It’s manta season in the Maldives as hundreds of rays congregate in the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Baa Atoll.
Manta rays migrate north to feed in the atoll’s famed Hanifaru Bay, a long and narrow protected marine area near the small uninhabited island of Hanifaru. Both mantas and whale sharks are drawn by a massive build-up of planktons, which are swept up to the surface by southwest monsoon winds and lunar currents from May to November.
This year’s manta season officially started on 6 May. During the peak period, more than 100 mantas at a time could be spotted feeding at the bay. Conditions are optimal to visit Hanifaru Bay between late June and October.
Diving is no longer permitted but snorkelling is allowed with strict guidelines.
Resorts in the area – including Kihaa Maldives, Amilla Resort & Residences, Royal Island, Soneva Fushi, Dust Thani and Four Seasons – arrange excursions for guests with licensed tour guides, offering the memorable experience of swimming alongside the majestic creatures or witnessing a feeding frenzy with hundreds of barrel-rolling mantas. Also located in Baa Atoll, The Westin Maldives Miriandhoo Resort recently launched an exclusive #PlayWell with Manta Rays package for an opportunity to swim with manta rays at Hanifaru Bay.
Trips can also be booked through licensed guesthouses and safari vessels.
Manta Expeditions, a UK company affiliated to the NGO Manta Trust, is planning expeditions in the Maldives on the Seafari Explorer 2 liveaboard in September, offering guests snorkelling excursions guided by Manta Trust experts.
The Maldives has the biggest recorded population of manta rays in the world. More than 4,900 individuals, including the endangered oceanic manta ray, have been identified across the country. All species of manta are protected by law.