Manta rays are a very intelligent animal. They have large brains and when you have a one on one encounter with one you can see that it is analyzing you trying to make out just what you are. Over the years I’ve tried different techniques to make them feel more at ease in hopes of having them move closer, like talking calmly to a strange dog. I’ve found that when a manta is watching me but still keeping its distance I will reassuringly bob my head a couple times and more often then not it will do similarly and move a bit closer and sometimes on top of me. They are fascinating creatures and we are lucky to have almost daily encounters with them as Mermaid II dives through Komodo.
This most recent trip though Komodo on Mermaid II we witnessed another behavior displaying a mantas true intelligence. At a dive site called ‘Shogun’ there is a portion of the site where the current can move at a healthy pace and it makes for an exhilarating drift though schooling travellies and snapper. It is at this point in the dive, where the current is strongest that the mantas often come to feed. You’ll find that if you stay in the middle of the site the current moves laterally in one direction, closer to the reef the current has an eddy and moves in the opposite direction. To minimize energy consumption and maximize ease of getting food into their giant hoover of a mouth the mantas will use the current and counter current like two lanes of traffic. The mantas start on the surface facing the current with their mouth wide open so that all the plankton in the water passes though their mouth. When they have reached the end of the road so to speak they will dip down and catch the counter current transporting them back to where they originally started and repeat this process for as long as the current runs. As divers we just have sit in the middle where the current is more or less non and watch this