White Manta & The Manta Trust
The Similan Islands in the North Andaman sea are known to be a Manta aggregation hotspot, with sightings of the elusive Giant Manta Ray relatively common at this time of the year.
These beautiful creatures are a highly sought after sighting for all divers and no one who has spent anytime with them underwater could ever doubt their beauty, grace and, above all, intelligence. Certaintly no one could doubt the importance of ensuring we protect these magnificent yet endangered animals for future generations. Here at the White Manta we want to do all we can to assist in the protection of these precious animals, and so on this trip, we invited the project leader of the Manta Trust (Thailand) Jamie Monmaneerat, to help educate our guests and crew on manta ray protection, interaction and indentification, all whilst enjoying some world class diving with some of our wonderful guests!
The White Manta in Thailand is almost always a veritable United Nations of divers. We are privileged to be able to meet and dive with people from all corners of the globe, and this trip was no different, we were thrilled to welcome guests from; Australia, Brazil, Hong Kong, Germany, England & Ireland along with a 15 strong contingent from 'Action Tour' in South Korea. Dae Ha-Mingkook! No matter where you are from in the world, once you strap on a scuba tank and start blowing bubbles you become a citizen of the underwater world and national boundaries along with cultural differences are soon forgotten and all thoughts and topics of conversation turn to diving; What will we see? will there be current? Good Vis? Cold or warm Water? Will there be cold beer after diving? And of course the most important question on a Similan Trip at this time of year... Will there be Mantas!?
Not only would there be Mantas (and Lots of them) but with the help of Jamie from the Manta Trust we would be able to provide the team with some fascinating insights on many aspects of these charasmatic creatures. Before the Manta dives begun we were treated to a presentation on Manta biology, behaviour, protection initiatives, and indentification and interaction guidelines. If the Mantas were around we could be sure our guests would be educated on how to behave and enjoy Manta sightings without disturbing or (most importantly) chasing them away from the divesite whilst also, hopefully, indentify some new individuals for the Manta Trust's Thailand database.
After all this talk of Mantas we arrived at Koh Bon, a known favourite cleaning spot for Giant Mantas, with anticipation of enjoying some great Manta interactions. However, although the diving was excellent, it seemed the Mantas had choosen this day to play hide and seek, more hiding than seek it seemed! Whilst we enjoyed sightings of Leopard Sharks, Octopus, Huge Giant Morays, hunting Dogtooth Tuna and Jacks, pygmy squid, cuttlefish and more... the Mantas were just not making an apperance! As divers, we soon learn that nature bends to no one's will, and instead of being dissapointed, at the end of day one, our team of United Nations Divers focused on the amzing marine life we had seen rather than the dissapointment of the Manta no show - knowing another chance would come on day Two.
And so it was to be that day two at Tachai Pinnacle would reward our group's patience with multiple manta sightings! Thanks to Jamies's presentation we were even able to identify a couple of new individuals for the Manta Trust's Thailand indentification database. Each Manta has a unique 'fingerprint', markings on the underside of it's belly are unique to each Manta and once identified the diver who submits the indentification picture of the Manta gets the unique responsibility of naming that Manta ray, they are also presented with a naming certificate and updated on any future sightings of the individual.
One of our Korean Divers from the 'Action Tour' group, Sun Kang photographed two new individual's, a male and a female and decided to name them Sun and Kang! Here they are below;
We also identified a third individual not yet in the database, She hasn't been given a name just yet but we are very proud to have been able to contribute more individuals to the database and hope before the end of the season we are able to add a few more!
We were also able to identify a fourth individual from our previous season in Koh Bon. In March 2014 we photographed a beautiful Manta that stayed with our group for an entire dive and we were overjoyed to hear she was a new individual not yet identified in the database. We decided to name her 'Yuli' after our Dinghy driver Benk and his Instructor wife Hayami's new born baby girl! Hopefully when Yuli (the baby) grows up she may get the chance to dive with her namesake!
Thanks to all of our guests who joined us on this trip, it was great to meet and dive with you all, we hope you enjoyed meeting some of our local Mantas and also enjoyed the rest of the amazing diving on offer! Let's not forget Richelieu Rock and the stunning corals and marine life on display there or the huge schools of fish that greeted us at the Boonsung wreck, every dive this trip offered something special,and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!
If you would like to come and experience diving in the Similans and get a chance to meet a Manta make sure and book your place soon on our schedules page, places are limited and selling fast so don't delay!
If you would like to learn more about the work of the Manta Trust and how you can help to protect these amazing creatures check out the website here http://www.mantatrust.org/in-the-field/thailand/