My Great Uncle Lou used to have wild animals walk right up to him–I would practically die from wanting to pet them, but he always told me that petting wasn’t for wild animals. It was enough that they come to you and stand in your presence–they trust you NOT to touch them.

This is even more important when we interact with sea life because our touch can damage the protective coatings these creatures have on their bodies. I always make sure I dive with companies who adhere to those tenants and Geko Dive in Padang Bai, Bali, has that reputation.

We had eaten banana pancakes for breakfast and walked down the hill from Bloo Lagoon to join our boat at 9:00 am. The morning had a bit of cloud and there had been a thunderstorm in the night, so everything smelled lush. Our group was a collection of experienced and inexperienced divers, who liked to tell stories and shared pictures from the previous day’s dives. We had a good hour and a half to Manta Point and there was a good chop on the sea. It was cloudy but had stopped raining and we hoped the Mantas would not be hiding in the deep. I got quite lost geographically, but large rock islands, tossed off by volcanic eruptions, littered the archipelago and fishermen perched above witches brew seas sat with their fishing poles extended over mammoth surf.

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The captain made an offering of flowers and incense before we dove our first stop, but we only saw one Manta heading into the blue abyss. There was a small turtle feeding on the bottom and some beautiful reef.  However, another group showed up who also found the turtle and began to harass it; they actually tried to hold onto its tail. We made an effort to stop them and the turtle swam away, but those kinds of divers give human beings a bad name and teach wildlife to avoid us. My Great Uncle Lou would not have approved.

Our dive master signaled a return to the boat and we headed to a different dive site. On the way the sun came out and our spirits rose. We were about to swim with the Giant Mantas.


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