At the southern end of the China Strait is a small island called Gonu Bara Bara which is the best place in the whole province to see the manta rays of Milne Bay.
From a distance there is little to distinguish Gonu Bara Bara from the myriad of other small islands in this part of southern Milne Bay Province. Reef manta rays – Manta alfredi – had been known to patrol its northern beach for many years, but all attempts to try and interact with them were random at best – maybe you would see one or more, maybe you wouldn’t…
Then back in 2002, almost by accident, Craig de Wit discovered why the mantas were there.
Craig is the skipper of the Golden Dawn liveaboard, which had been charted to search for mantas and he had gone to all the best-known Milne Bay locations but did not find a single one. Finally in an act of inspired desperation he responded to the pleas of James, the boat’s engineer, to check out his home island where there were “lots of mantas just off the beach”.
Here is how Craig described finding them: “I discovered the cleaning station when we went to Gonu Bara Bara, James my engineer kept insisting that there were lots of mantas at his island so we went in search of them.
On arriving we saw them around the place on the surface so most of the group went for a snorkel in hope of getting close to them.
I decided to go for a dive along the beach hoping to get close and while drifting along in the current came across the cleaning station and I guess the rest is now history.”
Craig christened the cleaning station Giants@Home and I was fortunate to experience it first-hand just two weeks after that discovery.
If you are interested in learning more about Gonu Bara Bara and Giants@Home you can use this link to download the manta rays of Milne Bay X-Ray magazine article.