A marine biologist has captured footage of what he describes as the largest courting train he has ever seen between a fever of manta rays at Lady Elliot Island.
Pablo Cogollos was working on the island a few months ago when he witnessed the magical moment between the manta rays.
“I was taking five people to a snorkelling safari adventure where we spent an hour looking for different marine animals but we did not expect to see as much in such a short time,” he said.
“We did encounter the fever of manta rays after five minutes in the water and we quickly realised that was not a normal courting train.
“That was the biggest courting train that I have ever seen.”
A “fever” is the collective noun for a group of manta rays.
According to Lady Elliot Island Eco Resort, a courting train is a mating ritual that can last up to several days.
When a female is ready to mate she will be followed by several males trying to match her every move, which emulates an underwater dance.
During this time, the female will test the males by disrupting the train and checking which male is best at getting back into formation.
“I counted one female and 22 males,” Pablo said of the courting train.
“They were following the female and making a big effort to copy her same swimming movements.
Pablo said he felt honoured to have witnessed the moment.
“I am the luckiest person on the planet not only to work doing what I love, but also to be able to share such a unique moment with a few privileged people,” he said.
“The people I was with got really inspired about that moment and said it was the best day of their lives.
“Hopefully they will be able to inspire more people to visit the reef and fall in love with it.”
View the video here.
Lady Elliot Island holds a special place in Pablo's heart
The marine biologist, diving instructor and master reef guide has been working in various locations on the Great Barrier Reef for the past seven years and said nothing compared to the magic of the island.
“From the moment that you jump on a plane and you get the views of the island to the moment that you depart the island is a non-stop experience of wildlife encounters and meaningful memories,” he said.
“When you get to visit and you think that it can not get better, it always surprises you with another layer of amazingness.
“New wildlife that you have never seen before or closer encounters with animals that you only get to see in documentaries of BBC and David Attenborough.
“Working at LEI was one of my dreams and I know that I will always come back at least a few months a year because there is nothing like it.”
Pablo encouraged those who had not yet made the trip to Lady Elliot Island and surrounding areas to add it to the bucket list.
“Bundaberg on the southern Great Barrier Reef has one of the most beautiful and diverse reefs that you can imagine and it is right there on your doorstep,” he said.
“From Keppel Island going to Heron Island, Lady Musgrave and Lady Elliot, it is mind-blowing.”