We have been lucky to have a few experiences with manta rays that weren’t just fleeting glimpses, we have hung around watching them feeding and being cleaned for hours.
I would love to share our amazing encounters with you and, if you aren’t a huge manta fan, I hope you will at least have learnt more about them afterwards.
We feel you can never have enough manta action, and we definitely still want more!!
Diving with mantas in Komodo National Park
Komodo is famous for its giant lizards, the komodo dragon as they are generally known, but it’s also one of the best places in the world to see the majestic Manta Ray. I have one dive friend (Bert) who managed to capture a video of between 70-100 mantas as they swam past him just under the surface when he had finished his dive. At first he thought he was only videoing one manta, then all of a sudden the huge mantatrain came from behind and he was completely in the middle of it, mantas were to the left of him, to the right and underneath; it took around three minutes for the whole group to pass by!
As we descended, we swam towards an underwater hill and there in front of us was a manta, gently floating around getting cleaned. We were elated, especially when we swam closer and counted five.
During the three dives we probably spent around 2.5 hours with these graceful creatures. We had the privilege of spending around 45 – 60 minutes each time with between five and seven mantas, watching in awe as they swam silently and effortlessly around and around the coral mountain. Each time they swam over us, they seemed to get closer and closer as we hovered near the sandy bottom. We could see their eyes looking at us, it was obvious they were aware of who we were.
There were still a few more surprises in store for us; the elusive Devil Ray came swimming by, if we blinked we would have missed it. Thank goodness we were watching all the action intently, unfortunately we were unable to capture a decent photograph.
Before we began to ascend, the sun moved around in the sky and started to shine through the ocean showing off their stunning silhouette shape. Just when we didn’t think the manta could get any more beautiful, they show us they can!
Snorkelling with mantas in Sangalaki
You don’t have to be a diver to see mantas, one of our best experiences for manta behaviour was snorkelling in Sangalaki. We were sitting on our dive boat at a surface interval and saw the fins of a few mantas just on the surface, well, you didn’t have to ask us twice if we wanted to jump in with them so we grabbed our mask and snorkels and dropped in close by.
Places in the world you can see mantas
There are many places in the world for manta ray viewing so take your pick! Listed below are the best sites according to Dive Magazine and Diviac Travel, plus Sangalaki where we saw them.
- Raja Amput, Indonesia
- Komodo National Park from Flores, Indonesia
- Air Atoll & Baa Atoll, Maldives
- Revillagigedos Islands & Socorro Island, Mexico
- Isla de la Plata, Ecuador
- Yap, Micronesia
- Rangiroa, Manihi and Fakarava atolls in French Polynesia
- Uepi Island Manta Rays, Solomon islands
- Yasawa Island, Fiji
- Coral Bay & Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
- Ishigaki Island, Japan
- Cabo Marshal, Galapagos
- Koh Bon & Similan Islands, Thailand
- Sangalaki on the Indonesian side of Borneo
- Nusa Lembongan & Nusa Penida which can both be reached from Bali
- The word “manta” is Spanish for cloak.
- There are two different species of mantas (before 2009, there was only one category of species, but then scientists realised they were different and split them into two). Manta Alfredi also know as Reef Mantas tend to be the species you see travelling or being cleaned in groups. Manta Birostis (the Oceanic or Giant Manta) are larger and more solitary.
- The Oceanic Manta is often found near the surface but can also dive to depths of 1,000 metres.
- A full grown Oceanic Manta’s wing span can reach up to 7 metres (23 feet) and weigh up to 2 tonnes.
- The Reef mantas are smaller and grow up to 3 to 3.5 metres (9-11.5 feet) weighing up to 1.4 tonnes.
- Chevron pattern is the most popular but there is also all black.
- Mantas are sexually mature around 10 – 15 years old.
- Gestation period is 13 months and they give birth to one pup at a time every other year.
- Mantas can have as many as 15-18 pups in their lifetime,
- Mantas give birth to live young but have never been filmed giving birth in the wild.
- Mantas live to at least 50 years old however scientists still know little about this and continue to study.
- They have around 300 tiny teeth – all of which are useless as they are filter feeders.
If you are want to support the Marina Megafauna Foundation's work protecting mantas, adopt a manta today!
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