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.
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.
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.