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Raja Ampat survey reveals new species and key manta ray data

By April 10, 2018

Raja Ampat is the global epicentre of marine biodiversity – and the species count is still rising, thanks in large part to two scientists …

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. And then there’s the fact that the entire region was declared a sanctuary for sharks and rays back in 2010 – a move that four years later led to the whole of Indonesia becoming a manta ray sanctuary – easily the world’s largest.

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