So the other highlight of my Maldives dive trip besides the whale sharks was being able to see the majestic manta rays up close for the first time. I’d miss them previously in Malapascua, and I had seen various types of sting rays before this, but nothing is quite the experience of having a huge manta ray (or a whole school) just swoop by you, flapping their large wings and ‘flying’ through the water.
Photos don’t quite do manta rays justice because you have to see them in action to truly appreciate them. Check out my video below on diving with manta rays in the Maldives, and then read on for more about where we found them.
Our first encounter with manta rays was after our dive at Dhevana Kandu in the Felidhu Atoll – our boat was cruising around and we spotted schools of manta rays from the surface. Like with the whale sharks, everyone was all geared up to jump in the moment we were given the signal, and boy oh boy how cool is it to be snorkeling with manta rays just below the surface!
My video camera had run out of battery just after the dive, so I was left with my trusty Canon camera for video. I mostly swum with 2 lone ones, but some of the other divers were with a small school of 4 just some distance away.
The next time we had another serious encounter with the mantas was when we stopped over in Fesdu Lagoon for the night. We stopped alongside 3-4 other dive boats that evening, and they all had a lamp shining brightly on the back of their boats into the water.
As I explained in the video, the bright light attracts seabugs and plankton, which is what the mantas feed on. We spotted 2-3 mantas swimming around in the clear water, going back and forth and making these very ballet-esque flips in the water as they fed. I was on my belly and sticking my cameras into the water to try and get a decent shot.
We did end up diving there – didn’t even have to go out in the dhoni, just rigged up and jumped in the water. The bottom was sandy with bits of dead coral and rocks all around, so we tried our best not to kick up too much while we settled in. It was about 10m or so, we didn’t have to wait or move very much, just kneel down in the sand and let the mantas swim over our heads.
These mantas weren’t too bothered by us, and as you can see from the video they came really, really close. It’s kinda ghostly the way they loomed out from the darkness and swooped overhead, before disappearing back into the black shadows. We spent a whole hour down there just watching them do their dance – my pictures were really not very good because it was quite dark though.
The last time we encountered mantas was at Sunlight Thila on our second last dive. It’s a pretty shallow cleaning station and we found one very big manta ray there being cleaned. It swam away after a bit though, so we poked around the area a little more, before discovering another 2 smaller manta rays nearby. No photos from this, only videos and I’m too lazy to screenshot 😛
If you’re in the mood for more amazing things, here‘s a pretty awesome video documentary clip from NatGeo featuring an entire colony of manta rays (and whale sharks together, whut!!) over in Hanifaru Bay, now a protected area in the Maldives. It’s practically raining mantas!