The Best Manta Ray Season in the Maldives – 2011
Is 2011 the Best Manta Ray Season Maldives has Seen in Years?
Manta rays are often photographed swimming close to scuba divers
Over the past few months, we have been swamped with reports of manta ray sightings in the Maldives, with overjoyed divers and dive guides agreeing that it has been a bumper year for manta lovers. Many of our boats, such as Theia and MV Aquarius, have responded by launching special “Manta Madness” cruises, which take guests to the best Manta spots of the Maldives.
“It seems that thanks to numerous conservation efforts, the Maldives manta ray population is doing well these days. This is great news, especially considering that manta rays are an endangered species in most parts of the world.”
The recovery of the manta ray population in the Maldives appears to be evident in the dive logs of all of the liveaboard diving cruise ships we work with, as well as from anecdotal evidence we’ve received from crew members and guests over the past few months.
The abundance of mantas is also something observed by the Save Our Seas Foundation. Guy Stevens, the head of the foundation’s manta ray conservation project in the Maldives, recently commented: “The Maldives is the perfect place for these reef mantas; there is plenty of food all year round, there are few natural predators, and most importantly in today’s world of human exploitation, there has never been a significant or commercial fisheries for manta rays in the Maldives.” To read the whole interview, click here.
Best Time to See Manta Rays in the Maldives
Traditionally, the summer months offer the best chances for diving or snorkeling with manta rays in the Maldives. This is because of the higher amount of plankton in the water, which has a significant bearing on the manta ray migration in the Maldives. A manta ray diet consists mainly of plankton and the prevailing winds and currents of the hot Maldivian summer can create such a high concentration of food in certain places that a manta ray feeding frenzy ensues.
Watch this thrilling video of an underwater expedition amongst several manta rays in the Maldives
One of the most famous places where so-called manta ray cyclone feeding can occur, is the now legendary Hanifaru Bay, a dive spot made famous by a breathtaking photo reportage published by the National Geographic in 2009.
Especially in August, it is not uncommon to see more than a hundred animals gathering here during the Maldives manta ray season to make the most of the site’s unique geographical position, which sweeps huge amounts of plankton into the bay at certain times. This manta ray behavior is sometimes referred to as a “manta ray feeding aggregation”. The Maldives is known for the world’s largest aggregations of such nature.
Manta Ray Cleaning Stations Maldives
Another important element in the lives of these fascinating and absolutely harmless sea creatures are the many manta ray cleaning stations of the Maldives, which can attract several mantas at once. Seeing a troupe of imposing rays queue politely for their turn at the cleaning station is an absolutely unforgettable sight. Experienced dive guides such as ours know the locations of the most highly frequented feeding stations, where chances of diving with manta rays in the Maldives are the highest.
A open-mouthed manta ray approaches the camera
The manta ray cleaning stations of the Maldives are essentially rock or coral formation where manta rays stop by regularly to let cleaner wrasses pick parasites and dead skin particles off their bodies. It’s a symbiosis that is mutually beneficial – the cleaner wrasses get a steady delivery of food, while the manta rays have better chances of avoiding skin irritations and potentially dangerous infections caused by parasites.
Responsible Tourism in the Maldives – An Economic Necessity
While it seems that mantas in the Maldives are adept at taking care of themselves in terms of food and skincare, they need our help to protect their habitats from the negative impacts of human activity around them.
Their playful behavior and seeming indifference – even curiosity – for human visitors is remarkable and plays a big part in the tourism industry of the Maldives. The question is: how to balance economic development and mass tourism with the protection of the manta ray habitats of the Maldives?
The answer lies in a responsible approach to economic opportunities. Unlike commonly assumed, tourism can play a vital role in conservation efforts. The logic is simple – the manta ray population Maldives is of crucial importance to the economy and, as such, must be protected.
Stevens explains: “The more people who visit the Maldives in search of an encounter with manta rays the better; tourism really is important for the long term survival of manta rays in the Maldives and elsewhere around the world. However, tourism needs to be managed so that it is truly sustainable. As specific sites, such as Hanifaru, become overwhelmed with tourists there is a growing need for effective management to ensure that this site does not become degraded.”
Close-up shot of a manta ray in Maldives
The great challenge that lies ahead is to find a solution on how to manage sensitive manta ray feeding sites and how to enforce existing laws. The wheels of policy and bureaucracy have been notoriously slow in the Republic of the Maldives over the last decades. However, the new government’s commitment to environmental issues provides hope for responsible tour operators and scuba divers alike.
As always, Maldives Dive Travel is fully supportive of marine conservation efforts in the Maldives. We do our best to educate our staff and guests about the importance of responsible diving. It is our aim to help ensure that the magnificent marine life of the Maldives remains as breathtakingly beautiful as it is now for the next generations of scuba divers.
Want to experience the thrill of diving with manta rays in the Maldives? Our experienced booking agents and dive guides are at your service.
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