A MANTRA ray provided a rare but welcome sight for a number of people cruising around the Bay of Islands at the weekend.
The ray was seen by about 65 guests, as well as staff, on board a Discover the Bay cruise run by Explore NZ on Saturday afternoon.
Photographer Daniel Barratt, who takes pictures for the company, captured a series of stunning shots of the ray gliding through the water.
"One of our crew members spotted something in the water and then all of a sudden it turned upside down and then everyone was getting excited ... As soon as it turned over, we knew what it was," he said.
"We stopped the boat, turned it around and I ran outside with my camera. It was absolutely incredible."
Department of Conservation marine scientist Clinton Duffy, who has written a paper about the occurrence of manta rays in New Zealand waters, said the sighting was a treat because, although they migrate here each year, they are rarely seen.
"The species that we see in New Zealand has never been recorded from the southwest of the Pacific or anywhere in the western Pacific.
"They're quite rare visitors. Although they do come here every year, they are actually very rare - there's not large numbers."
Mr Duffy said the manta ray was special in that it could grow up to 10m in width and did not have a sting and therefore could not hurt you that way.
"The only danger they really pose is if they land on you by accident, because they do jump," he said.
"They exceed a tonne ... You could be killed if one landed on you.
"But it's never happened - that I know of."
* Can weigh more than a tonne.
* Can grow up to 10m wide.
* Does not have a sting.
* Has only one pup every other year.
*Is completely protected in New Zealand waters under the Wildlife Act.