Andrea: Queen of Mantas

In February 2009 Scubazoo underwater cameraman Roger Munns filmed on the production of Bigwave TV’s latest BBC Natural World documentary - Andrea: Queen of Mantas

Having experienced diving around South Africa on a few occasions I was very pleased to be able to work in Tofo, Mozambique recently on the production of The Manta Queen a documentary made for the BBC’s Natural World strand. I’d heard a lot about the Whaleshark population in Tofo from friends and divers making their way around Africa. By all accounts there was a large population of these giant filter feeders and it was fairly common to see several Whalesharks in the same area.

Our job though was to film the other population of massive plankton scoopers, the manta rays. Dr Andrea Marshall has been studying the population in Tofo since 2003 and The Manta Queen was focussed on her efforts and her remarkable discovery which has focussed attention recently on this small, remote location.

The manta ray (Manta birostris) population around Tofo Beach is the largest currently known in the world. During her studies on the Manta population of Tofo Andrea noticed that, while their seemed to be a resident population of Manta rays, there also seemed to be some larger and more transient Mantas which arrived on dive sites such as Manta reef off Tofo then disappeared a few days later. Peaking her curiosity, Andrea’s further studies revealed a genetic difference. Now where once the scientific community thought we had one species of Manta we now have two and possibly even three!

  • The guys on the way..
  • Diver with harpoon
  • tofo11
  • tofo14
  • tofo21
  • tofo24

Myself and the rest of the Bigwave TV production crew spent a productive and fun ten days in Casa Barry, Tofo filming some great sequences of Andrea and her research partner Simon Pierce as they attempted to tag Manta rays with acoustic and satellite tags in order to monitor their movements. We also had a chance to get in with the whale sharks and grab some pics of visiting scientist Rachel Graham as she deployed tags on the sharks.

On a sadder note we encountered a manta ray caught inadvertently by fishermen a few miles from Tofo. Dr Marshall took the opportunity to take something positive from this unfortunate event by taking measurements and samples from the ray.

Andrea: Queen of Mantas aired in Autumn 2009 on BBC2 and is now available to buy on Blu-Ray from the BBC online store

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