Drawaqa manta rays’ encounter

Some people think that by sharing what you have, you are deprived. This is not always the case. On the contrary, sometimes, by sharing you get more. Think of joy, inspiration, love, wisdom, etc. And that goes for manta rays too, which is of course what inspired the famous saying: “Share the manta rays and you shall see more manta rays”.

So, after a rolly night, an early start, and orange blossom, cinnamon and sultana porridge for breakfast, the four of us are donning our wetsuits to make an attempt at swimming with the manta rays.

Paradise Cove Resort in Naukacuvu, near Drawaqa

We’re anchored next to Drawaqa Island (pronounced Drawanga) and seem to be the first divers on the water, despite a consensus amongst yachties on the manta ray schedule who we are sure, we’ve been told, feed two hours before high tide in Drawaqa passage. Fearing our two-horsepower outboard won’t survive the battle against the current in this thin stretch of water, we decide to do a first dive leaving the dinghy ashore on the West-facing beach, walk to the East-facing side, and get in the water there to drift back to where we started. Each grown-up buddies with a kid, Thomas with Azur and me with Zephyr.

The density and variety of fishes and coral is stunning but so is the speed of the current and I frankly struggle to keep an eye on both Zephyr, who regularly disappears down there to explore the corals and fishes playing hide and seek, and the beach where we left our dinghy, at the surface, which is coming up very fast. Up, down, up, down tilts with my head, all the while pushing or dragging Zeph and swimming like crazy against the current (with no flippers, mine being broken) to make it to shore before the shore is out of reach. I finally spot the rock that emerges from the water not far from where we want to make landfall and manage to grab it and secure a stable position for Zephyr to readjust his mask. We only have a few meters to go, but the rock is slippery and with the waves greeting it a tad vehemently, we cannot afford to walk on it. Instead, we resume our journey underwater, making progress by holding onto every asperity of our stony horizontal climbing wall. Thomas and Azur are a bit further but coming our way seemingly without any difficulty. They all have flippers I tell myself.

We sit on the beach to rest and assess the situation: no sign of manta rays for any of us, and, out of breath as I am, the perspective to repeat the exercise for a second attempt is less than appealing, when a fizz boat from the resort nearby is zooming past and apparently checking the area. Not long after, a few other boats loaded with tourists appear, this must be manta-ray o-clock. The four of us jump back in the dinghy immediately resolved to join the pack and see whatever they’re seeing. The boat captains survey the water standing up in their embarkations and point to where the mantas are. And soon us and the other yachties’ dinghy imitate them yelling and pointing as soon as we glimpse two pointy wings surfacing above the water. The information is then relayed from boat to guides and divers for everyone’s benefit.

In the end, everyone gets to observe up close and swim with the manta rays who were dead on time (we were just not looking at the right place), the graceful flapping of their pectoral fins, and the two little remora hovering under them, one on each side.

I just wish we had an underwater camera to capture the weird and wonderful creatures we meet down there…

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