"Team smalleye" – the members of our MEGA Expedition team in August enjoyed multiple dives with the largest (and probably rarest) stingray in the ocean, the smalleye stingray
“Diving in Mozambique is unpredictable. This was the first piece of advice I gave to our guests on our inaugural MEGA Expeditions this past June and August. Halfway through our first dive in June, I could see the divers looking at me and laughing underwater. In minutes, we had gone from clean blue water with 20-meter visibility to a green murk with maybe four-meter visibility. Despite that, we saw a reef manta, giant guitarfish, grey reef sharks, and potato groupers.
MMF co-founder Dr. Andrea Marshall snorkels with a bull shark during the inaugural MEGA Expeditions in 2019. Photo credit: Anna Flam, expedition leader and manta research manager
Diving in Mozambique might be unpredictable, but it’s also high risk, high reward, and that’s why I love it so much. We had some days battling rough seas, and others with flat water and blue skies. While the whale sharks didn’t cooperate, we had other encounters that I would definitely rate as rarer and more special: snorkelling with dugongs, hour-long dives surrounded by cleaning mobulas, and multiple dives with the largest (and probably rarest) stingray in the ocean (the smalleye) – so many in fact, that I started calling our group “team smalleye”.
Image of a smalleye stingray – the largest stingray in the world – taken during MMF's MEGA Expeditions in August 2019. Photo credit: Anna Flam, expedition leader and manta research manager
We even advanced our local research. The smalleye stingray we photographed in August has now been photographed four times between 2012 and 2019, extending our longest resighting from six years to seven – information which deepens our understanding of these amazing animals who are listed as ‘data deficient’ on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species – and helps to drive conservation efforts.
"Team smalleye" even spotted a rare dugong, which also has small eyes, so the name "smalleye" still worked 😉 Photo credit: Anna Flam, expedition leader and manta research manager
On the surface, I introduced everyone to MMF’s research, conservation, and education programs. Sunset dhow trips, with special flamingo visitors, were a welcome way for me to share the stunning local environment. In the end, I think everyone left with a new appreciation for the marine environment here in Mozambique and a better understanding of why we are so driven to protect it. I’m also excited to have gained a few new dive buddies, and can’t wait for next year’s expeditions."
– Anna Flam, expedition leader and manta research manager for MMF
One of our expedition members, Christina, dives with an endangered mobula ray. Photo credit: Anna Flam, expedition leader and manta research manager