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2 Aug 2022, Danny Copeland

manta rays, mantas, snorkelling, bucket list

Perhaps you've always wanted to swim with manta rays? Well, what if we told you you could snorkel with tens or even a hundred of them? Read on as Danny Copeland describes the magical Maldives manta rays.

Mantas, the gentle giants of the sea, kickstarted Marine Conservationist and Film-maker Danny's fascination with the oceans, and snorkelling with manta rays never gets old - the encounters rarely, if ever, fail to leave him awestruck.

Manta ray and underwater photographer in Hanifaru Bay, the Maldives

There are plenty of reasons for visiting the Maldives, however for Danny it's the Maldivian reef manta ray. The Maldives are home to the largest known population of reef mantas in the world, and arguably the most extensively studied. There has been ID confirmation of roughly 5000 individuals, and that dwarfs many other places by a considerable margin! They stay local to the islands, meaning researchers such as the Maldivian Manta Ray Project have been able to extensively study them for 17 years, clocking up an astonishing 75000 sightings. 

Manta ray aggregation in Hanifaru Bay, the Maldives. Image by Danny Copeland

It's precisely because of this research that we're confident our Maldives Manta Ray Extravaganza group trip has an excellent chance of locating the mantas. We visit the best location at the best possible time - coinciding with the full moon and coupled with a plankton boom, hundreds of manta rays flock to Hanifaru Bay in the Northern Atolls. This unique combination means our trip offers the opportunity to not only swim with the manta rays but to experience them in numbers that are considered rare or once-in-a-lifetime in other parts of the world. However, in the Maldives, it’s a pretty much daily occurrence! It truly is a life-changing and unique experience, witnessing the daily mass feeding events and having manta after manta swimming past you is unlike anything you've seen before.

Manta ray aggregation in Hanifaru Bay, the Maldives. Image by Danny Copeland

It's not uncommon to see 20-50 manta rays during your holiday to the Maldives, however, on a good day at Hanifaru at the height of the season it's rare to see less than 40 or 50 on a given day, often at the same time! 100+ manta days are not uncommon here. If we're lucky we may be able to witness rare feeding behaviours such as the manta cyclone, as the mantas swim in a spiral, pulling the plankton in a circle akin to an underwater ballet, lasting from minutes to hours. It only really happens in Hanifaru Bay and is one of the most incredible things you'll ever encounter.

Manta ray aggregation in Hanifaru Bay, the Maldives. Image by Danny Copeland

If that wasn't enough, the Indian Ocean may even spoil us with a friendly whale shark sighting. Again, there aren't many places in the world where you could see both of the species on the same day, or even during the same moment. Danny has been fortunate enough to experience this and we are hoping for similar luck on our trip.

Whale shark in Hanifaru Bay, the Maldives. Image by Danny Copeland

The itinerary also includes some time diving Baa, Ari & Raa atolls. Here we explore cleaning stations and dive with manta rays. It's an entirely different encounter than the feeding mantas at Hanifaru Bay - the individuals are more inquisitive, yet just as special and magical, providing a different juxtaposition.

Hanifaru Bay holds a special charm. It's the place Danny's returned to year after year, and he wants to share it with us Regaldivers. Join us on this once-in-a-lifetime diving holiday to the Maldives, as we witness one of the great natural events of our oceans. Contact us to find out more or to book your place.

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