To see the manta rays evolving, from close up, c'is an extraordinary spectacle... (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
To see the manta rays evolve, from close up, it's an extraordinary spectacle... (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)

The majestic Manta rays of Sangalaki (and the atrocious bite of the stingray)

  Borneo [Malaysia and Indonesia] - July 2009

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: 

I left Derawan and its archipelago today. I realized this dream that I had since the beginning of this Indonesian journey to Borneoto swim with manta rays,, in the waters of Sangalaki !

From graceful giants

I give you some pictures of these magical moments ... These graceful giants are powerful, fast. It is necessary to palmer dry not to lose sight of them!

To see the manta rays evolve, from close up, it's an extraordinary spectacle... (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
To see the manta rays evolving, from close up, is an extraordinary spectacle... (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)

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 ...

Manta rays are easy to observe in snorkeling. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Manta rays are easy to observe in snorkeling. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)

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.

Several mantas rays flutter near the surface. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Several mantas rays flutter near the surface. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Manta rays swim gracefully just below the surface. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Manta rays swim gracefully just below the surface. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Her mouth wide open, she filters the water to feed on plankton. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Her mouth wide open, she filters the water to feed on plankton. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Manta rays pass and repass ... (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Manta rays pass and repass ... (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)

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).

Only remedy to soothe the pain of a stingray sting: very hot water. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Only remedy to soothe the pain of a stingray sting: very hot water. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Just under the small left toe, we see the sting left by the sting of the ray. The left side of my foot is a little swollen. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
Just under the small left toe, we see the sting left by the sting of the ray. The left side of my foot is a little swollen. (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)

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 know, it does not show on this picture where I'm brave, but I'm in pain. Very bad ... (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
I know, it does not show on this picture where I'm brave, but I'm in pain. Very bad ... (Sangalaki, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)

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!

I have to stay dry for three days so that the foot scar, and just admire the turtles of the pontoon ... (Derawan, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)
I have to stay dry for three days while I heal, and just admire the turtles on the pontoon... (Derawan, Borneo, Indonesia, July 2009)

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


  Borneo [Malaysia and Indonesia] - July 2009

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  1. 8) Bravo for the mantas! I'm delighted for you!
    🙁 Désolée pour l’aventure de la raie… j’espère que la douleur va vite se passer. Alors, tu as trouvé un accès internet? Un logement? Raconte nous tout, c’est comment Sangalaki?

  2. Yo

    Superb these mantas and the video gives a small glimpse of the aero-nautical ballet. It's cool dreams come true.

    Biz and welcome back

  3. Hi Corinne,

    Ben voilà c’est malin maintenant j’ai envie de partir (grrr) 😡 . Sérieux voici encore un très beau récit sur ton voyage, les sensations devaient être trop bonnes 🙄 ,je suis bien content pour toi, dommage pour le stingray.

    You're too strong to smile while suffering, what's your secret?

    Merci pour la bouffée d’air…!!! 😉

    See you soon 8)


  4. Great write-up Corinne.
    Excellent footage of the Manta Rays. These beautiful creatures. Glad to see you got in some good diving.
    Any pain left?
    Cheers 8)

  5. @Laurence: Yes, I was lucky, despite my mishap with the stingray ... I'm on the return, indeed. I came back to Kuala Lumpur, I take the plane back to France tomorrow night ... It was again too fast, these "small" holidays!

    @Bizut: Merkiii !!! But I swear I did not feel too much Wonderwoman after that damn stingray sting ...

    @Paskle: Oui, j’ai vu la nouvelle tomber l’autre soir alors que je pianotais sur mon netbook pour mettre en ligne mes photos de raies mantas. Je me suis bien marrée en lisant ça… Ça me fait au moins un point commun avec Nicolas!!! 😆
    Except me, I do not even need to jog to fall into apples in the street, as you know. Moreover, the other day in Sangalaki, I feared, at the moment, with the stingray sting, to make a vagal discomfort again ... But no, I remained perfectly conscious, to feel all the pain radiate me in foot.

    @Nono: You're right, I should walk on stingrays more often ...

    @Manta: The pain passed the evening of my mishap. No worries, it has healed and healed!
    In Derawan, I stayed at the losmen Danakan. No internet on the island, it is only returned to Tarakan that I could connect and post these images, from a hotel with wifi.
    Sangalaki is a small desert island or almost. The resort is abandoned and closed. There are only a few guys that I suppose are missioned by the government, who record the passage of visitors and who count the turtles. The funds are much less sumptuous than those of Sipadan, but the presence of mantas is an attraction in itself. I will tell more about Derawan, Sangalaki and Kakaban in future posts.

    @Views of China: Welcome to Little Bubbles Elsewhere, Lili. I hope to continue offering you "refreshing" breaks.

    @Funnyworld: Yes, the trip is coming to an end, already ... I can not believe it's happening every time faster than before. But I'm happy, I took full mirettes, on land as under water. I'm posting new posts soon ... But yours, holidays, are approaching! Make the best of it! Bizzz

    @Alain: Hey, hey, this blog, it is designed specifically to give you the desire to leave !!! As for smiling, suffering, or suffering with a smile, it only lasted 30 seconds, the time of the photo.

    @Karl: Hi Karl! The pain is gone, so no worries about it. I was able to dive again two days later !!! And I'm very proud that you're promoting my blog to your family and friends! Thank you for your help that day ... I really had a good time in Sangalaki with you guys, despite this painful incident. Say hello to the others for me. I'm back in KL, now, and will fly back to France tomorrow. I'm gonna post more pics very soon.

  6. Hello the traveler,
    I see you accomplished your mission, see Manta ...

    The mishap with the stingray ends well, so no problem, but am impressed that it passes through the botillon ...

    I am in France and I leave Thursday for Singapore, then Phuket. Our planes will almost cross each other ...

    Good shopping tomorrow at KL and welcome back ...

  7. @Martinoo: For a bit, we could almost drink a shot together in Amsterdam !!! Welcome back to Phuket.

    @Denis: I am really happy to have realized this dream of mantas in Sangalaki. And now, as everyone is telling me, I dream of the Maldives ... (sigh)

    @ Marie-Julie: I'm getting ready for a "real" video, edited properly, with the aquatic ballet of the mantas ... I'm really happy to have seen them. It's not so common, like meeting ...

  8. Veni sangalaki, vidi birostri 8)

    En Corse j’avais vu une plongeuse se faire piquer par une vive et la blessure s’était nécrosée au point de nécessiter une greffe de peau. Content pour toi que cela ce soit mieux passé 😡

  9. @Alimata: Ouh là, c’est dangereux la Corse aussi!!! 😕
    I was lucky to have been treated "cleanly" by a competent doctor. I feared the infection, but she spun the ad hoc meds to avoid that. The next day, my foot began to dislodge and then I was very good for two days: I stayed dry to recover from my emotions in my hammock, so that the wound was closed properly. I'm doing really well ...

  10. Interesting the dilating effect of the stingray stingray
    Do you have any information on the impact of this poison on a highly vascularized male organ?
    If it works, there is a buoyant market that deserves a market study and ...

    Yes, Corinne, I know, you're right, it's not the place ...

  11. @Alimata: Tiens, le Troll Velu a encore frappé!!! 😆
    I dare not imagine the violence of the pain caused by the toxins in this sensitive area ...

  12. Hey Sister in stingray-bread!

    The stingray was not so kind to me. After you left I got a major infection, today, 2 weeks after the sting I still can not walk and the wound is still inflamed, despite the good care Dokter Wita. All about the mantri (stand in for the docter that gave me the first care) put the unclean 5cm scissor deep inside my foot! Wawan finished the fieldwork for me so the research is still going great.
    Nice that you found my weblog! I should update I more frequently but you now the internet situation on Derawan island 😉 In the next 2 weeks I will update it with new posts! I am also so happy to know your blog, it’s great, except sometimes I have to guess for the french translation 🙂
    What a great overview of how to travel to Derawan! AT the moment I'm back in Jakarta for the last time I'm finally asking for a major foot-check-up!

    Keep on diving & posting such nice stories!


  13. @Marjolijn: Oh, I'm so happy to you, but I'm really sorry for your foot and that serious infection. I realize now, when you say that I was ... I was ... I could walk almost normally at the end of the day Dr. Wita's efficient care. Despite this dreadfull story, it's a good news that you could count on Wawan to help you. I'm gonna check your blog for the next posts!

    I have plenty of stories to tell here. Derawan itself, but more photos and posts are coming soon. For the translation, the Google Translator I have installed in the right sidebar is not very accurate, but it helps to get the global meaning.

    I sincerely hope you will be soon on your two feet. Take care, sister in stingray-bread!

  14. Hello Corinne,

    Je rattrape un peu le retard (lecture de vos récits), et je constate un fois de plus que vous arrivez toujours un peu à nous transporter dans vos bagages ou de nous faire envie 😛 avec vos nouveaux récits, nouvelles aventures (voire mésaventures 😈 ) ou encore superbes clichés 😉
    Do not stop especially ❗
    @ soon

  15. @ N @ me: Thank you ... Nice to manage to carry you a little with me at the end of the world! I have no intention of stopping, rest assured. New articles arrive very soon.

  16. Hello,

    voilà un petit film fait cet été à manta point à Bali 🙂

    c’était la première fois que j’en voyais pour de vrai 😉

    J’étais devant comme un gosse devant un gâteau au chocolat 😆

    Un vrai bonheur de voir évoluer cet être majestueux devant moi 😯

    Je comprend mieux maintenant, quand on dit, qu’une fois qu’on a vu des mantas on veut y retourner 😥


  17. @lain: Many thanks for the link! Another magical moment ... Yes, the mantas, once we have tasted, we have only one desire: to see them again and again!

  18. Hello

    I had heard so much about SANGALAKI that via, I had this link with this CR and this blog.

    Thank you for this information, and congratulations for this favorite for the Mantas! I'm crazy for 10 years, and I had the chance to meet here and there ... or even more, in Mexico ...

    For sting ray, unless I'm mistaken, she has a sting but it is not poisonous. It is shaped like a knife with streaks, which makes the exit very painful. A famous Australian presenter was killed a year ago with a direct blow to the heart. In the sea - again, unless I'm mistaken - only the backbones of the fish are poisoned. Not to mention seashells or sea snakes.

    La viv, too, has a venomous spine, which puts it in the category of stone fish and other scorpions.

    The stingray or gray stripe has only its sting.

    Then, as the injury can be deep, the infection can develop, especially in a tropical environment. Where may the problems of the other person


  19. @ Manta-Passion: I think there's an error on your part ... I'm going to contradict you, because I'm sure of my fact: the sting of the line that stung me contained venom. The pain, blazing, spread all over my foot. The area began to turn blue and the top of the foot to inflate within an hour.

    The doctor who treated me told me again that stingray toxins were heat-labile and she first re-dipped my foot in a tub of hot water to help me with the pain (pain equivalent, according to her, "to that of a scorpion sting"). Immediate relief!

    Then she took care of incising and cleaning my wound (wound that was superficial and very small), precisely to prevent the possible infection due to the barbs of which you speak. (Infection that did not escape the young Dutch, alas.)

    In fact, if all the lines are not venomous, there are still quite a few species that have venom glands at the base of one or more spines, placed on the tail. I read in my little book on the tropical underwater fauna, that the black spot, the stingray with blue spots, or the American stingray are venomous, to name but a few.

    And I refer you to this link (exciting) that I just found, which precisely details the characteristics of the underwater venomous fauna:
    Envenomation by marine animals

    As for the famous case of the guy who died because of a stroke of ray tail right in the heart, I believe, precisely, that it is because of the venom, sent in full vital organ, that he succumbed ( I would have to find the story on the internet).

    In short, all this to say that I prefer, like you, definitely the mantas who, they, have the grace to be devoid of sting ...

    1. Hello,
      I got stung by a ray 5 days ago in Acapulco! Absolute horror !!!
      tremors, shortness of breath, and big burns for at least an hour!
      ensuite je suis parti sur Montreal voir des amis mais 5 jours apres orteils tout bleus et le pied encore gonflé et l’estomac completement derangé par le poison « style gastro  » 🙁
      it may be the cold that avoids deflating and I feel like walking with a ski boot!
      I return in a few days in France and I hope that all this will remain a bad memory!
      bonne continuation sur tes voyages 😉

    2. @ meaculpa2001: it would be better to consult a doctor, who will give you medicine against both infection and pain. The stings of these lines can take a very long time to heal, and the foot remain inflated, if not treated properly ...

      Anyway, I sympathize, because I still remember the pain ...

    3. the doctor gave me a bite, boiling water, and antibiotics!
      it calms down slowly!
      merci pour tout ces renseignements 🙂

  20. Bjr Corinne

    Well then, as the tree said to the lumberjack, I saw! I knew I had to take all my precautions with stingrays of course, but in addition they are poisonous, I can not believe my esgourdes! And in addition to the Eagles !! So here, who do you trust my good lady !!

    In any case, I have done additional research that corroborates what was said about the link, which is very interesting, on marine envenomation.

    Like what, even after 15 years of diving, we learn always and again !!

    thank you and have a good trip

  21. @Poums: Thank you ! To contact me, it's easy: via the "Contact" link at the bottom of the page, which opens a new message in your email, or "Contact" tab at the top of the menu, which opens a form to fill in. will arrive by email.