The underwater realms in the Maldives are home to a myriad of mysteries and wonders. Amongst one of these wonders is the majestic manta ray. With their majestic wingspans and graceful demeanour, encountering a manta ray during your dive in the Maldives is a moment that etches into one's memory for a lifetime. To celebrate World Manta Day this year, let’s embark on a journey into the depths to discover the enchanting world of manta rays, from their uniquely-manta characteristics to the best practices for responsible diving encounters.
Epitome of Elegance Underwater
Despite their immense size, these elegant rays exhibit a gentle and curious nature, often approaching divers with a sense of wonder, creating a unique bond between species. In such cases, it is best to let the manta guide the interaction instead of the other way around. These majestic beings find their home in the warm embrace of tropical and subtropical oceans across the globe. No wonder that the mantas feel so at home in the Maldives.
Specific locales, such as the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll, Seenu Atoll, Ari Atoll, and Lhaviyani atoll have gained fame as prime manta ray hotspots. However, certain marine protected areas such as Hanifaru Bay restrict diving. Make sure you research your spot before you go. You can use our handy map with the manta spots in every atoll for your research.
Diving with Respect
There are several guidelines in place to make sure all divers have respectful and sustainable encounters with manta rays. Enter the water calmly and quietly, maintaining a respectful distance of at least 3 metres (10 feet) from the rays. Minimise splashing by keeping your fins submerged and approach these majestic creatures only from their side. Avoid chasing after them, as sudden movements can startle them and disrupt their natural behaviour.
As divers, these are some extra steps you can take to minimise your impact as much as possible:
1. Buoyancy Control: Maintain excellent buoyancy control to avoid accidental contact with manta rays or the reef. This skill helps you glide effortlessly through the water without disturbing the creatures below. If a manta swims towards you, do not block their path.
2. Cleaning Station Etiquette: If you are diving with a manta at a cleaning station, please remain at the side of the cleaning station and under no circumstances should you swim onto the main cleaning area.
3. Respect Bubbles: When exhaling, release bubbles gently to prevent startling the mantas. Loud or sudden bubbles could disrupt their behaviour and cause them to retreat.
5. Use Dive Lights Wisely: If you're diving with manta rays at night or in low-light conditions, use your dive light sparingly and avoid shining it directly on the rays. Bright lights can disorient them and disturb their natural activities.
6. Dive Briefings: Pay close attention to dive briefings given by your dive instructor or guide. They will provide specific information about interacting with marine life, including manta rays, at the dive site.
6. Keep Equipment Secure: Ensure that your scuba diving equipment is well-secured and streamlined. Loose hoses, gauges, or dangling equipment can inadvertently come into contact with marine life.
7. Choose Reputable Operators: Select dive operators that prioritise responsible diving practices and offer manta ray encounters guided by experienced professionals who understand the creatures' behaviour and the local ecosystem.
8. Stay with the Group: During manta ray dives, stick close to your dive group. This minimises your impact and helps the rays acclimate to the presence of divers more naturally.
9. Stay Informed: Stay informed about the specific rules and regulations of the dive site. Some locations might have unique guidelines for diving with manta rays that are essential to follow.
10. Underwater Photography Etiquette: If you're capturing the experience with underwater photography, be mindful of your surroundings. Use natural light whenever possible, avoid using flash, and ensure that your movements are slow and deliberate.
11. Observe and Learn: Take the opportunity to learn about manta rays before your dive. Understanding their behaviour, feeding patterns, and habitat can enhance your experience and allow you to interact with them more respectfully.
Make Manta Memories in the Maldives
An encounter with a manta ray is one of the most magnificent experiences you can have in the Maldives. Their elegance, grace, and beauty is a reminder of the majesty and strangeness of the underwater realms. Mantas have intrigued people for decades and they continue to do so. Through continued conservation efforts and mindful exploration, you can ensure that generations to come can share in the mesmerising dance with manta rays, a dance that bridges the realms of humans and the underwater world.