Komodo National Park surely earns it’s right as one of the top places to dive with manta in Indonesia, with a number of cleaning stations located throughout the region sightings are very reliable and on a good day it’s possible to see them in large numbers, it’s not uncommon to see 20+ at Manta Alley or Makassar Point. You’re also quite likely to see them at neighboring sites cruising the reefs or feeding in the current fueled waters that this region is well known for. Cleaning stations can be a coral patch, bommie or simply a reef flat that attract manta because they are home to ‘cleaner fish’, usually butterfly fish or wrasse which remove the parasites from the exterior layer of the mantas and in doing so prevent infection.
2. Raja Ampat
Manta Sandy is a dive site found in the central region of the Dampier Strait in northern Raja Ampat. You’ll start your dive on the reef before heading down towards to the sandy bottom at 15 meters and finding a small collection of coral bommies no more than a few meters high, it’s these coral outcrops which attract the manta and they’ll often circle back and forth between them during the dive. Look carefully and you’ll see the cleaner fish darting around them and getting to work on those parasites. On a recent tour diving throughout Indonesia we were lucky to see 4 cruising around and spent a good hour photographing them and enjoying their company.
3. Nusa Penida (Bali)
Nusa Penida is a small island found off the east coast of Bali, it’s possible to reach from the small town of Padang Bai where you’ll take a 45 minute boat ride out to the dive sites Manta Point or Crystal Bay. Again it’s quite common to have mantas in good numbers here where they often line up in squadron formation to feed and be cleaned, it is also thought that this region may be important for mating and reproduction but research is still relatively new in this area.
Mantas can be found throughout all areas of the Maldives but particularly good chances are found around the Baa Atol and the North Ari Atol region. Hanifaru Bay is perhaps the world’s top spot for mantas where they form huge numbers and barrel roll in the plankton rich waters, it’s now no longer possible to dive here and probably for a good region as no doubt protecting this location is vital for the conservation of the species.
A group of islands found to the east of Philippines Palau is a good meeting point for migratory species including Manta. The dive site German Channel is a must for anyone visiting the area with pacey currents moving through and attracting the manta to feed. Palau isn’t the easiest place to get to but is well worth the journey, it’s also a very good dive region and recently the local government declared the region a shark sanctuary which included the protection of mantas.
Mantas are in desperate need of protection as poachers face dwindling numbers of sharks, they are now moving onto mantas as the closest alternative. The Manta Trust is an organisation set up by Guy Stevens with not only the aim of conserving the life of manta rays and their habitat through robust science and research, but also raising awareness and providing education to the general public. For more information visit Manta Trust.0