Oh… an unexpected blue sky and tropical sunshine… that’s a promising start.
Ishigaki is one of the most popular diving sites in Japan and famous for manta watching. Philippe had high hopes to see a manta or two : ) but April is not the prime manta season but they are still seen once every other dive.
Our friendly and efficient B&B host recommended a good dive shop which was available for a dive with only two of us.
The first dive was offshore from the Yonehara 米原 beach. Yesterday I did snorkeling at that same beach and the water was so crystal-clear that I could see butterflyfish and other colorful tropical fish just few meters off the beach.
After managing a back-roll-entry from the boat (no problem for Philippe but a little challenging for me), there was lots of fish hovering over the tennis court sized “Ginger corals”. Our guide pointed out tiny, adorable and transparent 5 clownfish babies.
On Ishigaki there are two Manta viewing sites, “Manta City” and “Manta Scramble”. On our second dive the boat headed for Manta City. There was a bit of queuing as not more than five boats are allowed to dive at the same time not to disturb mantas.
Under the maximum 25-meter deep water are several small and large coral hills and narrow channels in between. Manta usually appears on the top of these hills to “clean their bodies” and divers wait at the bottom. It was a complex geological underwater formation and interesting to dive around, a bit like hiking in the water.
While waiting, we dived around these hills and watched marine animals hovering and hiding in narrow channels. We also sighted a beautiful tortoise resting on the seafloor. It let us watch for a while and then swam away gracefully into to the deep blue.
Time is up and our guide signaled us to surface. No Manta today : (
Once we got on the boat and dropped our tank, our guide who was still in the water suddenly popped his head and shouted to us, “Manta is there!”
Philippe and I quickly grabbed our snorkel and jumped back into the water. And there it was… a large manta (around 3 meter) is gliding away not far from our boat. Magnificent!
Philippe was all smiles on the way back : )