Isla San Benedicto – Day 19…..

Dear F&F
January 4, 2009

Scott is nursing his sore ribs, so no diving for him today. Chuck & Linda picked me up in their dinghy & Chuck dropped Linda & me off near the lava point, which she also has dubbed \”Turtle Point\”. We saw mantas feeding from the surface & I was looking forward to seeing some of the turtles she\’d described seeing. Chuck went back to their boat since swimming back home to the boats; we would be going with the current, so not difficult.

Right away we had 3 mantas all around us. We are having a grand time watching them feed. They stay mostly on the surface so being on snorkel is actually better than scuba sometimes. Then we saw a turtle. Then we saw 2 turtles on the surface flopping around. We swam closer. It was obvious that they were attempting to mate. We watched both above & below the surface for about 10 minutes. I decided this was too good not to share, so swam back to our boat & hollered for Scott. He gave me the video camera in its underwater housing & I swam back hoping the encounter was still going on. Sure enough, Linda had her eyes on them the whole time & they were still at it. One climbing on the other, swimming around each other in circles, head to tail, they were going through a whole assortment of positions. It is very hard to hold the video camera still while snorkeling because the sea swell is bouncing me around, but I did get some viewable footage (albeit X-rated). But since they were so persistent, I swam back to the boat again & asked Scott to get me a tank. I knew I could get better footage of them from below. I don\’t think they like the sound of the bubbles from scuba though because I didn\’t get that near them before they dove deep when on scuba. The male (I presume) was latched on top of the female and they started sinking together fast. I descended with them down to about 70 feet. It is hard to see anything in the small screen if I am not very close to my subject. I am swimming like crazy to get closer. The two are still \”as one\” and can you believe that a pair of mating turtles could out swim me?! I simply could not keep up. I had to let the lovers go & find somewhere more private. When Linda & I were watching them on snorkel they did not seem to notice us one bit. In fact, they kept drifting towards us & we kept finning back to not intrude on their ritual. Each animal was about 2-3 feet long. Green turtles probably. Turtles have to surface to breath, so we were not surprised to see them again. What was surprising was how long they mated. Hours… We kept seeing them on the surface in various areas. Amazing. Poor Scott, bad day for the resident photographer to be nursing an owie.

Once the turtles swam out of view, I swam a bit shallower & shot some video of a manta. But being down on scuba by myself, handling the video which I am not that familiar diving with & not having surface support, I decided to not push it & just slowly surfaced. Scott was watching me from the big boat & I motioned for him to come get me in the dinghy which he did. Chuck also came out in his dinghy to spot Linda who was still snorkeling. I hoisted my tank/BC into the dinghy to Scott, trying not to make him strain himself lifting it. I hopped in & we started to motor home. But there were several mantas still on the surface between the front of our boat & the lava point. So I asked Scott to drive me over there & let me finish off my tank which still had about half its air capacity. I slipped in, he handed me the video & right away I had a friendly manta. It was not feeding & seemed interested in me. I was doing my best to emulate Scott\’s expertise behind the camera. It swam circles around me, just as the friendly mantas have with him. It was a real sweetheart, one we had not encountered up close before. It stayed with me about 20 minutes & then my videotape ran out. I was sort of relieved to be free of filming duty & could just swim & play with this manta. But wouldn\’t ya know that about 2 minutes later it just swam off! It seems that they do have some sort of attraction to being filmed. Or it could just be a coincidence.

I was pretty stoked when I surfaced. Scott knew I must be having a great time to stay down alone so long. It was very comforting to see the dinghy & know he was following my bubbles. He could not see \”my\” manta, but said there were several all around the area. We got back home, I showered, made lunch & we relaxed a bit.

C & L will come over for dinner & video viewing. It is pouring rain right now, looks like that low front has arrived. A nice fresh water rinse for the boat. My laundry was mostly dry so I quickly pulled it off the lines before it got soaked. It is clean sheets & towels day again – yippee! Scott is laying low still, but said he was up for company, probably a good distraction. When the rain first started & I was outside taking in the laundry there were 10 mantas on the surface between our 2 boats! That is the most I have ever seen at once. Unbelievable! If I hadn\’t just rinsed all my gear, I would have been really tempted to jump back in the water. But tomorrow is another day & I don\’t like to be in the water alone unless I have a spotter.

Well we aren\’t getting any solar power, but with the diesel we got from \”Solmar V\” we are feeling a little more flush to run the generator as needed.

Every day seems to bring new adventures & we are just pinching ourselves at how lucky we are to be here.

Scott & Cindy