We like to think of manta rays as underwater acrobats, but in Spanish manta means 'blanket'. Their massive noggins have also earnt the nickname 'brainiacs' (more on that later), while a freshly born manta pup is often referred to as a burrito, due to the rolled-up position in which they are birthed. It's enough to make the mind boggle. No matter what you call them, to have a manta ray glide inches above you is a truly remarkable experience, not least because of their size which, in oceanic manta rays, can reach seven metres.

Manta ray belly

Spot The Difference

While there are two different species of manta ray - reef mantas and oceanic mantas - they all have a unique pattern of spots on the underside of their bellies, much like a human fingerprint. This allows scientists to individually identify manta rays and so track them which helps to inform their conservation.

Manta ray, Palau

Brainiacs

Extraordinarily brainy (literally - they have the largest brains of all fish), manta rays are the first fish to have passed the mirror test, which is widely used to study self-awareness. Human children tend to fail this test until they are at least one-and-a-half years old.

Manta ray and reef

Plastic Not-So-Fantastic

Although the full effects of plastic pollution on manta rays and other filter feeders is still unknown, microplastics can block nutrient absorption and damage a manta's digestive tract. Scientists also speculate that plastic accumulation over decades could lead to altered growth, development and reduced reproduction.

Manta rays in the Maldives

Where To Find Them

Socorro, off Mexico, is hands down the best place in the world for diving with manta rays, with guaranteed sightings on every dive. Divers can also witness the unique spectacle of manta ray mating season in Yap in Micronesia (December to April) as well as Palau (December to March). Diving with manta rays in Indonesia is a common occurrence in Raja Ampat, Komodo and Bali while over in the Maldives, swim with mantas in their hundreds in Hanifaru Bay in the Baa Atoll (June to November).

"In nearly 20 years of diving, my best underwater experience still has to be finding myself in the middle of a manta feeding frenzy in Hanifaru Bay in the Maldives. Between June and November, the tide and current turn this small bay into a plankton soup, attracting hundreds of mantas who perform the most incredible underwater acrobatics."
Louisa Fisher, Head of Original Diving
Manta train
In Numbers
2

Tonnes

Weight of fully-grown oceanic manta ray

50

Years

Their average lifespan

2

Pups

Number birthed every other year

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Louisa, Lizzie B and India are our 'Manta Rays' experts and as seasoned travellers they have the inside track on the most memorable adventures.

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