Divers near the Ningaloo Reef in north west Australia were surprised to be approached by a massive, three-metre wide manta ray. What was even more surprising - and upsetting - was what they found underneath her massive wing-like body.

Photographer Jake Wilton was in the reef filming with the UK Broadcaster Monty Halls, when the majestic creature made her approach.

Under the ray's wing, they saw barbed fishing hooks were caught on the animal's right eye.

"You could see she would trust us, because she was unrolling and showing us the wounds" said Wilton, taking to the cameras of 4Media Group who were on the scene.

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"I'm often guiding snorkellers in the area," he said "and it's as if she recognised me and was trusting me to help her."

The marine naturalists recognised that without their help, the ray's wounds would prove fatal.

Wilton, armed with pliers dived down to try and remove the hooks from the animal.

The moment was captured on camera, showing the massive manta ray placidly allowing the diver to approach and remove the hooks.


"Jake went down and down again. She never moved. I'm sure that manta knew that Jake was trying to get the hooks out," said Halls.

The Broadcaster from the UK was in Ningaloo to observe whale sharks, however this once-in-a-lifetime encounter was an added bonus.

"To experience this as well is just phenomenal."


Manta rays are the largest of the rays, growing up to 7 metres wide and can live up to 50 years.

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The highly intelligent animals can be seen in large numbers off the Ningaloo Reef, year round.

Unlike stingrays they do not have a tail spike and are completely harmless to humans.

Ningaloo Reef is Western Australia's largest reefs, stretching from coral bay along the Cape Range National Park.