The three-metre-wide manta ray, nicknamed Freckles, can be seen approaching the group on Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia.

She flips over in the water, revealing several metal hooks dangerously embedded close to her right eye.

Underwater photographer Jake Wilton knew he had to act quickly “or she would have been in big trouble,” he said following the heartwarming rescue.
manta ray

‘She got closer and closer and then started unfurling to present the eye to me’, said diver Jake Wilton.

He told British marine biologist and broadcaster Monty Halls: “I’m often guiding snorkellers in the area and it’s as if she recognised me and was trusting me to help her.

“She got closer and closer and then started unfurling to present the eye to me. I knew we had to get the hooks out of her eye or she would have been in big trouble.”

Halls, who was aboard the boat when the scene was captured, said he was sure Freckles knew “exactly what was going on”.

“Jake went down and down again. She never moved. I’m sure that manta knew that Jake was trying to get the hooks out.”

helping a manta ray

Jake Wilton (left) speaks to Monty Halls.

The stunning video shows Jake rising triumphantly from the water clutching the hooks before the giant manta ray swims away.

“That manta ray absolutely understood what was going on, Jake went down again and again and she just remained still for him,” said Halls.

“I came to Ningaloo Reef as it’s one of the best places in the world to swim with whale sharks – so to experience this as well is just phenomenal.”

giant manta ray

Once the hooks were removed, the beautiful ray swam off.

Manta rays are among the most intelligent creatures in the ocean.

Unlike stingrays, they don’t have an external spike and are totally harmless to humans.

Manta rays can reach up to seven metres in width and are among the most intelligent sea creatures.

Manta Rays can grow up to seven metres wide and live for around 50 years.

If the offending hooks had not been removed from Freckles’ eye it could have become infected, leading to blindness and even death.

Coral Bay, located along a section of Ningaloo Reef, is one of the best places in the world to swim with manta rays which congregate in large numbers all year round.

Other marine wildlife which can be spotted on the World Heritage-listed reef include humpback whales, dolphins, whale sharks, dugongs and turtles.