Snorkeling with the Manta Rays in Maldives
The Maldives is home to an abundant number of marine species that are unique, colorful and are easily accessible to personal encounters. Many enthusiasts of snorkeling, swimming and diving usually come to this Indian Ocean destination hoping to see some manta rays. Having a notion that one has only a good chance of having an encounter with manta rays if you are diving, I have not really thought of seeing one because yes, I have not done a diver course…. Yet, that is! So, lo and behold, my visit in February this year has been a truly lucky time! The manta rays in Maldives are swimming shallow in the Lankanfinolhu Manta point of North Male Atoll. What does this mean??? The snorkelers have a special chance to see them during this “cleaning season”! Manta excursion, here we go!
After a 30-minute speedboat ride, our boat was the first on the area. We cruised slowly for 5-10 minutes on the look out for the gentle giants! And yes, there they are swimming rhythmically in the shallow part of the lagoon. Donning mask, snorkel and fins, snorkelers jumped into the water and swim near the vicinity of the rays where we saw a total of 6 swimming by. A group of 4 and then 2 goes around in like a known pattern and motion. Even with 7 of us snorkeling around, the manta rays did not seem bothered and continued with their calm and leisurely movement. They start from depths of around 10-12 meters and then come up and around the shallow area. It would seem that they follow a pattern and would return to same routine a number of times with some point even coming very close to us.
According to the Manta Trust of Maldives, the manta rays which are seen around the Maldives are the reef mantas or Manta Alfredi and this is the smaller of the two species that are known. They have an average wing span of 3-3.5 meters and could weigh up to 3,000 lbs. Swimming near them makes you realize how big they are as they indeed loom over you as they glide through the waters. A lot of Maldives visitors are not as lucky as it is indeed seasonal when the manta rays goes to the shallow area. It is mostly dependent on the monsoon currents around the Maldives when nutrient filled waters are pushed to shallow, planktons become abundant which is the main food source for these incredible creatures. Between the 26 atolls of the Maldives, there are recommended places to visit in different periods where you might have a greater chance of seeing one IRL! There are apparently around 5,000 of them moving up and down the island country throughout the year so they will be somewhere around Maldives at any point during the year.
As for me, I will for sure take the next opportunity to be close and personal again when I get the chance! And maybe, I will not only be snorkeling but instead I’ll be a certified diver by then and would be able to get a better vantage point at 12 meters under the amazing manta rays here in Maldives!