Sunday, August 17, 2008

A very personal wildlife experience

There are no helicopters in this post, but it's still worth making. Last night I got kicked in the nuts by a manta ray.

I was on a nighttime snorkel/dive adventure with a local outfit. The way it works is all the divers sit on the bottom, 80 feet deep, and all the snorkelers float on the surface, and everyone points their dive lights into the middle. The column of light attracts clouds of plankton, creating a Las Vegas-style all-you-can-eat buffet for the mantas.

There were over a dozen of them, averaging ten feet across and a thousand pounds each, swooping in great inverted loops with their alabaster bellies brushing just inches from us snorkelers. You can see where this is going.

I was on the periphery of the group, and fairly consumed by the experience, so I didn't notice when all the divers and snorkelers started leaving, taking their lights with them. Before long, I was the only light left, which is the equivalent of being that last lonely triangle of double-fudge cake when a busload of ranchers from the Arkansas Cattlemen's Convention is just finishing their buffet.

Suddenly, every manta within five miles wanted their mouth right in front of me. I was a fragile slice of humanity trapped in eight inches of water above a horde of ancient giants swirling up out of the gloom to assault my tiny candle.

Right about that time, I heard the dive guide call my name to tell me to get moving. I popped my head out of the water to listen, which thrust my hips slightly down into the water.

They may look graceful when they swim, but getting hit by a thousand pounds of anything, even if its a glancing blow, is pretty rough. It's like getting racked by a Volkswagen. Luckily, my thigh took most of the shot, or I might have become the tragic dead end to an otherwise long line of vibrant male virility.

Next time, I'm wearing a cup.

1 comment:

The Great Land said...

Funny - you're a very prolific writer. Like the blog.