Manta Rays in the Maldivesriley
Manta Rays are something else. Enormous gentle creatures and very easy to encounter whilst snorkeling if you are in the right place at the right time. You usually get them in groups feeding on plankton at the lunar tide. One of the best places to encounter them is Huvafen Fushi in the Maldives. They have the most amazing dark limpid eyes that will stare right at you as they perform a swooping dance feeding on the plankton. If you stay still and observe they will dance closer and closer to you criss-crossing over each other in an elaborate underwater ballet.
As they are plankton feeds the water is usually green and murky because this rich food source is what attracts them but it adds to the atmosphere as these creatures slowly appear from the gloom.
From above, the rays are great black silhouettes, scything streamlined shapes that fishermen called “devil fish” because of the curious horn-like fins hanging down near their mouths. But side on and up close you can look into their eyes and get a sense of their peaceful nature. Unlike stingrays, mantas don’t have venomous spines in their tails, and unlike many fish species they seem to enjoy human company. They tolerate our presence and sometimes perform loop-the-loops through the air bubbles exhaled from scuba gear.
Adapted for fast swimming with flattened and perfectly hydrodynamic bodies, they can accelerate rapidly with a twitch of their tapering wings. They gaze at human swimmers with a kind of knowing calm, something people commonly express when they try to capture the emotion they feel after seeing them.
When feeding, the mantas of Hanifaru are often happy to stay near the surface, making them accessible to snorkelers just as much as divers. They seem not to mind the human competition in this quiet small space, and indeed they are often joined by other rays and even giant whale sharks, which also feed on the same plankton.
Divers and snorkelers alike fall in love with them and swimming with manta rays imparts a sense of peace, once you have encountered then you will never forget them.