-- When a Huge Manta-Ray Approached Them They Didn't Understand Why, Then They Saw This

Diving is a popular pastime for lots of people, this is largely due to the many incredible underwater sights. Every day, countless adventure-seekers around the world put on their flippers and goggles, and dive to the depths of big ‘ol blue. 
When a Huge Manta-Ray Approached Them They Didnt Understand Why, Then They Saw This
What lies beneath is always a surprise, but for one group of divers, they were in for more than just a surprise when they came across a friendly manta ray. What started off as a normal morning snorkeling turned into an unforgettable moment.

A Frequent Diver

Local Australian diver and underwater photographer, Jake Wilton, often dives in the waters around the world-renowned Ningaloo Bay. In addition to enjoying the waters and the treasures they hold, Jake also regularly leads groups of snorkelers through the area. 
When a Huge Manta-Ray Approached Them They Didnt Understand Why, Then They Saw This
On this particular morning, Jake had British TV broadcaster and marine biologist, Monty Hall with him. The pair were very excited about what they would experience that day - although they could never have predicted what would happen.

Early Risers

The destination of choice that morning was Ningaloo Reef, a World Heritage site and one of the world’s longest near-shore reefs located about 1200 kilometers north of Perth. 
When a Huge Manta-Ray Approached Them They Didnt Understand Why, Then They Saw This
As with any adventure, the early bird catches the worm and so the group set off on their snorkeling excursion first thing in the morning. Their efforts paid off and they were lucky to see a manta ray. Quietly, they slipped into the water to spend some time with it.


It wasn’t long before the local manta ray swam up to Jake. The 30-year-old female manta ray was a regular in the waters of Ningaloo Bay and had earned the affectionate name “Freckles” by all that visited her home turf. The manta reached a very impressive 3,5 meters in size and had a wonderfully friendly nature.

Jake believes that the manta’s comfortable approach towards him was because of his regular presence in the water. It appeared as though they shared the same ocean playground.

Same-Same But Different

Although it had started out as a normal day, there was something different about this encounter. While Jake and Freckles often swam in the same space, Freckles was acting quite strange. Mantas are typically very friendly creatures, and Freckles' approach wasn't out of the ordinary. However, Jake couldn't help but sense something strange. 

The huge manta ray seemed to deliberately seek out Jakes' help. For about 15 minutes, the manta ray approached Jake, seemingly looking for his attention. Something didn’t feel right.

Something Special

While both Jake Wilton and Monty Hall picked up on Freckles’ behavior as strange, they also found it strangely special to be sharing this intimate moment with the creature. They were well accustomed to how manta rays normally behaved, and there was definitely something odd and endearing about Freckles' movement. 

Jake explains that it is very rare for an animal to turn and come back over to you, presenting themselves. When Freckles started to interact with them, they knew that it was something very special. It was every snorkeler's dream. 

Acting Strange

After a while, the group started growing concerned. What seemed endearing at first, began to become suspect. Perhaps the creature needed help.

Monty Hall, who was very familiar with the typical behavior of marine animals reassured himself, “This wasn't my imagination, again and again, it came back, turned over, and paused in the water, and - plainly - was looking to us to be helped." It seemed that Freckles was trying to tell them something - and that’s when they saw it.

Window To The Soul

Freckles started getting closer and closer to Jake. Her odd behavior continued as she began unfurling herself, opening up to Jakes’ inspection. 

Luckily, Jakes was on the ball and managed to identify what was wrong. After a few minutes, he noticed that their beloved Freckles had some fish hooks buried in her right eye. The manta swimming up to Jake was her attempt at showing him that she had been injured and that she needed help.

Potential Danger

Upon closer inspection, the group noticed a fishing line hanging from underneath her, a dead giveaway that something was off. Their assumptions about her behavior being weird were confirmed, and the reason was uncovered. 

Not only had the large fish hooks caused injury, but they were also buried dangerously close to her right eye. If left unattended, the hook could lead to infection or even blindness. But that’s not the worst of it, as Jake was about to discover. 

A Difficult Position 

As Jake swam with Freckles, he could see that the hook was located in a very precarious position. It was obvious that without care, the injury could lead to infection or blindness, however, it posed more of a threat than just that. 

The hook was located in her cephalic lobe, which is the area of the manta ray that is used to feed. There were a few hooks rolled up in there, causing her obvious pain. It’s no wonder that she was swimming up to Jake for help. It was time to rescue her.

Pliers To The Rescue

As soon as Jake realized what was wrong with Freckles, he jumped into action. He swam back up to their boat and grabbed a pair of pliers, planning to use them to pull out the hook as gently as he could. 

The snorkeling hero made several attempts to remove the hooks from the manta ray’s eye. It was obviously very painful for the creature, but it kept returning to Jake, allowing him to have another go at rescuing him.

Again, And Again

These heroic attempts continued for quite some time. Again, and again Jake would energetically kick his flippers underwater, approaching Freckles with caution to try to remove the hooks. 

Afterward the rescue, Jake spoke to a few media outlets about what kept him diving below to Freckles. He comments on how he wasn’t really thinking about anything else, except how he could get the hooks out. He didn’t want to mess it up in case he hurt the manta ray.

Facial Recognition

From above the water, Monty Hall was watching and filming Jakes’ rescue attempts. He recalls how Jake went down to Freckles again, and again. The manta ray didn’t move but waited for Jake to surface for air - and then try again. 

Monty was convinced that the manta ray recognized Jake and the divers from previous expeditions and completely understood what was going on, fully aware that Jake was trying to get the hook out of her eye.

An Incredible Half Hour

For half an hour, this continued. Jake would swim up to the surface, get a full lung of air, and then dive below to help his friend. 

The fact that the manta ray stayed in position, waiting for Jake to try remove the hook was a clear illustration that she knew what was going on. It highlighted her intelligence and trust. The story goes to show that if you treat animals with respect, they will hold you in high regard. However, Jake had yet to succeed in saving the manta.

A Difficult Job

Anybody that has ever been fishing will understand the immense challenge that it poses when trying to get a hook out of a little fish. Now imagine the difficulty of trying to get one out of a three and a half meter manta ray. 

Jake understood the challenge in front of him and didn’t want to push it to a point of hurting the creature. But still, he wouldn’t give up until eventually, his efforts paid off.

Mission Accomplished

Up until this point, the manta ray was clearly pre-empting the pain that Jakes’ rescue attempts would cause, regardless of how gentle he was. However, the final time that Jake dove down, the manta ray was completely relaxed, allowing the diver to get right up close to her. 

Luckily, Jake managed to remove the hook with one swift attempt. Using a pair of pliers, he firmly, yet gently, removed the hook that had become embedded in the manta’s skin. But what happened next, left Jake completely shocked.

Hanging Around

There was an overwhelming feeling of relief after the hooks were removed. However, in a bizarre turn of events, the manta ray didn’t swim off as soon as the hooks were removed. 

It flinched a bit from the pain (and subsequent relief) and started to move, but then came back around again. Freckles settled quietly on the bottom of the floor and hung around with the divers for awhile. Whether it was gratitude, relief or a sense of inter-species camaraderie that kept her there, it was a very special moment.

An Emotional Experience

When Jake resurfaced with the pliers in one hand and the removed hook in the other, the boat erupted in cheers. Everyone was yahoo-ing and clapping enthusiastically at the success of the mission. The build-up to the rescue and success of the hook's removal was a thrilling experience that left everyone very emotional. 
When a Huge Manta-Ray Approached Them They Didnt Understand Why, Then They Saw This
Jakes even admits to indulging in a little cry after the situation. He was completely overwhelmed by the incredible experience and deep connection that he shared with the manta ray.

A Rare, Heartfelt Interaction

These wild emotions were completely justified. The special moment of not only swimming with the manta ray but also rescuing it from pain is a memory that the group of divers will hold dear for a very, very long time. 
When a Huge Manta-Ray Approached Them They Didnt Understand Why, Then They Saw This
Jakes is happy to report that he saw Freckles a short two weeks later on one of his regular dives, and the manta ray appeared to be as fit as a fiddle. The fact that she was eating normally and relaxed is proof that the group managed to help her. 

Unforgettable Experience

The day that Jake rescued Freckles is a day that he will remember for the rest of his life. Despite saving many rays and sharks over the years, he mentions how he will never forget the beautiful interaction that he shared with Freckles. 
When a Huge Manta-Ray Approached Them They Didnt Understand Why, Then They Saw This
The fact that she swam up to Jake with an attitude of trust and friendship is truly special, and Jake is thrilled that he was able to return her trust by helping her when she needed it most.

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