Sep 8, 2007

GERMAN CHANNEL, Palau: The grey reef sharks – bruiser big – muscle into the cleaning station. Their heads tip back, so the wrasse can degunk their gills. "That's the angle you'd see if they bit your face," I muse, as every child of the Jaws generation must.

My dive buddy Steph gestures wildly: turn!

And there's my first giant ray, billowing through the blue. These creatures can attain a 9m wingspan, but average 6.7m. That's cool: 21 feet is plenty enough manta for me.

Its edges undulate, like a Communion-dress ruffle in a breeze. The sun breaks upon its back and slivers. The ray swims in a spiked halo of light: a sight so purely beautiful that I resolve to be a better person. I'll floss, volunteer, stop swearing in front of small children – anything – just don't let this moment stop.

Wham. I'm jerked downward. Shark attack? The grey reefers can be aggressive...

Instinctively, I flail. And kick Steph, who's yanking my fins.

"Where were you headed?" she asks later. "You're not the type of yahoo who chases animals."

"I was all busy with the epiphany and lost buoyancy control."

"Did I interrupt a religious experience?" she laughs.

"Yeah, and probably some quick-ascent ear-damage too. Thanks."

Maybe it's for the best, really.

Did I really want a deal with the devil ray?


  1. Anonymous1:58 PM

    Big story in today's NYT on diving in Palau, FYI (23 September).


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