Day 199: Manta Ray

Thur. 28 February 2013

Graceful Manta Ray - a privilege to swim with oneIt is our last full day on GilliT and so Dave has signed up for one last fun dive at 9am and so I hang around until he returns, doing not a lot. At 11:25 a hyper whirlwind appears back in the room babbling about Manta Rays and going back out again for the 11:30 dive, before disappearing.

I then decide it is time to go for a walk as Dave will not be back until lunchtime. I have turned both left and right out of the hotel and been around the island so decide just to mooch along the beach towards the jetty and watch the world go by.


Getting the hang of colours nowOK, that is a fair cop – but there were mitigating circumstances. It was back underwater this morning complete with camera and a determination to get some better photos. We were off to Shark Point, a dive site that I hadn’t been to and was highly recommended (for the sharks, unsurprisingly, but also other sights). This time, I did get a custom white balance set – I think it was right at the limit of what the camera could cope with but it did make a huge difference to the quality of the photos taken.

Well, it is Shark PointShark Point did live up to its reputation – we came upon a pair of White-tipped sharks and managed to get quite close (I think mutual respect came in to play here) as well as more Turtles and Cuttlefish. In some ways, most astonishing of all was a shoal (squadron) of Bump-head Parrotfish that were swimming around, and having a good old munch on, a coral outcrop. They were astonishing – each fish was longer and bigger than me and there must have been more than 20 of them just circling round the outcrop and chomping away at it. Who are you looking at

Bumphead Parrotfish - just hugeThe bad news is that with my concentrating on the photos (and swimming against the current on occasions) I forgot about managing my breathing and got through my air quite quickly. The rate of air consumption is one of the big differences between experienced and novice divers. I have been told that it will come but it just takes practice. I’m mulling over this on the boat on our way back to base when Herman (the dive leader) asks if I want to go on the 11:30 dive. This will be my last chance for a dive for a while and I want to learn some of the lessons from my last dive so it is an easy decision.

So graceful. Just wow!We are quite close to the shore when there is a cry of “Manta Ray” from someone on the boat and next minute, the boat is empty as everyone grabs a mask and a pair of fins (not flippers, please) and jumps over the side. Over the next 20 minutes we follow the Manta Ray around – sometimes we are in the water; sometimes hanging on to an outrigger to hitch a ride; and sometimes on the boat. At one point the Manta Ray swims right up to the boat and for a few seconds, I am swimming right behind this beautiful graceful creature with a wingspan wider than my arms.

I lend my camera to one of the instructors and he manages to get even closer for a little longer and takes some of these stunning photos that were much in demand once we (eventually) got back to shore. Apparently the belly stripes on each Manta Ray are unique and they are being logged on a database in an attempt to widen the conservation areas. Like being with the turtles in Akumal, this was another magical moment.


The beach is just beautifulIt is almost 2pm before we sit down to lunch and the afternoon soon passes by, packing and numerous trips to the money machine to get out sufficient cash to pay our 9 million rupiah room and diving bill. (£600 for 6 days – including Dave’s diving course, extra dives and the video of his dive – is not bad going!) As usual we are trying to avoid the 3% credit card surcharge. We calculate that we will have to wait until after 8am tomorrow for our last raid of the cash machines as we have reached our daily cash withdrawal limit and that will be midnight UK time and a new day.

Boats by the main jettyThe other mission is to book our transfer to Mataram and we have seen adverts for 75,000 Rupiah each (about a fiver). Of course there is a catch and this is that we need to be at the pier at 7:40am so we try and search for a happy medium between that and the R510k speed boat and private car transfer we had coming. We find a chap who is going to Mataram on business tomorrow and willing to share his car with us for R125k each and is leaving at 10am so the deal is struck.

What a great place to chillThe sun is still shining so we finally decide to do the round the island walk to see the sunset on the other side of the island. As usual we are running late so I have to chivvy Dave along as he keeps wanting to take photos. I have already spent three hours a few days ago meandering around the island, so know we need to keep moving.

Evening beer watching the sunsetAs we pass around the north-westerly point it is unclear if the blue sky or the rain clouds will win, the answer is neither and we find a comfy spot along the beach to stop for a beer and listen to old songs while we watch the waves and the end of the sun. They even play a live Bob Marley version of “I shot the sheriff” which was nowhere near as good as the Chris and Graham version we listened to in Tasmania. We discussed that the line-up for the Cornbury festival will be announced tomorrow but we will not be back in the UK in time to go this year.

The elusive but poor sunsetWe try and ignore the spots of rain as we head on before it gets dark and we head back into town past the touristy sunset bar with fire juggler and bonfire and past the posh hotels until we find a good place for our last meal, which just has to be seafood. Dave goes for the Tuna on the Daily Specials list and I opt for the Seafood BBQ selection, which was an assortment of fish on a skewer and very tasty.

Dinner anyone and how do you want it cooked?After ordering we are politely moved undercover as it starts spitting with rain again. By the time we have eaten the rain is torrential and showing no signs of letting up. It is even dripping through the thatched roof, so as we are already getting wet there is only one thing for it and we run back to our room. It takes less than 10 minutes but we are soaked right through and have to hang our clothes out to dry hoping they will be ready to pack in the morning.

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