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Plankton pulling, dolphin spotting and manta swimming

Been a pretty full week - scorching temps and open seas calm as a rain puddle bring mega fauna records in Bai Ternay!

sunny 33 °C

Double sun cream layers applied we set off on the weekly turtle snorkel to local beach inlets to look for nests and turtle tracks. With nesting season upon us we made sure known nests were still ok and hadn't fallen to local poachers and then jumped aboard to navigate the flat blue horizon out to our five sites for collecting plankton samples for local Seychelles whale shark research.
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Now it may sounds like a doddle but pulling an 8ft net with 10kg weight tied to the end of it on a 40metre length rope in the open ocean is not for weaklings. The pulling competition commenced with girls battling over 1 minute 30 times and boys pushing their limit to break 40 secs. Of course some 2 and 3 minters joined in the fun!
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Meanwhile however, calm waters appeared a little less calm in the distance - is it birds, feeding fish, or just a shadow? Wait for it... yes a pod of juvenile dolphins not only were making their way towards us but jumping in and out the water while doing so. Glorious, stunning performances danced around us and in we dived - some of us bagging that lifelong ambition to be actually in the water with these wild mesmerising creatures, coming eye to eye with the top tier of marine intelligence and enjoying their playfulness and wild spirit as they darted around us before heading back out beyond our visibility. Wow.
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Circus tricks over we returned to capturing plankton, studying these tiny tiny little wriggly creatures in our plastic beakers and wondering how something so enormous as a whale shark (at 8m plus) can really survive on such a small dinner plate.

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Those that didn't catch a glimpse that day however were more than rewarded with our first glimpse of a huge manta ray just off Secret Beach minutes after our survey dive. What is that dark shape moving just beneath the surface next to the boat. 'Get in Em - jump in!' my skipper shouted to me 'Is it a manta?'. I literally leaped in blind with no fins and half a mask falling off my head - (good job this dark shape wasn't anything more seriously big and beastly or bitey!)... I could see at least a 3 metre body span, the familiar ray movement fanning through the water and a long tail, but it took a few more seconds for me to really see the mouth and the trademark Manta 'jaw'. I didn't even need to shout anything - just lifted my head out of the water to breathe, turned to 20 expectant faces on the boat and gave my scuba 'ok' hand signal - boom, 20 bodies immediately lept into the water! It was as big as I've ever seen a manta before - just gliding about at around 6m depth...and I trailed it from the surface for a good 100m. I was simply enjoying one thing in one beautiful moment of life, unaware of anything or anyone else for that minute, what a joy and a pleasure to be with this beast in it's ocean home. We are small, and really quite insignificant - these are times to enjoy and appreciate the bigger ecosystem around us.
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Bring on the manta season Seychelles!

Posted by namirem 23:00 Archived in Seychelles

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