Saturday, October 29, 2011

“You guys have a huge manta ray heading straight for you...”

Well, the last three weeks of the season have been as difficult as the the previous ones.... lots of rain, high winds and on the few days when we can get out the sharks have been pretty scarce. But intern Darren Whitehead, Mr. Eternal Optimist, was well psyched up for our one good trip last week....

Tuesday 25th October

11am the call came from our pilot confirming the sight of our one of the Gentle Giants in the Conception Channel, our regular search area in the North of Mahe. As our boat made its way out from Beau Vallon Bay there was a feeling of anticipation from the team, a feeling of excitement. As soon as our on boat Recorder made contact with the microlight pilot his voice rang a confident jingle, with promising signs of our little island alive with marine life once again J.

From his vantage point, the reports kept coming of turtles, fish schooling and a rather unique description: “ you guys have a huge manta ray heading straight for you!”

As the boat came to a stop, I positioned myself on the bow of the boat, in anticipation for a sight of this magical gentle creature of the ocean. Suddenly, without warning, a dorsal fin-like wing began cutting at the surface of the water about 20m ahead of us. With all guests and boat crew locked upon this magical creature it began to swop and fly around our boat, filling its appetite with the rich planktonic food source and in a flash out of sight it glided. Again and again our pilot repeatedly placed us into the best viewing point to gaze at this beautiful animal as it made our boat look like a child's toy.

If there ever could be an environmental omen for what was to follow for the trip, this would be a good starting point ha ha ha ha J. Then the report came down that he had a whale shark within his sight!

We positioned ourselves for the encounter and as we were about to enter the water another shark was spotted from the air. Words cannot explain the feelings that run through me whenever our pilot reports a sighting, but one thing that does come through is a uncontrollable feeling of joy and admiration for this ecologically vulnerable species.

A whale shark at last! The first of the sharks seen on the 25th, one of five spotted by the pilot that afternoon.

The work that MCSS does is without question invaluable to the protection of the whale shark aggregation within Seychelles waters and without the support of paying guests and donations their research could not go ahead and it would truly be missed....

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