When I recovered from my cancer bout, there were a few things on my bucket list that I set out to do. First was getting my scuba diving certification. The problem with bucket lists items is that they are fun, addictive, and one typically leads to five more. This is the case with diving. I love it. In the last decade I have dove Greece, Hawaii, the Caribbean Islands, Thailand, Puget Sound and more. Diving creates its own bucket list: the sea creatures one must see. For me, one of these was the giant Manta Rays of the tropic Indian and South Sea oceans. These massive, stealthy gentle giants live in Coral Bay off the Australian coast, just west of us.
We paid our money, took our chances and were astonished! Our boat trip included three different locations, each on the pristine Ningaloo reef. The reef is home to 300+ species of coral, most being some shade of blue. I have never seen such an untouched reef! The fish were huge, schools of Trevalie, (a tuna-like fish), each 8 -10 pounds, engulfed us to the point where we could not see anything else. We floated motionless, past a shark cleaning station where 14 different sharks, all 4-5 feet long, swan by, letting small “cleaner” fish dart about their open months and gills. Sea turtles glided alongside an amazing diversity and abundance of parrot and angel fish.
All this would have been worth the price, but then we came to the Mantas. When I first saw them, I just stared, trying to take the sight in. A female with a wingspan of 15 feet glided by underneath me. I was simply stunned. Three Mantas in all graced us. The other two were juveniles, about 10-11 feet across, and swam under us. One of the juveniles began actively feeding, opening its huge mouth and swimming in belly rolls over and over. I floated, almost forgetting to breath. Watching from above, I could look down inside that open mouth, see the gills as the massive fish turned and finally looked up into the gill rakes (small membranes that catch the plankton), as it continued to feed.
This was one of those times when words and pictures can only do so much, yet it was one of the greatest moments I’ve ever had diving.
We spent a long time speaking with the boat skipper about how amazing the reef was. There are no people here to destroy it. There is only one road to one dock, and only one other boat on the water the whole day. We, as people, can manage to “love a place to death.” This may seem unrelated; however, this is one of my greatest motivations for creating the Carbon Comfort bike seat. If you are on a bike, you are not in a car. If you are not in a car, you are protecting the planet. Simply put, I’m trying to save the planet one butt at a time.
Returning to land, we walked across the dunes to our camp. The sun was setting, and we were graced with one more surprise: a very rare, very LARGE, Wedge-Tailed Eagle took off directly in front of us. This eagle can best be described as half bald eagle, half Pterodactyl. Another remarkable sight; what an amazing day!