were a continuous nuisance from someone who arrived after me and positioned himself just below me (you know who this refers to Mr MS – think about others next time).
as did this very late arrival who seemed to thing that his over-the-top camera gear gave him the right to stick himself in front of other divers.
When we got to the surface, everyone was either standing on the boat or floating on the surface, whooping and doing Manta impressions – the communal high was astonishing.
The image I will remember for ever is looking at a Manta and being looked at by a curious Manta, close, eye to eye at 16m depth in the Maldives. Thanks Moussa.