Scientific Survey In Raja Ampat Reveals New Species And Manta Ray Data

In the incredibly biodiverse waters of Raja Ampat, scientists continue to be amazed at what they find...

I’m at five metres, clutching a rock outcrop on the seabed when the manta ray fixes me with its gaze. I’m free diving so there are no distracting bubbles – just the undulation of wings – four metres from tip to tip – as it passes close enough to touch, with a look that feels…nuanced. We stare at each other for a couple of moments before it wheels round, showing me a white belly scattered with dark spots and a couple of remora fish hitching a ride. Being that close to a manta is thrilling – but it’s the look that stays with me.

An archipelago of 1500 odd islands scattered over 40,000 square kilometres off the coast of West Papua, Indonesia, Raja Ampat is a great place to see manta rays – and indeed sea creatures in general. For one, these waters are home to more marine species than anywhere else on the planet: there are single reefs in Raja Ampat that contain more species than the entire Caribbean.

Photo: Sutirta Budiman/Unsplash

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