Manta rays and mandarinfish in Yap

I had a lucky day 4 at the Manta Ray Bay Hotel in Yap. The rest of the Palau Digital Shootout folk left on a 3am flight this morning, and I said my farewells at 1am as they loaded onto the bus to the airport. At 7:30am, I was on a boat out to Mi'l Channel in search of Manta Rays again, and was finally rewarded with a single pass over a cleaning station -- enough for me to squeeze off a couple of shots and finally be able to say that I saw a manta ray in Yap.

manta ray in yap, 1/125s @ f8, iso 200, 16mm (uncropped)

I spoke with Mike Veitch at length this evening, who told me that last year there were months where the manta rays were incredible here, with at least 5 mantas on every dive. There would be upwards of 10-15 mantas during new and full moons, doing fantastic mating loops (or whatever it is that they do), and one special dive involved 30 mantas at once (!). We're clearly not seeing anything near that these days, but the ocean is a strange place, and you never know when action like that will begin again.

Just before sunset, I dropped into the water for a mandarinfish dive in an attempt to photograph them mating. There were mandarinfish everywhere, but I only saw one couple mate, and because I hadn't ever photographed them before, I was unsure how bold I could be in my photographic approach. So I missed the shot. But I did manage to shoot both a male and a female up in the water column.

male mandarinfish, 1/200s @ f18, iso 100, 100mm

female mandarinfish, 1/200s @ f18, iso 100, 100mm

In a rookie move, the focus limiter switch on my 100mm macro lens had been switched on, so I had to use a Seacam Wet Two diopter for close focus. I was lucky I had brought it underwater with me! And I could have sworn that I checked the switch! Oh well. I won't make that mistake tomorrow night.

Here are a couple more shots from today's diving:

white-tip shark, 1/100s @ f6.3, iso 200, 35mm

anemonefishes guarding eggs, 1/125s @ f13, iso 100, 35mm

Even though I haven't been diving with Veitch every day, I do sometimes bump into him underwater.

mike writes: "eric who?"