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Manta Birostris in the waters off Tumbes, Peru by Joost van Uffelen

Peruvian giants

Recently we've been in the far North west of Peru hosted by Planeta Oceano. This NGO is working with the local communities to protect and research the biggest Manta rays in the world; the Manta Birostris.

After the discovery of a population of giant mantas off the coast of Tumbes the manta got national attention in Peru, which in turn led indirectly to its nationwide protection starting from 2016.

When Peru claimed protection of the giant manta rays we knew the green waters off Tumbes were to be our next destination. We wanted to check out the project of Planeta Oceano and maybe we could fulfill a dream of ours to freedive with these majestic rays at the same time. Ever since our visit to the Socorros we spoke about how great it would be to interact with giant manta rays on one-breath.

Planeta Oceano has played a major part in getting the needed level of protection for the rays and is still playing a vital role in starting up ecotours with fishermen in the area. We followed the volunteers and interns of the organisation for a few days and noticed that their enthusiasm and unrelentless effort is paying off already.

As one of the first to check out the opportunity we were lucky enough to have some intimate interactions with the mantas, but also saw lots of other marine life.

Some highlights of our time in Tumbes and some Spanish words:

- Being pissed on by a local dog when flicking through my images. We all agreed it would bring "mucho suerte" at sea..

- Getting stung big-time on my left arm by a "medusa" when we jumped in on a humpback whale heat-run; it took two weeks to stop looking as if ready for a leper colony..

-  My right arm got bitch-slapped by a manta ray (little too close for comfort; my bad). Mantas have sandpaper like skin like "tiburones", so I got scratched up. It healed faster than jellies though..

- Sandy signing schoolbooks of the local schoolkids "como una estrella". I'm not sure whether the girls were more into long blond hair than into the manta lessons ;-)..

It is amazing to see that conservation successes are made by NGO's like Planeta Oceano at a time when shark and rays species are under huge pressure worldwide. Their success makes it possible for local as well as tourists from abroad to come and experience Peru in a new way compared to its traditional tourist areas. At the same time it allows the local community to live sustainably with and profit from the natural resources along this coastline. I sincerely hope that when we return in Tumbes in a few years time the tours will be a great success and will be managed responsibly as well.

Did you like this post?

Then check out more images about the giant mantas of Peru in my portfolio.

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About the Author:
Joost loves the oceans, travelling and (underwater)photography. Combining those three elements he creates ocean art, travel reports and ocean photo stories...


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