To be precise, its actual name is Tokatokanu Passage. But if you refer to the “Manta Ray Pass”, it is generally understood here that you are talking about the narrows between Drawaqa and Naviti islands. A place where the namesake animals are known to congregate to feed and also to watch the Tourists and Cruisers who tend to crowd those waters.
Curiously enough, cruisers tend to anchor on another pass about 1/2mile to the south, between Naviti and Nanuya Balavu. Some folks even snorkel there, believing this to be the place for seeing the beautiful animals, and to be seen by them. The fact that the Manta Ray Resort is located there kind of reinforces the false perception that this is the place to find the Mantas.
Anyway, even at the right place – at the Tokatokanu Passage – getting to actually see the Mantas is not exactly straightforward. We have been there three times already, and on only one instance have we been able to see and swim with them (and be seen by them, if they cared).
I’d heard from another cruiser that the probability of seeing them is higher at or around Full Moon. And since our only successful attempt happened when the Moon was full, I kind of subscribed to this theory. But just for a few weeks, until a friend got to see ’em there when the Moon was waning.
So now I think it is a hit-and-miss affair.
Anyway, it is unnecessary to say that when we did get to see the Mantas, we were not carrying any cameras. You will therefore have to believe me when I say that we DID see them. I have witnesses. And to make the act of believing a bit more challenging, I will go on record by saying that we saw them TWICE in the same day.
Our first approach was in the morning, during low tide, a time known as of low probability for sightings. After roaming with the dinghy for a while, there they were, swimming slowly some meters below the surface, under our dinghy. Two beautiful specimens, one large, the other very large. We had them all to ourselves, and kept them company until our legs couldn’t keep up with their gentle pace anymore. Quite a treat.
In the afternoon, when the tide was right, we gave it another go, and what a different experience it was ! The same two mantas were still there, but now the waters were infested with tourists and cruisers. A mob of at least fifty people, if not more, swimming frantically after the two large animals. After receiving a few flipper slaps on the face, having GoPro sticks poking perilously at us, and been nearly sliced thin by the propellers of the support boats that were zipping by, we finally accepted it was no fun, and decided to leave the Mantas to the mob. And it was for the better, for we then realized high tide is not only the right time for the Mantas, but for all other fish as well. A general feeding frenzy which we had never seen before. All around us, immense schools of fish large and small, oblivious to our presence, swimming after the plankton that was crowding the water. We stayed there for about an hour and felt it had been quite the complement to the morning’s experience.
Two weeks later we returned to Tokatokanu. Our third attempt. We roamed the area with our dinghy before and during high tide and nothing. Nada. No Mantas, no immense swarms of fish, no feeding frenzy, no crowd. It is indeed a hit-and-miss affair …
Undaunted, we went in the water and found the snorkeling to be pretty satisfactory, with live, colorful coral and friendly reef fish. Of course, this time we were equipped with a camera, and here are some pictures of the experience.
Until I hear a plausible theory for the right time to see the Mantas, I will continue to believe it is purely aleatory. And probably because of this, we are planning on going there again some time soon.
Ok, if you managed to read to this point, I will now share a bonus. It is kind of a cheat, but bear with me. Last year, while in French Polynesia, we DID manage to catch a big Manta Ray on camera. I had been holding back on this one. So, here it goes:
THANK YOU for reading through to here, and for following us along our journey !!!