Planet ocean

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One of the underwater animals everybody wants to see at least once in his life is the beautiful Manta ray. They move like giant birds underwater and slide smoothly through the blue sea. There is no better place to watch Manta rays than the Maldives. Thanks to our Austrian marine biologists, who are working here, we get the coordinates of a Manta-cleaning station. There the reef-Mantas (Manta alfredi) are often stopping to get rid of their parasites by small cleaning fish. Some of the Mantas often visit this spot daily during the northeast Monsoon. So we are looking for a good anchoring spot on the outside of Rasfari Faru and wait until we can see the dark shadow of a Manta in the water, which is only between 2 and 5 meters deep. People also come here from the Bodu Hiti Resort, which is close by, for snorkel trips to see a Manta ray. Since we are anchoring (actually we're moored on a rope tied around a rock so we don't damage the reef) we can stay during lunch and dinner time as well as wait until the other people are gone again before we head into the water.
We are happy because we get to see a few of those big creatures really close and can swim with them for a while. At one point a group of five Mantas stays for some time and swims around us. This usually happens if you try to stay calm and don't move your fins too much. Of course you should never touch a Manta, but lots of people do it anyway. They get disturbed and don't come back to those cleaning stations anymore.
All in all we see 7 different individuals in two days. We take some ID-pictures which we send to an organization called Manta-Trust. They have a big database with lots of different Mantas from all over the world. On the underside they each have a unique pattern consisting of dark spots and stripes which are just like a finger print and you also can see if it is a female or male Manta. We only see one female which is pregnant. Mantas are ovoviviparous and give birth to one, sometimes two living babies.
Thanks to Manta-Trust we know the names of “our” Mantas. One of them is called “Sundowner” - we like this - another one “Cocktail”, “Toblerone”, “Split” and “Shiraz”. Our female one is called “Carolina” and was the biggest of them all.
We really enjoyed  our time with the Mantas and we will be back to see more of them.

Manta at cleaning station
Manta from above
Manta ID picture - 'Cocktail'
Manta with open mouth