Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic translation made from a post originally written in French. My apologies for any strange sentences and funny mistakes that may have been generated during the process. If you are reading French, click on the French flag below to access the original and correct text:
At ground level or deeper, they seem more aerial than aquatic. They hover and split the wave of a fin flapping, stretched like a wing.
One can easily go to meet them, simply in fins-mask-tuba (PMT or "snorkeling" in English), or in diving with bottle. I tested with happiness both ...
Added October 25, 2009: I published a new post on the Sangalaki Manta Rays, with the video mounted → Excursion to Sangalaki. I give it to you also below:
Swim with mantas in snorkeling
The first time, it was from a big boat with powerful engines, chartered by pilots and mechanics of the MY F (Mission Aviation Fellowship). It is a Christian American organization that has bases and planes all over the world. True missionaries, who do not forget to say the blessing before swallowing their nasi goreng (Indonesian fried rice). They rally the isolated populations for humanitarian and religious purposes.
Based in Tarakan, they were a small group of people who came to spend the weekend on the island of Derawan, with women and children. Paul and Becky, my English fellow travellers, bumped into them the day we arrived on the island. The Americans kindly offered us to take advantage of their boat for a snorkeling trip in Sangalaki. We obviously jumped at the chance!
I do little snorkeling, and it's not at all the same feeling in diving. I am less good swimmer than diver, and I always feel a little "naked", vulnerable, without my suit or my regulator, to evolve thus on the surface, ballotée like a small stopper by the swell. Much less comfortable for photos ...
It's a funny thing to jump into the water, like that, just with his snorkel, to approach the black fins seen spurt in the foam between two waves.
But then ... When you put your head in the water, what a show! A real ballet.
The whole thing is to succeed in keeping up the pace between the mantas' volts. I give you below small raw video sequences, that you can appreciate the majestic "flight" of the beast.
When one of them decides to keep you in the curve of its trajectory and approaches right, gaping jaws, all at his feast of plankton, a little shiver runs down your spine. You drink the cup in your snorkel and stop palming so as not to break the spell.
The beautiful continues its momentum and evades you smoothly, without effort, offering you its milky belly by way of goodbye.
Meeting with the mantas in diving
The second meeting, more furtive, was done in diving, a few days later. I was under water with a ski instructor, Philippe, and his son Julien (I have never met as many French people on this trip as in Derawan!).
We came across a little too far, alas, the road of a huge manta, all black, this one. In true devil of sea, "horns" rolled, it did not deviate of its trajectory, and pursued, impassible, its slow flight in the blue ...
We were lucky to be able to admire the manta rays. They are, it seems, less numerous than in the past. The previous week, tourists went several times to the site without noticing one.
Stingray sting (sting ray)
Finally, this beautiful first day in Sangalaki ended in pain for me. A stingray (in other words, a beast stingray with blue dots very common in these tropical waters, miniature cousin but venomous harmless large mantas-rays), stashed in the sand, at the edge of the beach, stuck me his poisonous sting in the left foot while I regained the boat.
I had my diving boots and I was walking carefully. The dart is on the side of the foot, near the little toe, just above the rubber of my sole.
The guys who guard the island since the Sangalaki resort is closed have brought a tub of hot water to relieve the excruciating pain (ah ... that reminds me of my classes in Rescue).
Then I gritted my teeth on the boat until I got back to Derawan. It does not show at all on the photo below, but I hurt, really badly.
I'm brave in the midst of all these caring Americans, and I even find the strength to wince and smile like Indonesians every time they get their picture taken, but this return has been a torture .
I was the attraction of the day, in the village. A nice lady carried me on her motorcycle to the small clinic, where the doctor, a young woman speaking perfect English, took care of me.
Hot water, anesthetic sting, incision to properly clean the inside of the wound. Medoc to avoid infection and prohibition to go in the water for three days, time to heal ...
Convalescence ... dry!
Three days of forced rest, so, to watch the turtles from the pontoon, without ploufs nor snorkeling ... what a torture!
But I'm doing well. My foot has slipped off and returned to normal. Marjolijna young Dutch woman who is doing her doctoral thesis here (she studies Derawan turtles and even cleans the beach edges of garbage) was less fortunate than me.
He had the same misadventure with a stingray the day before yesterday. Except the doctor wasn't there. And it was the dispensary assistant, less gifted, who butchered his foot, less carefully.
As a result, his wound looked worse than mine... Stingray stings are common here, it happens very often, to islanders and tourists alike.
I gave Marjolijn what I had left of sterile compresses. We all went to our little travel pharmacies to allow her to disinfect and soothe the pain in the meantime. I hope she recovers as quickly as I do!
In the end, it's more dangerous than it seems, tropical beaches...
Updated August 26, 2009 : Marjolijn tells on her blog about her ordeal... Badly treated, she ended up with a gunshot infection 😱À read here : → About infections and stingrays