Diving or snorkeling with manta rays is truly an unforgettable experience. If it isn't already on your list of top things to do, we think it should be! With the largest brain to body ratio of any fish, they have the ability to create special connections with divers. Not to mention, they are harmless, so you enjoy the beauty of their movement without the risk. While there are many places to have magical encounters, here are our 5 favorite places to enjoy these majestic creatures.
1. Kona, Hawaii One of our favorite aspects of diving, is that you never know what you are going to see. This makes each dive exciting and suspenseful in the most fun way possible. For that reason, we don't usually promote or include "baited" dives on our top lists, since you know what you'll experience going into the dive. However, the Night Manta dive in Kona is so magical we have to make an exception.
As more and more hotels continued to develop in the Kona area, the additional light attracted plankton to congregate off the coast. And while plankton are attracted to light at night, mantas are attracted to plankton! The rays are creatures of habit and return to these feeding stations regularly. Dive operators now use lights to attract the plankton and in turn the mantas, offering close encounters with them as they "dance" in the water while feeding.
2. Maldives The Maldives are a scuba diver's parade. Crystal clear waters and wide open ocean make it prime conditions for pelagic animals (those living in the open waters). Year round encounters with mantas and other pelagics (i.e. whale sharks and other shark species) are common. At some of the atolls feeding groups of over 100 have been witnessed. Depending on the season, you may need to visit different areas of the atolls, as the mantas do migrate following the nutrient-rich waters.
3. Yap and Palau The islands of Micronesia near the Phillipine Sea are a must do, and are almost a guarantee for daily encounters with mantas. These two islands alone claim 450-600 resident mantas. In diving, we never want to say anything is guaranteed, but you would be hard pressed to be denied a manta encounter when visiting here. While year round encounters are common, the best season for interactions is October through May. The animals are very active after sunset, so be ready for some of the best night dives of your life!
4. Tofo, Mozambique Surprise! My love of Africa influences an appearance on today's top 5 thanks to the diversity of the continent and its wildlife. There are so many wonderful dive locations throughout Southern and Eastern Africa, but Mozambique tops the list for pelagic diving, including mantas. Mantas call Mozambique home year-round due to the unique currents bringing plankton rich waters to its coastal areas. If you travel between June and October, you will also add whale shark encounters, and possibly even humpback whale sightings, as they migrate through. And don't forget to add in a mainland safari while there!
5. Fiji Ahhh, Fiji - let me count the ways this paradise secures its place in our top 5! It's one of our favorite places for so many reasons, Manta sightings included. Located in the south of the Pacific Ocean, off the east coast of Australia, Fiji is a fantastic place to encounter beautiful reefs, amazing sea life, and big ocean-goers like sharks and of course, mantas. With over 300 islands, and the world's 3rd largest coral reef, the encounters are endless. You will find some of the most colorful reefs in the world, as well as some of the best pelagic and shark dives in the world. To see mantas, head to the Yasawas, Kadavu, Taveuni, or Wakaya islands. Each of these requires a boat or ferry ride from the main island, but absolutely worth the journey. Visit between June and October when the manta population is in the hundreds!
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