For Joel, a dog or cat just wasn’t going to cut it. He had another animal in mind that he could call a pseudo-pet. Their daily routine had Joel going down to the water in his village to interact with the amazing creature, showing people that they are not to be feared.
Jake Wilton, an underwater photographer from Australia, found the same thing while diving around a reef. The creature was gigantic, but far from harmful. It was placid, even, wanting nothing more than help from someone it trusted. Keep reading to find out what magnificent sea creature these two interacted with.
Valle Gran Rey Is Known For Its Harbor
Joel is a young boy who lives in Valle Gran Rey, a tiny village on La Gomera, one of Spain’s Canary Islands. The town is known for its beautiful black sand beaches and top-notch dive sites. Tourists aren’t the only ones that are attracted to the beauty of the island, though.
The village is also known for its harbor. So, one can typically see boats as well as fishermen lining the waters. Often, they throw unwanted fish back into the water, which then attracts even more sea creatures. That’s how Joel met his unlikely friend.
Joel Went Down To The Water With Food
One morning, Joel and his friend went down to the harbor waters with food. And what seemed like a typical event for the boys turned into something else altogether for onlookers. Someone captured the two on film, hanging out on the steps that go into the harbor.
Again, it seemed as though the young boys were just hanging out near the water. Then Joel started to splash the water around with his hands, almost as if he were trying to alert someone. As it turns out, it wasn’t a someone but rather something.
A Black Fin Popped Out Of The Water
After all of the splashing subsided, Joel noticed a huge fin swimming towards him. Anyone else would most likely be a bit frightened with a giant black fin coming out of the water and swimming straight for them, but Joel was cool as a cucumber. As if he’d done this a thousand times.
And that fist full of food he carried down to the water? Apparently, that wasn’t for him at all. Rather than eat it, he tossed the food scraps into the water! What on Earth was he feeding? It was almost as if it was routine.
The Creature Wasn’t Leaving
The second the food hit the surface; the water began to move rapidly. Joel is in the harbor, so wakes are few and far between. This creature had some power. After all of the food was devoured, the water stopped moving. But the videographers weren’t finished seeing something unbelievable.
When they thought the mystery creature left, the water started to move again. This time, the creature came back at the young boy more forcefully. Maybe it was still hungry and thought Joel was its next meal!
It Was A Gigantic Manta Ray!
By this point, the people watching from the sidelines finally figured out what the mystery animal was. A gigantic manta ray had been approaching the young boy, not at all afraid that the creature was “out of water.” But there was no aggression between the wild sea creature and Joel.
It’s almost as though the manta ray expected Joel to be there to feed him his lunch! Some of the local fishermen knew about the encounter and supplied Joel with shrimp to feed his friend. The manta ray happily scarfed all of it down.
This Manta Ray Likes To Be Hand Fed
Unlike most manta rays, Joel’s buddy has made it perfectly clear that he would rather be hand-fed than hunt for his meals. The best part is, he gets some pats after eating.
In the video, Joel is seen helping the manta ray put his front fin upon the lowest step, a better angle for Joel to give the creature a nice rub down after his meal. He even raises his fin in appreciation after the meal and nice back rub. Who wouldn’t?
The Manta Ray Trusts Joel
The sea creature likes to interact with the young boy. It does not seem afraid at his touch or the food he is feeding him. In the video, you can even see the manta ray inch closer and closer to Joel. It’s quite amazing!
The giant manta ray almost has a puppy-like quality about him, especially considering he goes in for pats and treats. Not once did the creature do anything remotely aggressive or threatening. He trusts Joel and vice versa.
It Was Time To Say Goodbye
Unfortunately, all good things have to come to an end. Once the manta ray had its fill of yummy snacks and human interaction, he left. He was most likely going to rejoin the manta ray ranks that live not far from the harbor.
We bet that won’t be the last time the manta ray will journey to the harbor, though. It is most likely a routine, and he’ll be back the next day and the day after to see his human friend.
There Are Superstitions Surrounding Manta Rays
Although Joel’s manta ray buddy is very friendly, many superstitions surround the sea creature, one of which is an old sailor myth. It’s said that manta rays are bad luck because they will bring death to the entire crew.
This is because it was believed that manta rays were able to attach themselves to the anchor of a ship, dragging the entire ship down to Davy Jones’ Locker. Can you believe that they were feared just as much, if not more than, sharks?
The Creatures Aren’t As Aggressive As People Think
Over the years, the superstitions became mere whispers. Even so, maritime workers will still call manta rays sea devils or devilfish, just for old times’ sake! Even so, these creatures have become a sort of tourist attraction. Divers will follow the species in hopes of swimming alongside them.
This is an activity that was once thought of as a huge risk. Now, people realize that the sea creatures are actually very playful and not nearly as aggressive as they thought. Underwater photographer and diver Jake Wilton can personally attest to how friendly these gentle giants are.
Freckles, The Manta Ray
In 2019, a manta ray, nicknamed Freckles by the locals, was found swimming around Ningaloo Reef in Australia with several fish hooks wedged under her right eye. It must have been painful, and with no way to remove the hooks by herself, the manta ray thought it was best to ask for a helping hand… preferably one with opposable thumbs.
Now, it was a waiting game. It was crucial that the manta ray swim up to the right person. Otherwise, they might get scared, and Freckles would be back at square one.
Freckles Wanted Jake’s Help
Underwater photographer Jake Wilton was out diving one day with marine biologist Monty Hall when Freckles swam right up to him. “I’m often guiding snorkelers in the area, and it’s as if she recognized me and was trusting me to help her,” he says.
“She got closer and closer and then started unfurling to present the eye to me. I knew we had to get the hooks out of her eye, or she would have been in big trouble.” Wilton had to move fast, and carefully, so he did not further injure the poor creature.
Wilton Knew He Had To Help. But How?
Thankfully, Wilton understood what Freckles was trying to tell him. She needed help removing the hooks, and she was recruiting him to do it. Unfortunately, Wilton was a photographer and not a surgeon, so he didn’t really know what he was doing.
All he knew was that he had to work diligently and move slowly, so he didn’t scare off Freckles. She was going to be in big trouble if those hooks stayed that close to her eye.
Hall Filmed The Entire Encounter
Hall filmed the entire encounter, getting the incredible moment on film. It must have been wonderous for him, as a scientist, to witness such an interaction between man and a huge sea creature — especially one that was staying still and had complete trust in the human trying to help.
“I’m sure that manta knew that Jake was trying to get the hooks out,” says Hall. Wilton had to dive down several times to unlatch all the hooks.
Freckles Stayed Very Still
Wilton says, “she knew exactly what was going on. She had to show me, give me access. It’s incredible for an animal to work that out so quickly.” And he worked just as quickly, removing the hooks one at a time, so he didn’t hurt the creature.
During the entire procedure, Freckles never moved. She was the perfect patient, allowing Wilton to help her without freaking out in the process. It doesn’t hurt that manta rays are known to be highly intelligent creatures, so she probably knew he meant her no harm.
Freckles Reminded Jake Of A Little Kid At The Dentist
He used a pair of pliers to jimmy the hooks out of the manta ray’s blubbery exterior. Wilton said that the experience almost reminded him of a young kid at the dentist. Freckles would stay extremely still, just watching him, and then flinch at the last second when the pliers were close.
Honestly, we don’t blame Freckles. She was putting a lot of trust in a stranger (with a sharp tool) to dislodge more sharp objects from her face!
They Had To Work Fast
It’s a good thing Wilton decided to dive the reef that day. Having hooks that close to the eye could have led to infection, blindness, or the worst-case scenario, death due to infection. Obviously, none of these would be a good thing for Freckles.
It’s funny, though; the divers jumped into the water when they spotted the manta ray, not realizing that it was there looking for help. Hall thought he imagined things when it kept coming back to their group.
Hall Thought They Were Imagining Things, At First
In an interview with CNN Travel, Hall said, “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. After a few minutes, we noticed that it had some fish hooks buried beneath [its] right eye, and was repeatedly presenting itself to our [tour] guide Jake.”
“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,” says Hall. It’s a good thing they got the message!
It Took About A Half-Hour
It was a good thing they were there to help, but it did take a little while for Jake to remove all of the hooks. In an interview with CNN travel, Hall said, “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. “
The entire procedure took Jake about a half-hour, a time that most likely felt like an eternity for poor Freckles. At least he was able to remove all of the hooks without further hurting Freckles.
This It What Happens When Animals Trust A Human
About the experience, Hall said, “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.”
It just goes to show what can happen if you treat animals with respect. Even Joel is learning at a very young age that all he has to do for his manta ray friend is give it bits of food and pat it, never engaging it in a way that makes the animal uncomfortable. It is truly remarkable.
Meet The Brave Biologist
Lizzie Daly may look like your ordinary Instagram influencer out on a hike, but her diving expeditions are nothing short of extraordinary. She’s been fascinated by marine life since she was a little girl.
Her appreciation for the natural world led her to become not only a biologist, but also a broadcaster, filmmaker, and conservationist. Though she is a native of Wales, she has traveled all over the world conducting research and creating films that bring awareness to wildlife.
She’s Had An Action-Packed Career
As you can see by this photograph of Lizzie filming a shark underwater, her career has been anything but boring. In addition to being a presenter for such stations as National Geographic and Animal Planet, she has her own YouTube channel.
She is passionate about educating the public with her own wildlife talks and films that show the beauty of nature. Given her experience and interest, it’s no surprise that her ears perked up when she heard about massive jellyfish off the coast of the Cornwall, UK.
Her Videos Have Gone Viral
Lizzie has quite a reputation for bringing attention to wildlife, so it’s no surprise that her encounter with a massive jellyfish went viral. Not only can her science colleagues appreciate her efforts, but so can her many followers.
Lizzie obtained her Bachelor’s degree in Animal Behavior, so it’s no wonder she’s able to interact with such elusive creatures like a true professional. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in elephant to human conflict, so it’s safe to say she loves giant animals.
The Mission Of A Lifetime
Reports started coming in that thousands of “monster” jellyfish were invading the UK’s coasts. While many would feel intimidated and keep away from the ocean after such news, Lizzie dove right in, literally.
Here she is pictured before the barrel jellyfish. Though they can wash up on the shore, it’s rare for a diver to encounter one at such a close proximity. Needless to say, Lizzie was ecstatic to have had the dive of a lifetime.
Not Wasting A Single Moment
Taking photos beneath the water’s surface isn’t the only thing Lizzie is interested in. Whether it’s fish swimming near the water’s surface, dolphins leaping above the water, or whales spouting water at a distance, Lizzie has her camera out and is ready to catch it all.
When it came to capturing the barrel jellyfish underwater, Lizzie decided that a little help was warranted. She brought along cinematographer Dan Abbott so that he could capture the moment while Lizzie focused on finding the jellyfish.
The Diving Spot Was A Secret
Though Dan began rolling while Lizzie strapped on her gear, the duo kept their whereabouts relatively ambiguous. It turns out, the spot they were scoping out was a secret location that someone had told them about.
The location was somewhere along the coast of Cornwall and was rumored to have plenty of jellyfish. Some jellyfish are much more dangerous than others, so Lizzie’s expertise was vital. Once she caught sight of a jellyfish, she would know what kind of risks there might be.
Their Mission Was In Support Of A Cause
It may seem a little nutty that Lizzie and Dan were diving blind into a region said to be loaded with questionable jellyfish. However, their efforts stemmed from more than just curiosity. The video they set out to capture would go on to become a part of their Wild Ocean Week campaign.
They created the series to help raise money for the Marine Conservation Society in the UK. Knowing that their cause was bigger than themselves may have helped both Dan and Lizzie muster up the courage to dive in.
The Excitement Was Building
Though the secret location was practically a ghost town, there were stairs along a stone wall that enabled Lizzie to ease herself into the mysterious waters. While it’s possible that she may have felt a little nervous, she was probably more excited than anything.
Jellyfish are incredible creatures once you get to know a little about them. For instance, they don’t have brains, but rather are controlled by their nerves. They can also clone themselves!
Delving Below The Waters
As Lizzie delved below the water’s surface, Dan kept a close eye on her with his underwater camera to ensure that he didn’t miss a thing. They expected to capture a few images of Lizzie with the jellyfish, but couldn’t have imagined how incredible their journey would turn out.
At first, the dive seemed a bit dull. They swam over some plants but didn’t see any living creatures in sight. But as any seasoned scientist knows, sometimes patience is key.
Her First Encounter With A Jellyfish
The first jellyfish they spotted had the sort of aesthetic you might expect. It wasn’t very big and had a dome-like top with wavy tentacles. The brown parts of its body help made it a standout in the blue water.
There are typically two stages in the jellyfish life cycle: the polyp stage and the medusa stage. One type of jellyfish is nicknamed the “immortal” jellyfish since it has the ability to revert back to the polyp stage.
Meet The Jellyfish That Stole The Show
As Lizzie carried on swimming, something caught her eye that became the game-changer of the dive. The jellyfish you see here swimming along a reef is much larger than it immediately looks.
This image was taken from behind the jellyfish, which was positioned horizontally at the time. What we’re looking at are the tentacles, which are clearly much thicker than that of the jellyfish we saw in the previous picture. Lizzie knew that this was the moment she’d been hoping for.
Approaching The Jellyfish
Lizzie most likely could tell from a glance that it was a barrel jellyfish she had spotted. Knowing how rare this moment was, she wasn’t shy about swimming toward it to get a good shot with the creature.
One of the most amazing things about seeing this creature off the coast of the UK is that it is the largest jellyfish in the area. On top of that, it is relatively harmless to humans!
A Gentle Giant
This image gives a clearer scope of how long the jellyfish is compared to Lizzie. Though the biologist is petite, the jellyfish is still massive compared to those you’re probably used to seeing.
There are more than 2,000 kinds of jellyfish, and 70% of them can harm humans. One massive jellyfish is nicknamed the “pink meanie” for its aggressive sting. Fortunately, it was the barrel jellyfish that Lizzie came upon, and their sting is not typically harmful to humans.
Swimming Alongside The Massive Jellyfish
As the jellyfish began to swim on its side, Lizzie joined it so that they were swimming parallel to each other. It looks as though the tentacles could nearly touch Lizzie if either of them moved to much to one side.
While the sting wouldn’t likely be very detrimental to the diver, she is still brave for running the risk just to capture the graceful beauty of this massive jellyfish. Fun fact: some jellyfish don’t even have tentacles!
The Closest She Got To The Massive Creature
If the previous photograph wasn’t making you a little nervous, then this one likely might. Even if the jellyfish had no sting at all, it could play with your mind to be that close to a large creature you’re not used to seeing.
Fear aside, the jellyfish is absolutely gorgeous from this view. Its mushroom-shaped bell and wavy tentacles look soft enough to touch. The violet fringe around the bell is the part of the creature that contains its sense organs.
Up Close To The Jellyfish
Lizzie wasn’t the only one getting close to the jellyfish; let’s not forget that Dan was on the other side of the camera when it captured this up-close view of the graceful creature. This image shows the five-foot-long jellyfish up close, with Lizzie barely visible through its tentacles.
Jellyfish are the opposite of endangered since their numbers are actually on the rise. Their plentiful numbers may be part of the reason a group of Japanese students came up with a salted caramel recipe that includes powdered jellyfish!
Nothing Compared To Seeing This Jellyfish
As we saw in an earlier photograph, Lizzie had swum with sharks before. As a marine biologist, she’s encountered plenty of underwater creatures. However, she said in an interview that swimming with the massive jellyfish was the cherry on top.
Nothing could compare to Lizzie’s experience with the barrel jellyfish. Just imagine looking up and seeing something that looks like a mushroom cloud pass overhead. It’s no wonder that stories of sea monsters were so popular throughout history!
Lizzie and Dan were jumping for joy when they resurfaced. You can tell by Lizzie’s expression that she was shocked at what they had discovered. For someone who does this kind of work all the time, it takes a very special experience to elicit that kind of excitement.
Though the barrel jellyfish is said to be common off the southern and western coasts of Britain in summer months, getting that close to one is a magnificent accomplishment.
Eager To Share With Others
Lizzie was all smiles as she and Dan walked back to their cars. Her passion is evident not only in the joy she exudes doing her work, but also in how she uses her skillset to make a difference.
She was the first-ever female patron of ORCA and is an ambassador for the Marine Conservation Society, the Jane Goodall Institute UK, and the Norwich Science Festival. That’s what we call commitment and drive!
What Will She Encounter Next?
Now that she’s had one successful dive with a barrel jellyfish, we’re confident she’ll jump at the next opportunity to repeat the experience.
And though they are the largest jellyfish in the UK, they are tiny in comparison to the lion’s mane jellyfish, which is the largest species in the world at 120 feet long! Perhaps it will be one of these massive creatures that Lizzie chooses to explore next!