The Maldives is blessed to be one of the few places in the world where you have a permanent resident population of Manta Rays which move around the Maldives following the their food, the plankton around. There are believed to be around 5,000 Manta Rays living in Maldivian waters, with the Maldives Manta Ray Project having already identified over 3,000 individuals, constantly increasing with new sightings from their team of Marine Biologists, volunteers and many ordinary tourists such as yourselves. If you would like to assist the Manta Trust and the Maldives Manta Ray Project with their research you can log on to http://www.mantatrust.org/make-a-difference/id-the-manta/ and upload your pictures. Its a great way to find out more about the Manta Rays you have seen, as well as help a worthy cause to help us all better understand the habits of Manta Rays, which should help with their continued protection.
So where will you find our beloved Manta Rays in the Maldives you might ask? Well the simple answer is it depends on what time of year it is. As mentioned previously, the Manta Rays migrate following their food. Plankton is moved around by the winds and the currents, so its position is determined by the Monsoons that affect the Maldives each year. The Maldives has 2 Monsoons, the South-west monsoon from May to October, and the North-east monsoon from December to March. April and November act as transitional months where the predominant winds can be pushing from either direction.
So what does this mean for your Holiday in the Maldives?
Well if you are wanting to stay on a Liveaboard it usually does not matter as they will alsways try to find you as many Manta Rays & Whalesharks as possible. However as a rule of thumb if you want to see Manta Rays, June to November look for cruises that take you to North Male, Baa Atoll, or South-west Ari Atoll.
If you are looking for Manta Rays December to May, then your best best is to find cruises that will take you to Ari Atoll, which has Manta cleaning and feeding sites year round, which are however most active in the North East Monsoon.
South West Monsoon May – October
Aveyla Manta Village Baa Atoll is one of the best value for money / budget land based options for finding Manta Rays in the South West Monsoon, with its close proximity to Hanifaru Bay, and surrounding Manta cleaning stations. A brand new establishment with an experienced dive team and fun friendly atmosphere.
North East Monsoon December – March
Casa Mia @ Mathiveri Dive Retreat in North Ari Atoll is a great year round diving destination, and is perfectly situated on the West coast of the Maldives during the North-east monsoon from December – March. In this period Mantas can be seen outside the harbour feeding, and there are numerous great Manta dive sites where you can sit with the Manta Rays for up to an hour while the cleaning wrasse clean then. Like a Manta car wash!