The most beautiful creature I’ve ever seen…

Mantarraya gigante

The Giant Manta Ray. This one — and a couple others — cruised past Daphne on my last day of diving in the Galapagos Islands. A fitting final dive.

These guys are near threatened according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, making them actually one of the less endangered of the charismatic mega fauna of the sea. That said, they face serious pressure from overfishing and destructive catch tactics and are often killed as incidental bycatch. I’ve seen juveniles, which are less able to avoid nets, tossed dead in the back of trucks beach side to be sold as “trash fish.”

But having dived with these giants — the largest one on record was more than 25 feet across and weighed two and a half tons — I now plead: Please source your seafood.

The photos (above and below) are in black and white, because of the poor color reproduction. Between the distance, the grain of low-light and the poor underwater visibility, the camera captured little more than wondrous shadows.

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