Isla San Benedicto – Day 18

Dear F&F,
January 3, 2009 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME

We woke up at 6:30 am with an alarm, wanting to take an early dive. The sun does not rise until about 7:00 am. The dawn was spectacular & I was thrilled to be here & be alive from the moment my eyes opened. There were mantas all around the boat. When they are at the surface they are feeding & it has been our experience that they are not so interested in playing with us. We had a cup of tea, yogurt & suited up. We went in the dinghy out to our usual 25 foot mound, anchored & dove. We saw dolphins underwater, a white tip reef shark & a hammerhead all briefly. No mantas underwater. We came back to the boat, showered, had a breakfast of turkey chorizo with scrambled eggs & tortilla chips.

Chuck radioed us that there were mantas all around our 2 boats. We jumped in with snorkel gear. Scott took his still camera without the strobes (less to swim with & since we were at the surface there was enough light not to need the flash). He took 100 photos. I touched one on its wing. There were up to 4 all around us at a time. But they were focused on feeding & not into playing. They didn\’t seem to mind us near them; just sort of ignored us.

Scott & Chuck drove the dinghies while Linda & I snorkeled to \”turtle point\” where they have seen turtles many times. Linda made me a sign \”Happy Birthday Cindy\” that she took underwater. It was very sweet. No turtles today, but it was nice swim.

We had the tanks pumped up & all the gear ready to go, so decided to go back to the 25 foot mound for a dive. We had \”Buttercup\” do a \”fly by\” right away but then she was gone. We saw 3 hammerheads cruise by. Two different white tip reef sharks, a free swimming green moray eel, lots of fish. I said hello to my lobsters & my little zebra striped fish that lives in the black urchin. Just when we were considering to surface because of no mantas visiting, one swims near. But it was a tease, not really interested in us. So I finally upped the anchor & of course a manta torments us just below as we are doing our safety stop.

We got back in the dinghy & are heading to the boat. Mantas are everywhere on the surface. Scott gives me a gift & tells me I can go snorkel with them while he drives the dinghy & follows me. I had a \”virtual ride\” on one. I had swam near its eye many times so it saw me & knew I was there. Then I swam just on top of it, like a hovercraft. I was timid to actually grab on since I didn\’t have a tank & was panting so hard from excitement I knew I could not hold my breath long if it submerged. But what a thrill just to swim right on top of this giant & gorgeous animal. I was in heaven. It was every bit as wonderful as my ride. I finally fatigued of kicking to keep up with it, so just floated & watched it swim away.

When we got the gear all rinsed, both showered, had a snack & a celebratory glass of Whitehaven (one of our last 3 bottles!), Chuck comes on the radio that mantas are very near our boat. I run outside & am in awe to see 3 more right near us on the surface. Before today, we had not seen so many for so many hours of the day. It was very special. The water had a lot of jellyfish, not stinging & other clear interesting looking floating critters called \”Venus\’s Purse\” (a type of pelagic jelly fish). So there is lots of nutrients that brought the mantas to the surface to feed today. We don\’t know, but we have certainly enjoyed their company.

Scott & Cindy

Linda has instructed me to \”take a nap & go to the spa\” before dinner which is hilarious. I am so excited from our day, I could not nap if you paid me. I am considering whether to trim my bangs or not which is about all the primping I will do. Scott is looking at the photos he took while we were snorkeling which had more manta opportunities than diving.

Chuck & Linda of \”Jacaranda\” hosted a fabulous birthday dinner. Linda is cooked Chicken Cordon Blue & garlic mashed potatoes. She didn\’t want me to bring a thing, but when I insisted that my romaine will not last any longer, she agreed I could bring a salad. After dinner she brought out a \”Manta Cake\” with 2 candles, one each on its cephalopods (you could google manta cephalopod to see what I am talking about – hard to describe). It was chocolate cake with frosting & biscotti for the remoras & piece of chocolate stick for the tail, adorable! I was very touched. We devoured the cake, cutting it down to a juvenile size. She sent us home with the extra. A gracious host & hostess, I felt bad leaving them with a sink full of dishes when at our last dinner, she washed all of mine. But they insisted I was to be the birthday queen & not lift a finger.

So you can rest assured I have had a very Happy Birthday. I am already scheming of how & when we can return to this magical place. It is more than we imagined or could have ever dreamed up. All of Terry\’s glowing stories are true. We are so jazzed that our permits last until the end of January, because we probably will stay that long.

Scott & Cindy