The three-metre-wide gentle giant, affectionately named Freckles by local divers, approaches them, flips over in the water and remains still to show them her problem – hooks embedded under her right eye. It is as if she knows that without their help she will be in danger.
Underwater Photographer from Ningaloo Marine Interactions, Jake Wilton, was diving with British TV broadcaster and marine biologist Monty Hall on Ningaloo Reef, in Western Australia when the ray approached them.
He said: “I’m often guiding snorkellers in the area and it’s as if she recognised me and was trusting me to help her. She got closer and closer and then started unfurling to present the eye to me. I knew we had to get the hooks out of her eye or she would have been in big trouble.”
Monty Halls, who was aboard the boat when the scene was captured, said: “Jake went down and down again. She never moved. I’m sure that manta knew that Jake was trying to get the hooks out.”
Jake added: “I went down for one last try and the manta stayed completely still in the water.”
Amazing video shows Jake rise triumphantly from the ocean with the hooks before the grateful giant ray swims majestically away.
Monty recalls: “That manta absolutely understood what was going on. Jake went down again and again and she just remained still for him. I came to Ningaloo Reef as it’s one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks – so to experience this as well is just phenomenal.”
Manta rays are believed to be some of the most intelligent creatures in the ocean. Unlike stingrays, they don’t have an external spike and are totally harmless to humans.
Manta Rays can grow up to 7 meters wide and live for around 50 years. Experts believe that the injured manta’s eye could have become infected, leading to blindness and even death.
Coral Bay, located along a section of Ningaloo Reef, is one of the best places in the world to swim with manta rays which congregate in large numbers year-round. Other marine wildlife which can be spotted on the World-heritage listed reef include humpback whales, dolphins, whale sharks, dugongs and turtles.
See here for a video of Jake in action: https://www.youtube.com/embed/cJ1dg6uWMu0
10 fins you never knew about manta rays…
- They can live up to 50 years
- They have the biggest brain of all fish, including dolphins!
- Affectionately are known as Devil Rays thanks to their horns
- If they keep still, they will die and they travel up to 43 miles per day
- They prefer the tropics and are often found off the coast of Western Australia
- They eat a diet of mostly plankton, small fish and krill
- They love a cleaning station where a ‘cleaner’ fish comes aboard to eat all the attached organisms
- They have approximately 300 rows of skin-covered teeth in their lower jaw
- Their spots mean they can be individually identified
- Pups are born every other year and are born rolled up like a burrito!