Today Val and I made our first real dive in Komodo. We’ve actually been in the water for the last few days, but only in a few meters of water to assist brand new divers complete their courses. We hadn’t been to any real dive sites… until today.
Wolfgang, our instructor, tells us to back him up with two Advanced Open Water students. All we really have to do was stick with him. As we neared the entry for the dive site we could actually feel the current pulling against the boat. We know it’s going to be challenging for these divers. The engine heaves as we get ourselves into position. 1, 2, 3 go!
We are at Manta Point and guess what? There’s 5 manta rays dead ahead as we begin our descent. The current is strong and we need to get to the bottom, where the current is more manageable, quickly. At the bottom we find a place to hold on. The mantas, each about 15 feet across, gently flap their massive wings, keeping them stationary in the gale. I look back, Wolfgang and the students are in place, perfect, now I can move closer. I swim hard for 15 seconds, Val has the same idea, the mantas are now only feet away. I’m right next to Kay, another divemaster trainee from Russia. I look back, Wolfgang and the students have vanished. “Oh well, there’s no point in worrying about them now,” I laugh to myself, what a difference 15 seconds make. I turn forward and am startled to find the gills of the largest manta 10 inches from my face. The manta is literally right on top of me. I look at Kay, she’s laughing hard into her regulator, she’ll be telling stories of my expression for weeks to come. This is the first time Val or I have ever seen mantas.
We sit and watch the dance for the next 20 minutes. Mantas have the largest brains of any fish, and if you ever swim with them you’ll see they are obviously intelligent. They know by now that we are not a threat and are now curious about us. They swim closer and closer, looking me dead in the eye. I stare back at them in awe. I simply can’t believe this is happening. This is what I came here for, this very experience, but I still can’t believe it. It is beyond anything I could have possibly imagined.
Eventually it’s time to move on. Nun, Bajo Dive’s head divemaster signals us to let go. We now fly along the bottom. It’s a total rush, fish frantically swim to get out of our path, they are all shapes, colors, and sizes. We stop to look at an octopus, then another. More mantas appear and circle overhead. A Spanish diver named Miguel comes by and pats me on the head, he sees my excitement and I see his, we’re young, free, and the world is playing dress up for us.
I check the air of each of the divers in our group. Some of them are getting low and it’s time to head up, but not before a few more mantas come to say goodbye. It has been one of the most amazing experience of my life, and the best part is that I know I’ll be saying that very same thing continually over the next few weeks.