Manta Ray

manta_raymanta ray Today I danced with a young manta ray. She ( I suppose)  was feeding in the ‘Anaeho’omlu Bay in Waikoloa, Hawaii. I was snorkeling in about 15 feet of water, and she swept up under me with the grace of an angel with four foot wings. I watched her float about for a few minutes, and then we went our separate ways. Next I swam over green turtles, one very large. The light filtering through the water makes their necks shimmer like golden jewelry. This bay has diverse healthy coral and a quiet surface, even when the ocean is turbulent. Mornings are often windless, making conditions perfect for a long slow snorkeling expedition. On my second trip out the waves had picked up and the water was somewhat murkier. After about 45 minutes I was heading back in when she came out of the cloud and smiled at me. Hi, sweetie! I stayed with her for at least 20 minutes, maybe half an hour. She somersaulted under me gathering plankton. She would rise up  close to me, then dip down again to  spin and glide. When I started moving my arms in time with her fins she loved it, and we danced. At one point I felt I needed to leave because I was getting cold, and she came up under me more closely and drew me back. What the heck! I may never have this dance again. So we swept through the reef in a dreamy glide. Finally it was time to say goodbye. I thanked her for the love and she flipped a fin and vanished into the murky white.

Later when I journeyed to her she told me about the most dangerous things she faces. First on the list - SHARKS! What a surprise. Second? Fishing lines and hooks - she told me to stay away from boats. And third? Big rough seas with waves that roll and tumble and lots of spinning debris. "Go deep" was her recommendation.  She is a cautious fish.  I sure hope she will be there tomorrow. Now I wish I had brought my underwater camera.

There are certain finned fish I love the most –  peacock groupers and jaw fish are in the top tier. I haven’t seen a jaw fish since my last dive in Bonaire, and it is unlikely I will again now that I am confined to the surface. The bends have made it too dangerous to dive and I sold my gear. The reality of this fact has given me deeper appreciation for the fish I do see. What if snorkeling becomes kapu too? Each breath is a miracle. Each fin kick a blessing.

I chatted with another fish lover who has dove and snorkeled the world. We agreed that this is world class. “This is just as good as diving, even better!” he said. While not quite true, it was the voice of the spirits telling me to stop regretting. Leave the deep behind. Love the one you're with.  He pointed out the places where I was likely to find octopus, and I told him where the Manta Ray is. After my warming break,  I followed the path he recommended along the northern arc of the bay, and then back for that long dance with the Manta Ray.

I saw quite a few peacock groupers today, and dozens of other fish who are also my favorites. Truth is that if I were to stack up the fish into a pyramid with the favorites at the top, the pyramid would be inverted, with the multitude swimming around in the top layer. Today that layer was crowded with friends. Of course the unique ones are the most special any trip, and today it was the manta ray.  What delight – anyone want to hear the list? A huge spotted crab, octopus, several eels, 4 different puffers and burr fish, peacock toby, flounder, moorish idols, all the butterflies, so many wrass, blennies (so cute with their eye lashes), jacks, sergeant majors… why am even trying to spell this all out? What makes me wants to classify and catalog like a pseudo naturalist? Why do I remember the Latin names of so many mushrooms? This is worth a journey to understand.