Environment

Discover the Best Places to Watch Manta Rays

The" Queen of Mantas" shares her preferred places to spot mantas.Tuesday, 12 June 2018

By Carrie Miller
A snorkeller swims with a manta ray in the biodiverse waters of Raja Ampat, Indonesia.
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“Queen of Mantas” Andrea Marshall has studied the graceful swimmers for more than a decade. From her base on Tofo Beach, Mozambique, this National Geographic emerging explorer and manta ray ambassador shares her preferred places to spot and dive with mantas—in, it turns out, some of the world’s most beautiful locales. Travellers looking “to give back and aid us in protecting these amazing animals,” she notes, can become citizen scientists on one of the trips organised by Ray of Hope Expeditions, which Marshall founded in 2012.

Indonesia

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Marshall describes this nation as a “manta pub crawl for the sheer variety of places to spot rays, from the flourishing reefs around Raja Ampat to the island of Komodo, known for its “dragon” lizards, to tiny Nusa Penida, off Bali. “Indonesia is accessible to everyone,” Marshall says, with budget and high-end options. The country went from being one of the biggest fisheries to a protector of mantas. Her Nusa Penida tip: Dive at Manta Point, where mantas are “cleaned” by wrasse fish.

Manta season: Year-round in Komodo and Bali; December through April in Raja Ampat.

Maldives

One of the first nations in the world to protect mantas, the island republic of Maldives is swarmed every year in monsoon season by hundreds of the giant rays, which swim into Hanifaru lagoon to feed on plankton. “I was moved to tears the first time I saw it,” Marshall says. “The lagoon is one of the few places where snorkellers can see big aggregations of mantas.

Manta season: May through October, depending on monsoons.

Mexico

Some 240 miles off the southern tip of Baja California, the Revillagigedo Archipelago, a World Heritage site, centres on four islands known for their remote diving sites and for some of the best viewing of sharks, whales—and swooping giant manta rays. “The mantas around Revillagigedo are really friendly,” says Marshall. “And the archipelago is a well-protected marine biosphere with very seasoned dive operators.”

Manta season: November through May.

This story appeared in the Dec 2017/Jan 2018 issue of National Geographic Traveller magazine.
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