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Diving with the awesome mantas at Sangalaki


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large_5550_14691046933263.jpgMantas at Derawan are about 3-4 in width. Poor photo from Chinese copy of GoPro.
I arrived at the diveshop before 0830 and Doris was along shortly after. There was a short wait for the catering from next door before we set off on a small boat “Ferari” (sic) captained by a half-Chinese half-Bajau man (who didn’t look Chinese at all).

It was very overcast, which is supposedly good for manta sightings. The ride across took to Sangalaki took about an hour through some sections that were very shallow and light-coloured.

We “anchored” at Manta Point using a weight tied to a rope. The first dive was unspectacular with some coral and a sandy patch which I’ve kinda seen in other manta areas. It was a very easy dive (as with the next one), and good for Doris who was uncertified but have had six dives in other places. I came up disappointed but with about 90 bar of air left after 45 minutes; very unusual!

We spent our surface interval on the boat.large_5550_14691046972802.jpgMantas at Derawan are about 3-4 in width. Poor photo from Chinese copy of GoPro.I asked Osland how often one would encounter mantas out of ten dives while in season. He said, virtually every dive. The season starts now-ish but is kinda more “in earnest” from August to September then gets a bit iffy in October.

I learnt that native Derawan [Derawan-travel-guide-1335019] people (as opposed to the ones here as a result of transmigration) are Bajau; they say they are the same as Moro from Mindanao. Yes, Moro as in MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) and Abu Sayyaf.

Then the conversation moved on:

A: So I hear some people were lost at sea about a year ago. Which dive shop was it?
O: That was me.
A: What happened?
O: We dived our usual route but the boat man never came to pick us up where we normally resurface.large_5550_14691047018073.jpgMantas at Derawan are about 3-4 in width. Poor photo from Chinese copy of GoPro.We waited, the weather changed, the current came and took us out further and further. I had no choice but to leave my group and swim for help. I swam for 2 hours and go to an island to get help. Despite navy and 3 helicopter searches they were never found.
A: Do you still use the same boat man?
O: No.
A: How many sleepless nights did you have after that?
O: I could not work for 8 months due to trauma and only started back a couple of months ago. If it ever happened to me again, I’d wait 20 minutes and take off my BCD and let my weight belt take me to the bottom of the sea.

The time came for our second dive at Manta Avenue. It was nice enough for a while with coral and stuff but not what I had specially come for. About a quarter way into the dive, Osland clinked on his tank.large_5550_14691047055355.jpgMantas at Derawan are about 3-4 in width. Poor photo from Chinese copy of GoPro.We saw two mantas approach and glided in front of us.

One really has to see them in person to appreciate their size, grace, beauty and awesomeness. Osland told me later they are about 3+ metres across but I would have thought they were bigger.

We saw a turtle shortly after. Then Osland guided us up a coral “hill”. He must have had good vision as the reason only became apparent a little later when I saw some hazy resemblance of the two mantas. It was even more awesome at the top of the “hill” as the two mantas circled us for a little while. There was also a time when we had a manta and a turtle together in the same scene.

Moving on from there, I saw a silhouette of what I thought was a thresher shark with a characteristic long tail. It disappeared but we saw the creature later on the sandy sea floor.large_5550_14691047098193.jpgMantas at Derawan are about 3-4 in width. Poor photo from Chinese copy of GoPro.It turned out to be a leopard shark which has a large tail as well.

Again it was an easy dive and I surfaced with about 80 bar of air after 45 minutes. We took lunch on the pier at Kakaban. I rested while Doris and the rest went up to the jellyfish lake. I also waited while Doris did her third dive at Kakaban’s Barracuda Point.

On the way back, we saw lots and lots of dolphins. Even the crew got excited because it isn’t an everyday thing for them. We got back to Derawan about 1700.

I had a rest till around 1900 when I grabbed dinner. Fortunately I ran into Simon & Karen so I was able to share my experience with them (as they are moving to Sangalaki), and also say goodbye. I went to pay Osland at 2000 and also say goodbye to Doris there at the same time.

What an awesome day it has been!

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Posted by alexchan 17:00 Archived in Indonesia

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