In addition to communicating with dolphins, I wanted to swim with a manta ray when I visited French Polynesia. When I was little and lived in New Jersey not far from the seashore, I had many an opportunity to see the manta ray's East Coast cousin, the sting ray. Those, who did surf fishing along the beach, often would hook one of them and reel it in to the delight of all the young kids. I recall vividly the mixed feelings of excitement and dread when I would come upon a sting ray that had been landed by someone. I hesitated entering the surf for several hours fearing that in those very same waters might lurk another relative of the one on the beach.
When the opportunity to travel to the French Polynesia presented itself, one of the things that I wanted to do was to swim with a manta ray rather than see one brought into shore on a hook. My day with a manta ray came when I was in Moorea just a few miles northwest of Tahiti. I was sitting, not on the dock of the bay, but in our over the water bungalow tanning my already slightly burned back and shoulders when I spotted it-my first manta ray. I shouted to my wife to keep an eye on it as if it were Captain Ahab shouting to a sailor on the "Pequod" after first sighting the great white whale, Moby Dick. I quickly sprung into action and got my snorkeling gear on and into the lagoon I went. It wasn't long before the manta ray and I were about ten feet apart and I was closing the gap. I narrowed the distance between us to about five feet and off we swam for the next twenty yards with neither of us adding or reducing the distance between us. Finally, with an extra flick of its pectoral fins, away it swam leaving me in my bubbles. To say that it was exhilarating is an understatement. Imagine me swimming with a manta ray.
As with my contact with a dolphin, I wondered what the manta ray thought. Was it as curious about me as I was of it? Had it thought to allow me to catch up with it to find out what I was about? Did it wonder why I didn't swim with it longer? When it went back to the depths for rest and renewal, did it ponder about the human that it shared the lagoon with for a brief moment? I wonder.