What started out as a relaxing sightseeing sail around the Bay of Banderas ended in an exhilarating manta ray rescue.
July 19th, 2009
Last Sunday afternoon, Gareth Price, Sales Director for Vallarta Adventures
, was hosting a group of journalists and photographers from the magazine, Mexico Desconocido, on one of the Vallarta Adventure’s Beneteau sailboats when they encountered a large object struggling in the water.
Initially they thought they merely had the good fortune to spot one of these incredible creatures up close, but soon realized this was not the case. “The manta must have swam by a boat anchored in the bay and took with it not only the rope but also the anchor” said Gareth as he described how the ray was entangled in thick rope, fishing line as well as the anchor that was wedged against the edge of the wing.
Gareth and the sailboat captain Johny Rodriguez immediately entered the water to try and free the manta but decided that to try and cut the rope free while the manta was still swimming would be risky both for them and the animal.
“The manta was huge, “exclaimed Gareth Price “it must have been at least four meters across from wing tip to wing tip.”
Fortunately another boat in the area saw what was going on and approached to help. “One of the guys was able to hook a piece of the rope with the gaff hook and we then were able to get it to closer to the boat so we could remove everything” explained Gareth “which took about 10 minutes.”
Manta rays are found in tropical waters of the Pacific Ocean and the Bay of Banderas. These giant creatures look like a stealth bomber flying underwater but are in essence a gentle giant in the bay. While manta rays are related to sting rays, through evolution, manta rays lost the stinger barb on their tail and are harmless to humans.
With wing spans of four feet for a baby and up to 22 feet for adults, it is not uncommon to see giant manta jumping entirely out of the water around Puerto Vallarta. What is uncommon is to see one under such dire circumstances, yet to be lucky enough to rescue one and liberate it. Earlier this year, Vallarta Adventures
and the Mexican Navy were instrumental in freeing a Humpback whale that was entangled in a life threatening amount of fishing line.
Once the crew was able to liberate the manta ray it soon swam off with a wave of the wings and a flick of the tail. Considering manta rays typically only give birth to one pup at a time and their numbers are dwindling, this manta has a new lease on life and everyone had the unexpected experience of a lifetime.
Photos by Denise Betancourt