MALE, Maldives, 15 Sept 2022: Ahead of World Manta Day on 17 Sept, Lynn Jula Kessler, the marine biologist at Outrigger Maldives Maafushivaru Resort, offers the following advice on viewing the gentle giants.
1. When to go?
The manta rays’ migration pattern is dominated by the two monsoon seasons in the Maldives. From roughly December to May, we find the mantas more frequently on the Western atolls. From June to November, the focus is on the eastern sites. In South Ari Atoll around Outrigger Maldives Maafushivaru Resort, there are record year-round sightings of manta rays, as the animals don’t leave the atoll when the monsoon changes (due to the geographical size of the atoll). Most manta sightings have been recorded between October and March.
2. Videos and books to enjoy in preparation
The Manta Trust has published a fantastic Guide to Manta and Devil Rays, which gives a great overview of all the manta species known to science, with helpful identification keys. For a more aesthetic book, the resort recommends the Secret Life of Manta Rays, co-authored by Dr Guy Stevens, the founder of Manta Trust. This book has stunning photographs and interesting insights into conservation efforts, plus it’s a beautiful coffee table book. One of the biggest threats to manta ray populations worldwide is overfishing.
3. Choose a resort with a dedicated marine biologist or conservationist
Many resorts in the Maldives have a resident marine biologist or conservationist on site. With a bit of research or by contacting the resort directly, you can find out how well the marine biologist is included in the resort’s ocean activities — and what other types of sustainability efforts are being pursued by the resort.
4. Do a trial snorkel or scuba dive first
This is important, especially if you are not a strong swimmer or have little experience snorkelling in the ocean. Try snorkelling in a safe environment first. This way, you can familiarise yourself with the equipment, practice being in open water, and increase the chance of a more enjoyable manta dive or snorkel excursion.
5. Be ready!
If you join a group trip, make sure you listen to your guide’s instructions and are ready to get into the water anytime.
6. Don’t get too close
Manta rays are very curious by nature. Try to stay at about a three to four-metre radius. But due to mantas’ inquisitive nature, they almost always break this distance themselves. The best advice regarding manta ray encounters is to stay as calm as possible. The chances of the manta ray turning around and checking you out from up close are much higher when you remain calm at the surface rather than splashing around and chasing after it. However, don’t try to touch a manta ray. This will most likely end the encounter as mantas are not tactile animals and get scared when touched.
7. Photography tip
Guests often focus more on their camera settings than on the mantas themselves. If you are not familiar with your camera settings or you, don’t want the extra pressure of having to take pictures as well as keeping up with mantas, leave the camera behind. However, action cameras such as GoPros are usually a very easy solution and make great footage and can be rented at the dive centre.
8. Instagram channels to keep an eye on
If you are interested in manta rays, visit the channels of Manta Trust (@mantatrust) and the Maldivian Manta Ray Project (@maldianmantaproject). On the OZONE Maafushivaru (@ozone_maafushivaru) channel, I share information and insights on manta rays and other marine projects at Outrigger Maldives Maafushivaru Resort.
9. What is Outrigger Maldives Maafushivaru Resort doing on Manta Ray Day?
For World Manta Day, there are scheduled manta ray excursions for guests with insights into the manta rays’ life. All data collected during this trip will be submitted to the Maldivian Manta Ray Project and the Manta Trust, the world’s leading manta ray research and conservation organisation.
10. Learn more about mantas and the responsible resort approach
Find out more about World Manta Day at WorldMantaDay.com. It’s a great resource with information links, a list of challenges facing mantas, upcoming events, and how to get involved. The Outrigger OZONE page also gives useful insights on coral protection and propagation initiatives, reducing waste, guest education, and the best eco-activities for responsible travellers.
Outrigger Kona Resort & Spa in Hawaii to Host World Manta Day Festival, 17 Sept
Outrigger Maldives Maafushivaru Resort Playing an Important Role in Manta Ray, Whale Shark & Turtle Conservation
About Outrigger’s Nature Conservation Initiative – OZONE
(Your Stories: Outrigger Maldives Maafushivaru Resort).