In general, not a whole lot of people have seen or gotten to dive with manta rays, which really is a shame. These majestic creatures float through the water with ease and they can grow up to 23 feet (7 meters). Once you see them up close and personal, you are mesmerized, and instantly fall in love.
Being able to dive or swim with giant manta rays, is an experience that no one will ever forget. Just watching these gentle giants dance and twirl in front of you, or glide by in groups is enough to get that heart pounding!
Mantas were on my own critter bucket list of course, and I finally got to see them on one of my dive trips to Komodo.
I instantly fell in love with them, and have gone out of my way to repeat the incredible experience in other locations.
So we’ve put together this list of just some of the incredible destinations around the world, where you too can enjoy these magnificent creatures for yourself.
1. Bali, Indonesia
While the mantas are not actually on Bali, it is only a short trip over to Manta Point on Nusa Penida from Bali or you can just stay on Nusa Penida. This is an amazing place where you can see mantas year-round.
This is rare as most places can only see them seasonally or at greater depths. The reason that they are there at this location is that it is a cleaning station and it is at a shallower depth of 16 to 66 feet (5 to 20 meters).
This makes it accessible to freedivers, snorkelers, and open-water divers alike. If you want convenience and access to mantas Bali is an easy place to get to and observe them.
2. Komodo National Park, Indonesia
Komodo is one of the most famous dive sites in the world and seeing the rays here is just the icing on the cake. It was the first place I’d ever seen a manta ray, and it was an incredible experience.
The dive guides brought me in front of a cleaning station, and soon we were surrounded by 7 mantas, dancing just feet from me. Besides the cleaning station, there is a lot of plankton so it is also a great place to observe them bottom feeding.
You can see the mantas as they migrate south to north and in the other direction when the seasons change. While they are there year-round, Komodo conditions are best from June to September.
3. Tubbataha, Philippines
Tubbataha is a special place in the Philippines, as well as unique. It’s a world-class dive location, that’s also a protected UNESCO underwater site.
This place isn’t just home to mantas it has over 600 species of fish, half of the different species of coral in the world, 11 different species of sharks, and 13 species of dolphins and whales.
You can also see my favorite, nesting Hawksbill & Green sea turtles. Tubbataha can only be dived by liveaboard and liveaboard diving in Tubbataha happens during the month’s March to June.
The Tubbataha Reefs is divided into three main sections, North Atoll, South Atoll, and Jessy Beazley Reef each has its own draws. The diving here is for intermediate to advanced as there can be strong currents.
You are able to skin dive and snorkel here as well if you are not a diver.
4. Baa Atoll, Maldives
During the right seasons, from May to November you will be able to see manta rays using the Thila as a cleaning station. Baa Atol in Northern Maldives will blow your mind.
This is the place where you see those photos and videos on BBC, of a huge school of manta rays congregating together. And you can swim with them too if you’re not a diver!
This geographical location, its special shape, and combine with the morphology of Hanifaru Bay, create a concentration of plankton.
The zooplankton are comes into the bay in a large concentration form. This is why hundreds of mantas come here from June to November.
This amazing event is called cyclone feeding and is unique to this area. If you love mantas, you need to visit here and this bay.
5. Tofo, Mozambique
Mozambique has over 1200 miles (2000 km) of coastline, and 124 miles (200 km) of that has currents that are plankton rich and attract the manta rays. There are also cleaning stations that these mantas visit frequently.
On a sad note, they get attacked by sharks here often but instead of a brief stop at the cleaning station they are cleaning their wounds and spend longer there for you to see them.
Tofo is a great place in Southern Africa to see them among the other amazing wildlife. On one trip alone you can run into whale sharks, humpback whales, dolphins, and giant manta rays in Tofo. So if you are in for a long and adventurous trip, this is the one to do!
6. Kona, Hawaii
This manta ray dive is possible year-round and if you are in the US, it is a relatively dive destination to get to. Kona is another unique dive opportunity when it comes to manta rays.
The Kona dive resort sets up giant underwater spotlights each night dive to attract plankton, and divers get to watch as mantas come in and dance in the lights.
It’s amazing to see! Diving or snorkeling with manta rays at night is enthralling and exciting.
7. Cocos Island, Costa Rica
Cocos Island is a UNESCO World Heritage site and for good reason. Cocos Island is another more remote dive destination that is 340 miles (550 km) off the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, because of this distance it takes a little bit more planning and money to get to, but it is well worth it if you do.
You will need to take a liveaboard from Costa Rica which can take over 35 hours. You will arrive to see some of the most pristine protected reefs in the world, as well as mantas and other large pelagic species such as sharks, rays, tuna, and dolphins.
But be wary, it is usually deep dives with strong currents so this is not for open water dives.
Etiquette For Diving With Mantas
Whether you are snorkeling, freediving or Scuba diving be responsible when you enter the water and are observing marine life.
Manta rays are quite friendly and curious animals so they will swim toward and around you. While this is great, please keep a safe distance and look but do not touch the manta rays or any wildlife. If you disturb them it could hinder their ability to feed, breed, rest, and socialize.
If you see a giant manta ray, send an email to [email protected] If you have photos, of the water condition, location, size of the manta ray, etc please add that. NOAA tracks the mantas and helps protect them as they are a threatened species and need protection.
There are great resources on NOAA and the Manta Trust sites to learn more about them and how you can help keep them to keep them safe.
There are more than just these 7 incredible scuba destinations in the world, where you can either swim or dive with manta rays. These destinations should get you started, as well as get you addicted.
Besides being amazing animals the reason it is important for people to see mantas up close is that it brings awareness, caring, and attention to the species.
This leads to more education and will hopefully lead to increased protection. Mantas need all the protection they can get!
As Jaques Cousteau once said, “one must love something before he will want to save it.”