A large fin out of the side of my eye off in the distance, and then it disappeared… Shaking trying to hold my light steady. Was it a shark? Then spinning around in all directions trying to figure out what is out there. Suddenly, then again something overhead passes by, but this time like at the beginning of Star Wars when the Deathstar flys overhead. After a minute of consultation with myself as to whether or not I really want to be doing this, I remind reluctantly myself that I am. I project the light toward the direction the Manta Ray was headed as it disappears off in the darkness. Wow, amazing experience that made me feel perhaps as small as I have ever felt.
But wait, it is not over…here it comes now headed straight at the light held to my side. The Ray is gaining in speed, and I imagine what a matador feels like. Nervous, I turn off the light. I try to change directions, but the ray is soaring at my light with missile like precision. Maybe this collision won’t be so bad, although it is a 1,000lb 10ft animal, that soars through the water with speed and precision there is little I can do. Here comes the impact. Do not drop the light. Woosh!!! The ray lifts its wing gracefully at the last second following the contours within inches of my body past my head and then on down preventing collision. With ballet like finesse the ampullae demonstrates a level of propriocepcion that could make land athletes envious. The ray then flys away off into the darkness.
Eventually, wherever I point the light the ray returns and soon I realize there is more than one, but how many more? In the dark it is not apparent, but I spot at least four at once. I end up conducting the rays around the space with my wand of light. The rays playfully glide in straight lines, turning and rolling with precision, and looping in flipping circles with hypnotic motions. They use their horns to gather the plankton from the lighted areas. In time the features of bug-out eyes and a white underbelly with different spots and silver markings differentiate the creatures from each other. Empathy for the creatures increase as they appear more distinct, aware, curious, and gentle with their motions and behaviors.
Imagining living with the rays, I realize this situation, will end. The Manta presents a mystery of scale, and motion combining aerodynamic sleek looks with the movement of a bird, but in the vast ocean. They are mysterious animals in their social and playful and unique looks and motions. Connecting with an animal so large, so peaceful, and gentle and guiding their time and motion around a space is not just an experience, its extraordinary!