Mohammed Qol - 26/10/2012 - written by Steven Kessel
The day started with high expectations. Nige and I woke early to go check the nets for manta rays, we were with Isa and were confident. We arrived at the net and began hauling. It felt really heavy which was a good sign. The net was long and we were only able to pull it in slowly, but with each section that came up empty, we got a little more worried. By the end, we had three fish for dinner in the boat and that was it. No mantas, now we were getting a little nervous. We arrived at camp eight days ago and not only had we not tagged any mantas, we had not seen any either. We searched around the reefs and sighting hotspots but they were nowhere to be seen. I even got in a swam around for a while to see if there were there but just not up at the surface. They weren’t.
We heading back for lunch and to make a new plan. Our new plan was to head out and search the area again. I know not the most inventive plan, but we were still hopeful the mantas would return. The north wind was back and Claudio was assuring us that this meant the mantas would be too. Rebecca, Graham, Ben and Mohammed Younis returned from their morning reef surveys. Rebecca asked how many mantas we had got. We explain that we got none and she responded with “well, would you like to see some”. She was talking about the video she had just taken of the mantas they had encountered around 500 m from where we had been searching. This was very good news, and it let us to alter our plan for the afternoon. New plan = head strait there. We packed up the gear and headed out to the site. We were hoping that the mantas would still be there, but the reality of the situation was that we never even got there. We were about three quarters of the way there when a large manta dramatically breached in a full loop about 30 m in front of our boat. A really spectacular way to accounted their presence.
I would like to say that we sprung into action and that everything went very smoothly, but this is rarely the case with field work, especially when this was our first time attempting new tagging techniques and two of our five crew spoke absolutely no English. However, considering these factors all went very well in the end and we are very happy two announce that we have tagged our first two mantas of the trip. One with and acoustic tag and one with a satellite tag. In all we saw maybe 10 manta rays, but while we were doing this Rebecca, Graham and Ben, were photo and video documenting another group. It seems the mantas are back and this is very good news indeed.
Must sign off now as we are truly exhausted from a very long day, but I am hopeful that we will have more of the same to report tomorrow.