Sunday, 8 July 2007

Ten Rules For Manta Encounters

Conservation Issues Mantas are such fascinating creatures that most divers want to approach them closely. We all feel the urge to interact. Mantas too may seek the company of humans. Although you may be tempted to participate in the manta's play, repeately touching them may cause them harm.

Some mantas will approach humans with much interest. Once they become familiar with divers, they will circle close for long periods (hour long encounters are not uncommon). They may approach the diver within arm's reach. Other manta with less human experience will be shy, show no interest and leave the area quickly.

For the maximum enjoyment of you and the other divers in the water and to protect mantas from injury, here are a few simple rules for these lucky encounters.
  1. Do not chase them. Once they have had time to decide to stay and play, you can then get closer to them slowing always allowing them to keep you within their vision.

  2. Enter the water carefully as not to scare them away.

  3. Divers may choose to remain near the bottom and snorkelers near the surface. The mantas can then choose to approach you.

  4. Generally if you stay still they will come closer. You may want to position yourself along the bottom or in front of a cleaning station. Again, this will depend on how friendly the mantas appear and how familiar they are with divers.

  5. Refrain from touching mantas even thought they may present their bellies for a rub. The oils in your hand will remove the natural protective layer that guards their skin from disease.
  1. They may be disturbed by bubbles, so avoid exhaling into the face of an approaching manta. Some manta may actually enjoy the bubbles on their undersides. Watch first to see which type of mantas they are.

  2. Friendly mantas are not generally bothered by flash photography or video. Observe their behavior before attempting to do close-up work with flash or video lights.

  3. Do not disturb them if they are engaged in feeding, cleaning or mating.

  4. Attempt direct eye contact with the mantas. They generally welcome a friendly connection.

  5. Do not ride the mantas. Mantas have been known to present themselves for riding. If you must, do not allow any part of your body or equipment to touch the manta. Use the remoras to hold on.

By following these simple rules, the time spent in the water with mantas will be enjoyable for you and the other divers. Scientists lack long-term knowledge of the harmful or beneficial effects of interaction with humans. Until we know more, it is best to let the mantas set the rules for encounters.

(Dr. Heidi Dewar contributed to these guidelines)

For more info see The Manta Network

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