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Reef Report for Thursday, May 31, 2001

Monstrous Manta Madness

Despite the slight chill (at least by our tropical standards) in the air, the big blue has been the ideal place to be this week.

There’s new fish on the block at Fish Market’s, where Passions of Paradise moored on Monday. © Great Barrier Reef Enterprises The school of giant trevally have been snacking on large schools of baitfish, while an extroverted juvenile Maori Wrasse befriended a group of stunned intro divers.

Passengers onboard Tusa have also been enjoying the beautiful blue skies out on Milln reef. Enthusiastic divers and snorkellers spotted imperial angelfish, black-tailed humbugs, tomato clownfish, Moorish angelfish, coral trout, a 1 ˝ metre White-tipped Reef Shark…..and a partridge in a pear tree!

However the highlight of the past week has been the marine life off Fitzroy Island. A group of open water students were in the middle of one of their training dives, when a 4 metre wide silhouette hovered from above them. Dave Hide, from Fitzroy Island Dive, tells us of his class' encounter with the Manta Ray:

"As the waters cool, our annual influx of manta rays is well and truly under way, much to the delight of staff and customers alike. © Dive The Reef One particular encounter last week got us so excited we thought we'd better run our fingers over the keyboard and tell everyone about it.

It was one of the days when being a dive instructor is just about the best job in the world. Moored up round the remote side of Fitzroy, the water was a sheet of glass and not a cloud could be seen from horizon to horizon. I was leaning over the side, watching instructor Pete Davon on the bottom working round the semi-circle of his students, busily criticising fin pivots below the boat. My amusement was distracted by a movement off to the right. My thoughts briefly envisaged a monstrous Tiger Shark homing in on our paying customers…but no…it was a massive Manta Ray.

This ray swooping around Pete’s students had a wingspan that was larger than the beam of the boat (Readers be sure to adjust size estimates allowing for a couple of rules: (A) things appear 25% larger underwater and (B) never let the truth stand in the way of a good story!)

An unusual feature of the circling spaceship was that this Ray was virtually pure black, no white areas visible even on the underside. Pete glided up underneath it, and to the student's amazement, tickled the monstrous Manta's tummy and survived.

We've had a good run on Mantas already this season, we had a group of six doing loop the loops close to the jetty and we've had up to three at a time giving the snorkellers an adrenaline rush of biblical proportions. Over a beer later that night the dark messenger had now swollen to over 6m in width but in truth was probably around the 4m mark. It was an exciting experience for all involved, with more to come this year, as manta's will remain in the area for some time."

This weekend should see the conditions become a little less desirable with current winds increasing from 15 knots to 20-25 knots. Later in the weekend should see those winds reaching up to 25-30 knots. Have a great weekend!!

(C) Pro Dive Cairns The weekly reef report is written by Sue-Anne Chapman of Pro Dive Cairns, who compiles them from the many conversations she has with divers, dive instructors, captains, and others in the Cairns dive community. The report is published weekly in the Cairn Post, the local daily paper and appears here thanks to the courtesy of Pro Dive Cairns.

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