Panama 2019 Day 13: Manta Raya

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.


6 thoughts on “Panama 2019 Day 13: Manta Raya

  1. Here in the Caymans a big tourist attraction is “Sting ray City”. It is an area in the North Sound where it is said fisherman came to clean their catch before heading to town. Stingrays supposedly began to associate boat engines with food. Today lots of companies bring tourist to the area by boat. You get in the water and stingrays swim around you. We have done the trip many times with each of our kids and their families, as well as guests we had. I don’t remember ever being told to watch out to not step on them, although I wondered about that after Steve Irwin died in that fluke accident. BTW, it was not my cup of tea 😏

  2. Apparently it was a busy ray, a large sting ray that killed Irwin. Rays at Stingray City are “southern” stingrays, smaller and not aggressive.

  3. for Ada: Whichever kind of ray killed Irwin, it had to do with his swimming just above the ray, and the thing got spooked, flipped its tailup, and the spike landed in Irwin’s heart. A spike to the heart or abdominal cavity is usually fatal; to other parts of body can be survived. The fishermen here know the big rays are dangerous. When they pull one up on the beach, they wave people away until someone goes up and hacks off the spike with a machete.

  4. for Ada: The ones who burrow in the sand in shallow water here are small, and stick their spikes up through the sand. Stepping on a spike makes a nasty wound.

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