A squadron of manta rays at Gunn Point

A squadron of manta rays at Gunn Point

Having given away the interesting aspect of this particular flight through the title, I will describe some of the photographs that I took on my way out to this popular location. With the dry season upon us, sea waters clear up giving great visibility of sea life below as I fly over. This compensates for the inevitable haze and smoke caused by bushfires that are ignited during the dry season.

Departing the airport we almost always fly over a large crocodile farm filled with hundreds if not thousands of crocodiles destined to become belts, boots and bags at the end of their existence. This photograph is of the crocodile farm looking east over a suburb or area called Humpty Doo.

The next photograph is taken looking towards Darwin which is the small selection of white buildings in the middle left of the photograph. Palmerston is the largest sliver of white in the middle of the photograph and to the right of that and closer towards me is the Coolalinga shops.

The dirt strip running parallel and to the left of the highway in the bottom left of the photograph is an old World War II airstrip called Sattler airstrip. To the left of that is that these Creek school and Fred’s pass showgrounds and sports grounds.

This next photograph is taken over Howard Springs looking towards Shoal Bay which is my destination.

This photograph shows the approach to the Howard Springs hunting reserve through which the Howard River makes its way. The grasslands in between the trees transform over the year from various shades of green to brown and then when they burn, to black. The cycle is then repeated with the renewal caused by the wet season rains.

A closer view of the grasslands with the various shades of green.

I love seeing jabiru birds flying around this area.

I have left this photograph at full frame so you can see how I need to pay attention to see birds like the jabiru that is in the picture. You will probably need to click on the picture to fidn the bird.

Only when there are very high tides can boats and fisherfolk able to get into this area of Shoal Bay to fish from their boats. This particular spot is very popular, and you can see five boats or fishing in the one area. The white building on the horizon is Darwin Hospital which shows how close these remote areas are to the city of Darwin.

On the farthest boat in the picture, the one with the blue sunroof was the boat that my good friend Josh was fishing from on his recent visit to Darwin. Although on that day he was unlucky not to bag any fish, his next trip to another location at saltwater arm yielded far better results and we enjoyed barramundi fish wraps within a couple of short hours from the fish being in the water.

After inspecting the fishing expedition, I continued to tree point which is considered the start of Gunn Point. This very long beach is extremely popular during the dry season with campers.

I discovered that it was also a popular spot for manta rays. When I saw the first manta ray, I thought it might have been a floating piece of seaweed or even worse plastic. On closer inspection I was so pleased to see that it was a large manta ray.

I circled around taking quite a number of photographs of this manta ray as I hadn’t flown over one for many years. The last time was out at Dundee Beach and that was before the pandemic.

After deciding to continue my flight up the beach I was delighted to see another manta ray. This manta ray was larger and had a more mottled skin colouring with white patterns on a tan to black skin.

This manta ray was even closer into the beach. As it moved around flapping its wings it was kicking up lots of sand and probably extracting food from within that sand cloud to eat.

Again, after circling and taking a number of photographs I continued further along the beach and to my surprise encountered a third manta ray. This one like the first one was completely black and about the same size as the first one.

I estimate that the size of the largest one across both of its wings would have been the size of a small car.

So, what you call the group of manta rays? There are a couple of choices that the most popular one seems to be a squadron of manta rays followed by a fever of manta rays or stingrays.

In the last photograph in the album above, the shadow of my plane was over the top of one of the stingrays making me part of the squadron.

Shoal Bay looking towards the Howard River on the right.

Palmerston Hospital with Farrar, Gunn, Johnston, Bakewell, Rosebury and Zuccoli in the photo.

Finally flying back towards the airstrip, I photographed an estuary creek that was drying out with the receding tide combined with the heat of the sun. The contrast between the white sands and the wet dark sand rivulets extending out from the main creek offers a visual treat that is very difficult to see from the ground.

I hope you enjoyed my adventure with the manta rays as much as I enjoyed sharing it with you.


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