Sunday, 6 January 2013

The Philippines - Ticao Island, Manta Bowl

Today we woke up excited as last night our guides really put our hopes up about the manta rays. We even arrived a bit early to the dive centre and eagerly waited for the others. It was a sunny morning so we were keen to start, considering the weather trend of the last days. We waited.. and waited…and were told that our boat was broken and they will bring another one.

I went back to the room. On my way I met a group of children shouting hi!, then bye!, when they left, waving continuously. I got my book and sat on the sunbed. The next moment I was mobbed by these children. They were all standing around me looking at me saying ‘hi, what’s your name’, they made me say all of their names, but apart from this I couldn’t get anything else out of them. They were really cute though and obviously wanted something more.

Then I thought let’s draw in the sand. I drew something and they said its name usually first in Filipino, then in English. That’s when Paul joined us. We drew different things, letters, numbers and they told us the English name. I was a bit stuck as I’m very good at drawing sheep, ladybirds and snails but wasn’t sure they would recognise these. Paul helped me out, though. Much later after lots of encouragement they finally joined in and we drew giant fish, houses and finally, Paul’s name. They did not want to write their names, though. Then the word came that the boat is ready so we had to leave amongst lots of loud ‘bye!’s and waving.

When we finally left I was anxiously looking at the sky but it stayed sunny. We were all geared up for some hardcore manta ray watching. We jumped in to the water and were straight away swept by a strong current. We drifted to a point, got our hooks out, stuck them in a rock, floated in the water and waited. Here’s a photo of Kelly to show you what I mean.

After a few minutes we moved to another site and did the same. And finally to a third point and waited. Then came a big fat nothing. Oh, well, we had two more of the same so weren’t so beaten down.  

When we came up it was still sunny so dried ourselves and after an hour we went down again. We were more confident this time as we knew how to hook dive. The problem is that where the big stuff is there’s no small stuff. Meaning, usually on those parts that are preferred by big pelagic sea animals, there’s not much else, so if you don’t see anything, it’s a pretty boring dive. We came up again with nothing.

We resolved that we will not see anything. At least we can log in 3 more dives in our book. The fish move (or so we were told), and it is a big sea, even if it’s a cleaning station, seeing a manta or anything else is just not guaranteed. We were there for half an hour at a certain spot so our window of opportunity was very small. I know this and understand it but we still kind of felt cheated. We travelled more than 2000 miles to see these animals, the least they could do is to turn up! The name of the dive site is Manta Bowl but Paul renamed it Just a Bowl. We also thought that there was SO much plankton around that if we were mantas we would definitely hang around there. Having said that, due to the amount of plankton the visibility was only 3-5 meters so they might have been circling around us all the time, we did not know.

When it was time for our third dive to be honest I was ready to go home. The waves were getting bigger and bigger, I had had enough of being cold and was just generally not keen for another boring dive. To our surprise we actually saw some nice fish, two big cuttle fish and even two white tip reef sharks. As we were heading up our instructor, Marvin started to bang on his tank signalling us to look. He pointed. He signed manta. I frantically looked around and there it was. A giant shape slowly flew over me.

There is a video David, the Canadian guy took. It’s not much, but this is our first manta. The person on the right is me, hanging off my instructor, Justin, who kept me in place in the current. First he started to shake me to look up, then you can see Paul swimming towards me in a Superman pose and started shaking me as well. As the camera moves, you can see Marvin being overjoyed.

Wow. I mean, WOW! It was amazing. What an experience! We’re coming back tomorrow for more!

When we got home to our bungalow, this is what waited for us in the sand. While we weren’t looking, our little Filipino friends wrote their and Paul’s name in the sand for us.

Special thanks to the Cable family for giving us the amazing experience of seeing a manta ray the first time in our lives.

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