Majestic mantas feature high on the priority list for many divers. The most elegant member of the ray family is equally at home gliding effortlessly in the most challenging of currents or floating serenely at a cleaning station. And with the largest brain-to-body ratio of any shark or ray, they are some of the ocean's most curious creatures, too. And while these fascinating fish patrol the world's oceans, these are our top five destinations for diving with manta rays.
One for the hardier diver - the volcanic island of Socorro is located a mere 26 hours liveaboard sailing from the Pacific coast of Mexico. This is the realm of the giant oceanic manta and divers travelling from November to May are more or less guaranteed sightings on every dive. However, the best site for playful interactions in undeniably El Boiler at San Benedicto Island, where these gentle giants swoop inches above divers to feel their bubbles tickle their belly.
The Maldives is a reef manta haven, with sightings possible across the archipelago year round. For calm seas, blue skies and plenty of manta action, head to the South Ari Atoll from December to April. Those travelling 'off-season' should head north to Hanifaru Bay in the Baa Atoll, where snorkellers can observe a feeding frenzy of up to 200 mantas at a time from June to November. Want to protect and preserve these majestic creatures? Guests of the southerly Six Senses Laamu can become budding marine biologists out on a research trip with the Manta Trust.
Yap Island is often referred to as the 'manta capital of the world'. Divers can observe the graceful giants gliding within inches of their heads at cleaning stations along the barrier reef virtually year round, but numbers peak from December to April which is mating season in the Mi'l channel. Pair this with the world class wreck diving of Chuuk Lagoon for an unforgettable Micronesia diving adventure.
Manta rays have been officially protected in Indonesia since 2014, so the 17,000-island archipelago is a haven for these creatures. And while they can be seen in various areas throughout Indonesia, some of the best spots are in Komodo, Bali and Raja Ampat. The plankton-rich waters around Komodo draw in mantas aplenty, while Manta Point on Nusa Penida, a small island off the southeast coast of Bali, sees these rays flock to be 'cleaned' by wrasse fish. Raja Ampat is easily one of our favourite dive spots in the world, with its beautiful soft corals and macro life, and it also happens to be a great place to spot mantas.
They (read: we) say that the more remote a place is, the better the diving is. Never has this been more apparent than in Palau, which, located in the remote western Pacific Ocean, boasts unparalleled marine bio-diversity, dramatic wall diving, Second World War wrecks and colourful reefs galore. But the jewel in its crown comes in some of the world's best manta ray diving. Visit between December and March to witness the unique spectacle of manta ray mating season, which is undoubtably one of the most epic manta ray diving experiences out there.
Fancy ticking off the bucket list diving with manta rays? Get in touch with our team today to plan the ultimate diving trip.