Scuba Diversion has launched an exclusive new 2019 liveaboard expedition to dive Black Rock and the Burma Banks as part of its successful series of ‘Off The Chart’ expeditions. Led by host Ric Parker, guests will have the opportunity to contribute to manta ray research, improve their photography skills and take part in a ‘blackwater dive’.

Joining Ric will be special guests Anna Flam, a leading Manta Ray scientists from the Marine Megafauna Foundation and the global co-ordinator for MantaMatcher.org, and Alex Tyrrell, a professional underwater photographer and founder of dive4photos in Koh Tao.

The trip, which takes place from 10-18 March 2019 and costs from approximately £1,500 not including donations and fees, will be returning to the best areas of the Mergui Archipelago following an outstanding 2018 expedition which saw lots of action; from giant mantas on the very first dive to a whaleshark on the very last.

The 2019 expedition will start at Black Rock in the hope of seeing similarly spectacular manta action as last year. The liveaboard will also visit other manta aggregation sites in the Mergui Archipelago before heading west to the Burma Banks. More dives are planned at the famed Banks than ever before, offering the chance for more exploration and some special activities. Based on new areas discovered in 2018, positive coral recovery and encounters with huge malin, nurse sharks and juvenile silvertip sharks and a successful mapping project at West Canister Island, the expedition might also attempt to map the Banks. As much is yet to be learned about manta migration patterns, the itinerary will be somewhat flexible to allow the expedition leaders and scientists to decide which are the best sites for manta encounters.

Guests will also have the opportunity to try ‘blackwater diving’, a popular style of extreme night diving which is loved by underwater photographers in particular. The dive is conducted in deep water while drifting along with the current. A downline attached to a buoy with a string of powerful lights acts both as a reference for the divers and to attract the marine life. On this dive, the aim is to see larval creatures, open ocean drifters and, possibly, even deep-water species that migrate up to shallower water after dark.

There will be several onboard presentations about what was learned about mantas during 2018’s expedition, which was the company’s most-fruitful to date in terms of manta ray research, with a record-breaking number of encounters at Black Rock.

Anna Flam will be collecting data on the manta rays encountered throughout the trip and guests will be able to participate by helping with her research. Over the past four years with MMF, Anna Flam has been collecting vital information on manta ray population size, structure and connectivity. Her data can be used to further understand populations and guide the development of management and conservation strategies.

Anna said: “2018’s expedition was a huge success. We saw 40 mantas over three days at Black Rock. 20 females, 17 males, and three of unknown sex. 34 of these mantas were new to the database, and six had been seen before. Of those, one of our resighted mantas (TH0258B) was last seen in Koh Bon, Thailand, in 2016, making her a new addition to our confirmed international migrators. We have now recorded 19 mantas making the migration between Thai and Burmese waters. Thanks in large part to photographs from expeditions like this one, we have the largest database of giant mantas in the Indian Ocean. There are now 519 identified mantas in the Thailand/Myanmar region!”

Alex Tyrrell will be on hand for camera set-up advice, shooting tips, photo-related questions and troubleshooting throughout the trip. He will also hold a series of presentations concentrating on wide-angle shooting. The talks cover wide-angle ambient lighting with colour correction filters, using strobes with wide-angles and the basic editing of wide-angle images with Adobe Lightroom.

Places for this exclusive trip are limited. For more information or to book, visit: https://www.scuba-diversion.com/off-chart/myanmar-2019/

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