Tourists love to visit La Paz and have a unique opportunity to swim with sea animals near the beach.
However, visitors must remember that they are animals, not an amusement park adventure, and there are instances of the animals being a little aggressive towards guests.
Manta Ray Attack
It’s pretty rare, but it does occasionally occur.
A tourist in La Paz was swimming in the water watching manta rays and other sea life when she felt a sharp pain in her ankle. The pain was something completely different from a twisted ankle or a pulled muscle.
The pain was from a manta ray who obviously was not really happy with the tourist in the water.
The attack took place last Saturday, during the Easter travel season, at El Sonorense beach in La Paz.
The 43-year-old tourist yelped in pain when trying to exit the ocean, attracting the attention of her husband and first responders nearby.
Rescue personnel jumped into action to see what was wrong. What they found was an injury to her ankle caused by the manta ray.
She was fortunate. The visitor simply needed to receive first aid and a good cleaning of the wound with the application of a compression bandage. While that resolved the emergency, it was recommended that she visit a local hospital or clinic for follow-up care.
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Manta rays are generally considered passive animals and have a long tradition of getting along with nearby tourists in the water. Reports of being attacked by one are generally few and far between.
They are the sailors of the underwater ocean, gently gliding around the water with their extra-long fins. They are large creatures, growing as large as 15 to 20 feet long. They are filter feeders that generally eat plankton, similar to whales.
Their mouths, however, are different from typical rays in that their mouth is in front as opposed to the bottom of their bodies in other rays.
Manta rays are generally considered threatened animals around the world due to overfishing and loss of environmental habitat.
Tourism related to manta ray watching and swimming interactions is estimated to be more than $70 million a year worldwide.
What Caused The Attack
Exactly why the attack occurred is unknown. What happened to the animal right before the attack, or even earlier in the day, we will never find out. However, it is sufficient to say that it is unusual – in La Paz or anywhere else around the world.
In fact, no reports of any significant attacks could be found, and the fact is the manta ray may have been confused for the slightly more aggressive sting ray.
It could have also been that the animal was aggressive after being provoked. Tourists have been known to abuse the animals in their natural environment.
Maybe instead, the manta ray was a juvenile and simply playing a little too aggressively. It could have also been confused due to stress in the environment with swimmers or disease.
How To Stay Safe
It’s important for tourists to realize that there is a major difference between seeing an animal in an aquarium, where it may be used to human contact, and seeing a wild animal in an ocean.
The first way to stay safe is to be aware of this significant difference.
Another way to stay safe is to constantly monitor the surroundings. Tourists should remain vigilant at all times while in the water.
Carefully observe the behavior of the different animals and get out of the water or switch locations if some animals appear aggressive.
It’s also a good idea to use the buddy system when around wild animals in the ocean. Have a partner available who can help scare aggressive animals away and get the attention of lifeguards and other first responders immediately if needed.
Also, be sure to have travel insurance to help pay for emergency medical care while on vacation in La Paz.
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