Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Diving with a manta and devil ray and dolphin watching in the Azores

This morning we were very lucky to have an incredible encounter with a giant oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris) together with two sicklefin devil rays (Mobula tarpacana). The manta ray can reach a maximum diameter of 6.7 m and the sicklefin a maximum of 3.7 m. These beautiful oceanic giants were gracefully circling around a pod of common dolphins, not far from Ponta Delgada. From one of our boats we did not even realise there two different species and three individuals in total, until we got some underwater footage (see below). From this we could also see that they had some remora fish attached to them, something which is very common to see on mantas and devil rays. They were swimming fairly fast through the water, always among the common dolphins. At the surface we could also see their great wings as they lifted them high out of the water and the huge wingtip of the manta ray sometimes looked like the dorsal fin of an orca. We have been very lucky this year to see many more mantas and devil rays than usual (during at least 7 days during the past couple of weeks and one time we encountered 8 at the surface together!). We still know very little about this animals, however a recent study by the university of the Azores has discovered that that mantas we see here frequently dive to 2000 m deep and move between the Azores and Africa. Clients on our swimming tours are sometimes lucky to have the opportunity to swim with these animals when we encounter them and this is how one of our crew João got some great underwater footage this morning. Sometimes we can also swim with turtles when we come across them and even whale sharks (not to worry, they filter feed plankton).

As for cetaceans, we had plenty of dolphins around all throughout the day. During the morning we encountered three different species: common dolphins, bottlenose dolphins and Atlantic spotted dolphins. In the afternoon we re-encountered the first two species. We had some really nice groups including a group of at least 50 common dolphins in the afternoon that was very nice to watch and some bottlenose dolphin individuals that we know very well from the past few years.

To see an underwater video of the manta and devil rays in vimeo click HERE

Photos from this morning:

Giant oceanic manta ray accompanied by remora fish (the one on top of the back is attached)

Giant oceanic manta ray followed by two sicklefin devil rays

 two sicklefin devil rays led by a giant oceanic manta ray

Giant oceanic manta ray with a remora fish attached

Common dolphin

Common dolphin right next to our boat

Bottlenose dolphins

Bottlenose dolphins

Some marine litter we picked up. Please remember to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible

Atlantic spotted dolphin

Atlantic spotted dolphin upside down (we got to see some mating activity)

Photos from this afternoon:

A bottlenose dolphin we know very well. This one always surfaces like this :)

Bottlenose dolphins wave surfing

Common dolphins

Common dolphins

Common dolphins

Our swimming boat with common dolphins

A swimmer in the water (behind the boat) with common dolphins

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