Isla San Benedicto – Day 10…..

Dear F&F,
December 26, 2008

It\’s just past noon & we\’ve already had another amazing day. Scott spotted mantas on the surface just inshore of our boat at sunrise. We had a quick cup of tea & hopped in off \”Beach House\” with tanks. Chuck & Linda snorkeled & got to see 3 manta rays & 1 turtle. They were so excited & we were happy for them. We only saw 1 manta on scuba. The visibility was pretty low, still murky from past 2 days of rain & runoff.

After breakfast we put the dive gear in the dinghy & went out to our 25 foot mound. It is so easy to find now that we have it marked on the GPS of our depth sounder. We put on all the gear, did our backroll and along comes an all black (back) manta. All the mantas are gorgeous, but the all black ones look sleek, stealthy & spectacular. I grabbed the video camera from Scott so he could secure the anchor & while I took some footage. The current wasn\’t strong so I could swim along with the manta while filming. I give Scott tremendous credit for being our resident photographer, because I am not good at this kind of multi-tasking and he is. Framing the manta in the video screen, trying not to hold the camera steady while swimming, watching my depth, avoid swimming head first into a rock, trying to keep an eye on where Scott is. After he had secured the anchor, he came to take the camera duty away from me, but I encouraged him to go ahead & play with Mr. Manta while I continued filming. He had a great time: petting belly, going for a ride. Even grabbed hold of a remora! Chuck & Linda got to watch from the surface while snorkeling. That manta went away & a 2nd one came & played with Scott a long time. Scott had the camera in his hands then so I\’m sure we got some super close ups of its eye, mouth, etc. That one played with us a good 20 minutes. It was nice that they showed up early in the dive, while we had plenty of air. And they stayed pretty shallow the whole time, mostly 30-50 feet.

After the 2nd manta swam away I went up to the top of our 25 ft mound to say hello to the lobsters. I saw 5 today. They are so cute & silly looking. We are getting very familiar with all the critters on that particular reef.

Finally it was time to float the anchor up. Cool system Terry taught us: inflate a float bag clipped to the chain & it helps raise the anchor so you don\’t have to muscle it up. We just free drift with the current, holding onto the dinghy line 15 feet down for our safety stop. And here comes the last manta back again. Scott kept a hold of the dinghy while I went to give it more belly rubs & swim eye to eye with him. It is such a privilege. A wild animal, so trusting, so willing to interact with us. Amazing. We are absolutely in awe every time.

So that was just our morning! It\’s funny, on the one hand we want to rush right back out & do it again. On the other hand we feel so completely fulfilled that we don\’t want to go again. Just savor this experience. We are eager to look at the video footage. So we may or may not go again. We get a bit lazy about it in the afternoon. And there is always tomorrow.

If we don\’t dive again today, Scott will probably work on editing this video so we can share it with Chuck & Linda. He thinks he got some shots of them on the surface with the manta swimming below. I am sure they will be very excited to see this.

It is such a luxury to stay here as long as we want. Well until the end of our permit January 31 anyway. It is so much better than those 10 day live aboard dive vacations we used to do. So much more relaxing & I appreciate being on our own & not having to dive in a group. I am sure the animal behavior is different with just the two of us than with 20 divers in the water.

Afternoon Report
It was sunny & beautiful this afternoon so I nudged Scott into a 3rd dive. The early dive had been short & shallow & we\’d had plenty of surface intervals between them all, so out we went. To the same spot we had great manta encounters on the pre-lunch dive. Struck it lucky again! Before we even got the anchor secured a giant black velvet came swimming to us. I took over anchor duty to let Scott get to filming right away. We had 20 minutes of circling, swooning, swimming & belly rubs. Neither of us tried to go for a ride. We just enjoyed sharing its habitat & being up close. Then Manta #2 swims into view. So great to see 2 together. The 2nd one was also all black (on top, they all have some white on their bellies with various patches of black that are unique & enable you to ID them). The 1st one led the parade with the 2nd one playing chase. It was incredible to watch them swirl & swoop & each come so close to them we could easily touch them many times. Then they go swimming off into the blue & we float up the anchor & hang out at 15 feet for our safety stop. And wouldn\’t ya know it but #1 comes circling under us again! Oh the limitation of these tanks. Perhaps if we stay long enough we will grow gills!

Tired, but exhilarated we do our end of the day routine: haul the gear from the dinghy onboard the big boat. Rinse all gear in fresh water bin. Hang up gear to drip dry. Shower. And today make a salad then head over to our neighbors for the evening.

The wind & waves are in the best possible direction so it was a very good time to be on the monohull. I did not suffer from motion sickness, and discovered we knew mutual boat friends from \”Esmeralda\” and \”Beatrix\”. We had the nightly radio chat with Terry & Dawn (of sailing trimaran Manta) who are cheering us on while we enjoy \”their\” mantas. Another great day at the island.

Scott & Cindy