Dear English-speaking readers, this page is an automatic Google translation from a post originally written in French. My apologies for the weird sentences and the funny mistakes that could gave been generated during the process. If you can read French, the original and correct version can be found here:
The meeting with these gracious giants, at the time, was almost certain, snorkeling (palms-mask-snorkel) as scuba-diving. I can testify, at least for the period of July, when I was there. Manta rays lived there around the island.
Other travelers had made me dream and had decided to undertake the journey: → Dreams of mantas
Alas, in 2013, there is nothing more to see. The mantas of Sangalaki have disappeared.
I already had some fears, preparing this new trip of 2013 in the archipelago of Derawan ...
I came across various reports from divers on the internet, saying that Sangalaki was not interested anymore. The lucky ones who have recently met a manta ray there are rather rare.
During this trip in July 2013, I only made one trip to Sangalaki. But even if I had done ten, I do not think I would have met manta rays. Our guides Derawan Dive Lodge were not too urgent to take us there, knowing we would be disappointed ...
We indeed wandered about an hour above the sand, small coral potatoes and dead coral debris, to no avail.
So I just "walk" my 7D underwater, for not much. And for lack of mantas, I served as a model to another photographer sub - Bambang, a very nice Indonesian, came to spend a few days of holidays in the corner, with his wife and friends.
What has happened in four years? Why are there no more manta rays? Our dive guides were evasive at first, claiming that we could still see manta rays, when there was plankton ... (Except that the last time they had seen one, it was almost a month and it was from the deck of the boat.) In short, they came to agree that the local mantas had probably all been fished, or nearly so.
In fact, manta rays (and mobulas) are victims of the Chinese market's recent craze for their gills, which are now considered a delicacy - supposedly beneficial to health - as well as shark fins ...
It's one thing to read articles about the ongoing extinction of manta rays. It is another to make the concrete experience, on my modest scale of tourist-diving, on the site of Sangalaki ...
Not far from the island of Sangalaki, the archipelago of Maratua is really beautiful.
I only took a few pictures from afar, from the boat. Traditional villages with houses on stilts, back and forth small fishing boats on the azure waters ... Life seems peaceful here.
But I was disappointed by the seabed of Maratua. There is a lot of dead coral and quite a bit of life - with the notable exception of the aptly named Turtle Point, where you can definitely meet in large numbers turtlessometimes very big.
The famous pass of Maratua, crossed by a very strong current - in principle pledge of underwater life abundant and schools of wriggling fish - no longer deserves its nickname of "Big Fish Country".
In question, fishing dynamite - still practiced today. Several times, during our dives on the neighboring island of Kakaban, we heard explosions under water ...
During this 2013 trip, I did six dives in Maratua, very uneven and never exceptional ...
Among the beautiful encounters: a tiny school of yellow-tailed barracudas which I managed to make some pictures (below); a bench of barracudas a little bigger but seen too far, in the blue; and an imposing bench of humpback parrots, which I caught somehow in video progression, in a fog of sand and debris raised by their raid on the reef (I do not put it here, the quality is really rotten).
But during our dives, no sharks, no jacks of trevallies, no swirls of fish - nothing exceptional "big" question.
In short, a big disappointment - including for our guides, who seemed to hope better. Spectacular encounters may still be possible in Maratua, but there must be more luck than I ever had ...
I am copying below what I noted in my logbook, during my final immersion in the Maratua Channel: " Disappointing. Nothing. We waited a long time in the cold current, with our hooks, to see something ... Nothing. Just a turtle at the end of the dive. "