Massive manta ray filmed seeking help from snorkelers in Australia

Justin Chan

In a fascinating encounter, an enormous manta ray was filmed repeatedly approaching snorkelers for help after it had gotten fishhooks caught under its eye. 

Last month, marine biologist and British television broadcaster Monty Halls shared the footage on Facebook. It shows the manta swim extremely close to a group of snorkelers off the Ningaloo Coast in Western Australia. The ray had apparently recognized Jake Wilton, one of the snorkelers and a wildlife guide, and needed his assistance.

"We were really lucky in that we saw a manta nice and early, and quietly slipped into the water to spend some time with it," Halls recalled in a post. "After a few minutes we noticed that it had some fish hooks buried beneath [its] right eye, and was repeatedly presenting itself to our guide Jake."

Wilton then reportedly sprang into action — but not without exercising a bit of caution first.

"You could see that she trusts because she ... was showing us the hooks," Wilton explains to Halls in the video. "I went for a few dives down just to see how she would react to us being close to her."

The manta purportedly did not budge as the guide swam toward her.

"Jake got some pliers and made several attempts, with the manta returning each time to allow him another go (it was obviously painful for it)," Halls wrote. "Finally, he managed it, and the manta settled quietly on the bottom and stayed with us for a wee while."

Halls's footage of the unusual underwater meeting has since gone viral. As of Tuesday afternoon, it had been shared over 1,500 times.

"It was an extraordinary half hour or so, and such a clear illustration that these animals have intelligence, trust and a strong association with folks who treat them with respect," Halls added.

Manta rays, which can have wingspans of up to 29 feet, are frequently found in tropical, subtropical and temperate waters, according to Oceana. Though they are solitary animals, they are often threatened by commercial fishing.