December 19, 2008
Today is Friday. We arrived at San Benedicto Island 2 days ago. On our 2nd dive today all our dreams came true.
Jeronimo Jara drives the panga for the \”live aboard\” dive boat, \”Solmar V\”. He came over this morning to introduce himself & offer information about the dive sites here. He helped us to identify land references to locate a site called \”The Canyon\” and the underwater pinnacles that we could anchor our dinghy on. We had already been invited by \”Nautilus Explorer\’s\” dive master, Sten to join their group at 7:45 am; they too were very helpful with local knowledge and had taken us to a site yesterday called \”The Boiler\”. We had some concerns about how the commercial dive operators would feel about us, but have found both boats to be very kind & willing to share information freely.
We were thrilled to see our first hammerhead sharks on the early dive. They swam fairly deep along a ridge. Not close enough for Scott to get any good video footage. But we saw 5 or 6 and were really jazzed. Still waiting for a manta ray!
After a snack, filling tanks & checking email we went out for our 2nd dive of the day. Jeronimo guided us to anchor in a good place along the ridge. We swam out watching for hammerheads swimming in the canyon as we had in the morning. We saw a few in the distance. It was overcast & they blend in with the blue/grey water in the distance. You really have to keep a sharp lookout. We had been down to 80 feet deep for about 20 minutes and decided it was time to start swimming back to our anchor. That\’s when I saw it: our very first manta ray. Scott quickly focused his video camera as the animal swam toward us. I was so thrilled just to be seeing one, I held very still as not to scare it away. It swam right to me, looking at me. We had learned that they do not let everyone approach them. They must choose you; like what they see in your eyes. I smiled. My eyes wide open.
Then everything we learned from Terry Kennedy this past summer came to me: Approach from below, pet the belly. (Feels like sandpaper!) Slowly swim on top up from behind. Cup your hands gently & hold on for the ride of your life. I did it! It let me! It seemed to like it! I felt like I was in one of Terry\’s videos. Actually I was in Scott\’s video! He caught the entire encounter on tape beautifully.
The manta could have spun out from under me, swam deep or gotten rid of me in any number of ways. But it actually seemed quite happy to let me hang on. Like another remora. (Remora fish attach themselves to mantas & sharks. Getting a free ride & food remnants. This one had 2 which is classic.) I was mesmerized. I didn\’t know or care where it flew me. I was riding a manta ray! And before I knew it, we were right by our dinghy\’s anchor again. Terry had told us that they are very smart & will not take a diver too deep and will return you to where you got on. All true. It would have carried me longer & further, but alas, I was running low on air & thought it wise to dismount after my 5 minute ride. I patted it with gratitude and blew kisses as it swam away. And then it turned back as if wondering why I got off. It swam near us as we raised our anchor & swam to our dinghy.
Amazing. Wondrous. Words cannot do it justice. This is the moment that we have dreamt about. We are still pinching ourselves & in awe that we had this experience. Scott\’s 10 minute video needs little editing. I am sorry you will have to wait until we get internet access to view it. But it is spectacular.
WE WILL POST THIS VIDEO AS SOON AS WE GET BACK TO THE MAINLAND OF MEXICO IN FEBRAURY.
And we have only just begun� Was this a one time event? Will this manta be our new best friend? Will we see more? We are so happy for this day. This one experience makes our whole year in Mexico worthwhile. And if we had not met Terry in the Sea of Cortez this summer, we would not have decided to come here. It was his stories & his videos that inspired us to venture to these off the beaten path islands. We have him to thank for teaching us about \”adventure diving\”. We got all the right gear & took to heart everything he taught us. Thank you Terry for this gift, for sharing your knowledge and your mantas with us.
We understand & respect that the commercial dive operators discourage their divers from approaching the animals. They hare 20 people & it would be overwhelming. We are 2. \”Our manta\” approached us. This is why we got our own boat to do our own program. The commercial boats go to 3 islands in a week. We will stay right here 2 weeks or more and then visit Soccoro which is known for spectacular sharks and manta encounters as well. Stay tuned for more exciting tales from s/v \”Beach House\” in the coming month.
Scott & Cindy
(aka Manta Rider)