Victoria the Manta Ray
Excerpted from "Vieques,
A Photographically Illustrated Guide to the Island, Its History
and Its Culture"
On many nights a large Manta Ray named Victoria
visits the Mosquito Pier, swimming back and forth where the floodlights
shine into the water near the beginning of the pier. Victoria
has become a tourist attraction, delighting the savvy tourists
who make an evening visit to the pier, a "must-do" part
of their Vieques experience.
One night at the end of June 2003, Habiba and I made our way
to the pier. There were just three fishermen, sitting there at
the time. We walked over to the edge of the pier and within minutes
this manta ray cruised right by us. It swam just below the surface
and close up against the dock. It was a big, beautiful manta ray,
black with white spots on its wings. It swam slowly just a few
feet from the edge of the pier starting from where the lights
began and continuing until it reached an area of darkness. Then
it would make a wide circle, go around and come back to the beginning
of the lights.
The big manta ray illuminated by the dock lights and cruising
so close to us on that quiet starry tropical night had a surreal
quality that served almost to hypnotize those of us observing
Now, everyone is talking about this manta ray that people call
Victoria. So on August 1, 2003, we returned to the pier to see
Victoria again. We were there a bit earlier, around ten o'clock
at night, and there were about a hundred people there. Cars were
lined up on both sides of the pier. People were hanging over the
dock and along the railing above.
People were selling stuff out of trucks set up with beach umbrellas.
A man and a woman were baking clams on a grill and offering them
for sale. Another couple was selling skewers of barbequed shish
Some people had brought chairs and were stretched out relaxing,
but there was no manta ray, there were calamari and tarpon, but
no manta ray. A man with a video camera and other sophisticated
photographic equipment told us that Victoria had not showed up
yet and that he heard that she wasn't there the night before or
the night before that. Maybe she would show up later that night,
or maybe Victoria was just taking a break.
Meanwhile, people didn't seem to care. It was like a party, everyone
just watching out for that manta ray. We don't know if Victoria
came back that night or not, but we left and figured we'd return
when it wasn't a weekend or maybe later at night, just in case
Victoria was shy with so many people hanging around.
We came back to the pier at around 9:00 PM on August 6. There
were people and food vendors and there was Victoria, replete with
an entourage of remoras swimming just above and just below her.
And she was putting on quite a show. When she got by the center
of the crowd, she'd rise to the surface and the people would cheer.
Then when she reached the end of the lights, she would bank like
a jet plane when it makes a turn putting one white-spotted wing
into the air and then she'd swim around for another pass and more
The people were thrilled. Men and women, little children and
teenagers, Puerto Ricans from the Main Island, Viequenses and
North Americans all enthralled by the spectacular Manta Ray Show.
It seemed to us that eco-tourism is alive and well on the island