Not only is Nandi’s story incredible, so is the story of her primary caretaker Jerry Ntombela. Ntombela grew up in the fields of Sodwana Bay, a rural coastal area, with little opportunity for work. His work kept him busy, but his heart drew him to the sea. Ntombela began working at Coral Divers, cleaning SCUBA tanks. He worked there for years, learning to dive and absorbing all the information he could about the ocean. His passion for aquatic life led him to a job at uShaka Marine Park as an Aquarium diver. Ntombela worked his way up to become one of the lead aquarists, maintaining their 580,000 gallons open ocean exhibit. It was Ntombela who was tasked with caring for Nandi. Ntombela observed the tremendous joy that Nandi brought to the guests who came to see her. He then understood the power this animal had to connect people to the ocean, and how it inspired them to share his passion for aquatic life.
“Nandi has impacted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in South Africa. She has been an incredible ambassador for manta rays and aquatic animals, and we know she will continue that at the Georgia Aquarium,” Ntombela said.