Manta Rays are not dangerous. Sting Rays are; they have a serrated tail that flips up and delivers venom when the tail punctures the skin. The wounds aren’t always fatal, but they can be if the sharp tail penetrates the heart or abdominal cavity. Steve Irwin died in just such an accident in 2006.
Here the lifeguards encourage the wearing of water shoes so that you don’t step on the pointy tails of small manta rayas that stick out of the sand as you enter the water at low tide. That sounds like sting ray danger to me, not manta ray. But the creatures are called “manta raya”. Gloria’s husband Luis stepped on a pointy tail some years ago, and she remembers how painful the puncture wound was and how long it took to heal.
Sally, Michael and I took an early morning swim, and after we were out the lifeguard came over to show us a video of a big ray — either a manta ray or sting ray — that had just cruised the waters where we’d been swimming. Another lifeguard had somehow lured or dragged the ray farther down the beach, and supposedly the water was now clear.
“Unless,” she said, “there are more or this one comes back.”
I asked about swimming, and she said “at your own risk.”
Michael and Sally went in later, and I went down to the water line with Miley, who wanted one more ocean swim before she had to leave to go back to Panama City for a summer mathematics intensive course. I went in; Miley didn’t. She kept thinking she saw the shadow of the ray lurking just below the surface.