Today’s blog comes from Chris Newnham, Assistant Manager in our Reading store.
It’s hard to think of Fiji without imagining those beautiful blue skies and blue seas. In May 2014, a select (read: seriously lucky) group of STA Travel Experts got whisked away to Fiji to experience the amazing South Pacific island for ourselves, and our second day there was definitely one to write home about.
An unexpected adventure
Our first sighting
We had the afternoon off on the beach and there was an intense game of skim ball underway. All of a sudden our boat captain shouted ‘Manta Ray!’ and we were off like a shot; too fast for the girls who stayed lounging on the beach. We boys jumped onto the boat and, engine roaring, donned our snorkel gear and jumped into the sea on command.
Mantaray Island Resort is so called due to the frequent sightings of Manta Rays that patrol the island’s currents, filtering the water for microscopic plankton. They can grow to a wingspan of seven meters with an average size of 3-5 meters. The currents surrounding the islands are strong and these majestic creatures swim at 15mph travelling against the flow.
Better swimmers than us
Our boat captain dropped us upstream and this is where we realised how fast the current was! We looked down into the abyss and saw the sea floor fly past at a rate of knots. That’s when they crept up on us. For a fish of such a large size they appear out of nowhere, hugging the surface trying to feed. Manta Rays are built for gliding through the waves, and it’s safe to say humans are not. We were flapping about on top of the ocean and in a matter of seconds the Manta Rays had flapped their wings, dived below us and disappeared. A few of us stronger swimmers tried to catch up but after feeling the effect of a few too may Fiji Bitters from the night before, we soon realised this was a lost cause. We signalled for our boat captain to pick is up and drive past the rays for it all to start again. After five or six passes we were shattered so decided we should leave the rays and get back to the girls.
You will very rarely find Manta Rays in captivity due to their size; they’re currently only found in four aquariums in the world. I can’t recommend this experience enough and with everything else that Fiji has to offer, it’s a no brainer to add it onto a Round the World trip. Just make sure you do your research as the sightings are seasonal and you don’t want to miss out!