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Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

Tanaka-san @ Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

Tanaka-san @ Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

This month it’s manta season off the coast of Ishigaki. At the dive spot known as Manta Scramble there is a good chance of seeing one or even several mantas on your dive. I visited Ishigaki about 6 years ago while researching the travel feature Southern Comfort — Life on Ishigaki Island. Although I dove with the mantas, at that time I didn’t have an underwater camera system.

Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

And so many years later I returned to Ishigaki with all my gear to do three days of diving and to photograph a local festival. Diving with mantas was far easier than my recent trip to photograph the underwater ruins and hammerhead sharks of Yonaguni. Yonaguni had strong currents, heavy swells, and cold water, it was demanding diving even without a camera rig. Diving with mantas on Ishigaki is possible for snorkelers and less experienced divers. On my trip the biggest danger was sunburn.

Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawahttp://www.flickr.com/photos/13377977@N04/sets/72157629412081819/

Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

There are several rules for manta diving. Don’t touch, don’t chase, don’t exhale bubbles into their gills, and stay with your guide. The general strategy for divers is to wait next to one of the coral outcrops and watch the mantas as they make their rounds. În some cases the mantas actually glided right over the top of me, reminiscent of the opening scene of Star Wars. This is actually the best time to identify individuals, as each manta has a unique pattern of blotches on it’s underside.

Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

A big thanks to Kasumi-san from Dive Ocean Butterfly and Tanaka-san from dive shop Pushynushima for being my manta guides.

Kasumi-san @ Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

Kasumi-san @ Manta Scramble, Ishigaki Island, Okinawa

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