MANTA. The word in Spanish and Portuguese means "mantle," as in "cloak" or "blanket." The name was not given to the manta ray because of its looks, it was named for a type of blanket-shaped trap traditionally used to catch manta rays. Evolved from the bottom-dwelling sting ray, the manta developed wing-like pectoral fins, which enable it to glide gracefully through the water. Like dolphins and whales, mantas breach, and scientists are not in agreement as to why. Their period of gestation is an estimated 12-13 months, usually producing only one pup, sometimes two. Their slow reproduction rate, combined with threats of pollution, over fishing and harvested for their gill rakers for use in Chinese medicine, may doom the mantas, the most intelligent of all fish, to extinction.
On Sunday morning, which has become a Boca de Tomatlán panga day for a small group of friends, we headed due west. We had only been out in the Bay for about 10 minutes before seeing a small, solitary dolphin breaching repeatedly, displaying its completely white underside.
Karla, owner of Boca Divers, explained that young dolphins begin to explore the bay on their own, but return to their pod. Not far away from the dolphin was a leatherback sea turtle that had just surfaced for air.
Further away from shore, terns, booby birds and pelicans skimmed the surface of the water before diving in for fish. It was there that we saw three or dolphins feeding, as if that part of the bay were a dining area.
Later in the morning, mantas! Big mantas. The tallest man on the boat swam directly over the largest manta, stretching his arms out wide to estimate length from tip to tip of the pectoral fins - 12-13 feet.
Returning to Boca, we stopped for a second swim close to the rocky shore, which feels different than swimming far away from it. Someone´s palapa home set back on the sand sits under a giant tree, where we could hear the lively chatter of parrots.
Two more dolphins appeared, more mantas swam close to the panga, sea birds flew above in the bluest of skies... and surrounded by life and beauty... away from cars and buildings... we ate fresh ceviche and were glad for this day.
See Karla´s good 3-minute video of our May 7th dolphin super pod day in the Bay of Banderas:
Gretchen DeWitt is committee chair of PEACEAnimals. She was a board member of PEACE Mexico from 2009 to 2012, focusing primarily on raising funds for "Ayuda a los Animales," the free mobile spay/neuter program. Check out her blog here
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