Something very fishy

Trip Start Sep 23, 2004
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of Fiji  ,
Friday, September 29, 2006

Our second island was Nanuya Balavu, a small island with no permanent population and only one resort. Mantaray was more rustic than Octopus, with cold water showers which only operated between 5-6pm, and rather basic loos. The showering times were not very well advertised, causing problems for a guy who was covered from head to toe in soap when the water ran out... After scurrying, dripping and bubbly, from cubicle to cubicle, the only option was a dip in the sea.

The highlight here was most definitely the snorkelling. We gave up on scuba diving here as we were taken to their best dive site, and the reef just off the resort knocked spots off it. We saw big schools of goatfish, parrotfish and tangs, long thin trumpetfish, silvery garfish with mouths like needles, cleaner wrasse busy at their cleaning stations, electric blue starfish, vibrant hard corals and a blue spotted stingray which swept away under a rocky overhang when it saw us. We also spotted more Picasso triggers; these seemed less hormonal than our friend at Waya, but we still tried to maintain a healthy distance.

After a day or two the weather became cloudy and also got windy. With the sea all around us, it didn't stop us doing much. The snorkelling was still great, and we also kayaked over the channel to a nearby island. We shared the beach there with a multitude of hermit crabs and a solitary dog, who seemed very pleased to have company and howled when it was time for us to leave. We were also lucky enough to snorkel with the manta rays. The rays are migratory and sometimes stop in a channel near Nanuya Balavu, but hadn't been sighted for a few weeks before we arrived. Luckily, the rays decided to time their return with our arrival on the island. When the rays were sighted, we were alerted by lots of shouting and banging on a hollow log. I grabbed a camera and snorkelling gear and we bundled into a boat, which took us to where the rays were feeding. We saw one surface, and jumped into the water to follow it. The rays were large; between 2- 2.5 metres wide. They glided effortlessly through the water as we swam to keep up. Sometimes it would slow or loop-the-loop to scoop plankton into its mouth, at other times it would glide off and vanish altogether. The boat would pick people up and drop them off when the rays were sighted at the surface again. Our local guide seemed to have a sixth sense about where the rays would go next, and to my surprise I could keep up with him. It was amazing, we followed the rays as they swooped through the water in front of us, or stopped as two of them circled beneath us. Often it was just myself, the guide and the manta rays, until the boat and the other swimmers joined us again.

The experience was so breathtaking I decided to repeat it when we heard the drum the next day. There were more of us swimming this time. The rays were slower, spending more time in one place feeding. They didn't seem at all bothered by us. There were five altogether, gliding and circling, diving deep down then rising up in a loop with their mouths wide open to funnel in plankton. They would come up almost underneath me, so close I could almost touch them. Their mouths were cavernous, and I could see their ribs inside them. At the top of the loop the fish would be upside down, showing its belly and gills, then it would swoop downwards to flap away or bank and repeat the process. The manta rays were such graceful creatures, it was like watching an underwater ballet unfolding beneath me and beside me. Each time I spent 45 minutes in the water with the rays; it was a definite highlight of the trip!
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Where I stayed
Mantaray Resort

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