Manta Madness in the Maldives!!
A beautiful Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredo) gliding overhead at a cleaning station.
Like 4 years ago it was a case of start the week as you mean to go on. On the first and second dive after our arrival in Male we visited a dive site close to the city called Lankan Paradise. A cleaning station known for good Manta Ray sightings. Just the week before our dive boat had a dive there with around 10 Manta Rays so our hopes were high. The current on the 1st dive wasn’t running in the ideal direction for Manta sightings and we flew across the reef with no luck. We decided to try the site again to give as much chance as possible for a good Manta Ray sighting.
The biggest Reef Manta Ray I’ve seen underwater came on only our second dive of the trip!!
The dive started slow and we passed the cleaning station with no luck. It was starting to get a little disappointing as the main reason for the dive site is Mantas. We turned around to head back in the direction as we were coming up to around 30 minutes into the dive. As we got closer to the cleaning station we saw a large aggregation of divers and got excited our luck was about to change. Sure enough when we arrived at the cleaning station was probably the biggest Reef Manta Ray I’d ever seen. I’ve been lucky enough to dive with both Oceanic and Reef Mantas on a few occasions and this reminded me more of an Oceanic due to it’s sheer size. A great way to start our week in the Maldives and great to see my fellow divers who had never done tropical sea diving before get a real buzz. The dive boat was rocking with the excitement after the dive and gave me a great feeling as I helped to organise the trip.
A couple of days diving had passed with only a fleeting glimpse of another Manta Ray by a portion of the boat (not me). Then came the second dive on day 4 to Moofushi Corner and wow what a dive. Literally from the 1st minute of the dive there was action. We plummeted straight down to around 35 minutes into the channel where we saw a school of 20 plus Eagle Rays gliding along in the current. We fought really hard to try keep up and I was in awe of such beauty and grace underwater. I managed to get a snap shot of the scene that greeted us but was difficult to keep up and at 35 metres. We hovered over the channel marvelling at the many Grey Reef Sharks for a little longer until our computers were getting close to Deco and it was time to shallow up to the cleaning station to see if there were Mantas.
Within minutes of the dive we plummeted to around 35 metres and were greeted by this school of Eagle Rays!!
Can this dive really get any better. AMAZING!!!! As we got to around 24 metres we 1st spotted the 2 Manta Rays on the cleaning station a little further above us on the sloping station. The current was really strong and was threatening to take us off the reef and fly us away from the Manta show. However we fought hard and managed to work our way to a sheltered area at the top of the cleaning station around 15 minutes. For 5 minutes it was nice to get a little rest bite from the current but where was the Manta? I couldn’t see over the lip of the reef and started to get a little anxious. Then suddenly the adrenalin started pumping as this Manta came up over the top of the reef right above my head. It literally pinned me to the reef it got that close. What an amazing interaction with such a graceful marine animal. It continued to circle the cleaning station right above us and a couple of more Mantas came in view at times. I would definitely regard this dive up there with some of my best ever.
Reef Manta Ray gliding through the cleaning station. We spent around 20 minutes with it.
The day didn’t end there and probably why it has become one of my best days underwater. We moored up in Fesdhoo Lagoon for the night where Manta Rays are known to come to feed on blooms of plankton. To increase our chances of seeing them and possibly getting to do an extra night dive with them- The boat attached a large halogen light to the steps at the back of the boat. This attracted blooms of plankton up to the surface and below our boat to hopefully attract Mantas to the back of the boat to feed.
We started at night fall around 6pm and there was a huge anticipation on the boat for what might soon happen. Everyone waiting patiently on the back of the boat. 2-3 hours went by with the odd call of excitement “NURSE SHARK”. A fairly large curious Nurse Shark went by on a couple of occasions intrigued in what was happening at the back of the boat. “MANTA” was the call and sure enough a Manta made a quick bypass beneath the boat under the light full of plankton. It was gone quicker than it arrived and we started to worry that our time in the water wouldn’t come. Slowly as the time approached 10pm most of the boat had succumbed to their disappointment and headed to bed. There was only 3 of us left committed to the cause. Then as the time worked it’s way to 10.30pm my excitement was plain to see as I screamed “MANTA” and quickly grabbed my camera, mask, snorkel and fins. Diving was not an option at this point and I just wanted to get in and get some photos. The bell rang and most got out their beds to come enjoy the show.
What a show it turned out to be as we had around 3/4 different Mantas dance for us at the back of the boat Barrel Rolling as they gorged on the Plankton bloom created under the boat. This lasted for at least 2 hours until we eventually had to leave one Manta in there to continue feeding. Most the guests managed to get in with them at some point and me and a couple of others stayed in for 2-2.5 hours marvelling at the show. I was reluctant to get out but new I had enough photos to keep me happy for a lifetime and it was time to get to sleep ready for another day of diving the next day. With the high I was feeling I didn’t get to sleep until around 2am and was up at 6am to go diving. It was well worth every minute though and memories that will last a lifetime.
Reef Manta Ray that visited us at the back of our liveaboard at night. Barrel-roll feeding right in front of me!!
For more information on booking or if you would like to join me October 2020. Speak to my friend John: