Somewhere near Blue Corner off the waters of Palau, a creature gracefully glided its way towards us. It was my first encounter with rays and it was intoxicating. Stupefied, I watched its flat disk-shape body with its soaring wings fly towards us. It was identified as a Spotted Eagle Ray because it has white spots on its deep blue body. Their long rounded snout, almost like a pig’s snout, distinguishes it from other rays. The one encountered was quite big but it is said that a Spotted Eagle Ray can grow to nearly nine feet (3M) from wingtip to wingtip.
Rays are some the most fascinating creatures to soar through the world’s ocean and they are found worldwide in tropical waters, most commonly in shallow inshore waters, around reefs. To come across them in Palau is quite common, thanks to the island formation and currents. Made up of over 100 islands with low-lying oval islands ringed by barrier reefs, it is world renown for its marine bio-diversity. Outside of the pelagic (such as sharks and rays), the water is teeming with barracuda, jacks and tuna. Over 600 coral species smother the reefs overflowing with small fish. Definitely a must for every diver.
As a new diver in 2007, my trip to Palau was a series of firsts – it was my first time to dive outside of the Philippines, to drift in strong currents, to use a reef hook, to see big fishes like sharks and rays… And these firsts gave me the confidence underwater. But truth be known, that Spotted Eagle Ray made my Palau dive experience impossible to forget.