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Top tips for watching Manta Rays In Raja Ampat

Manta Rays at Raja Ampat
Manta Ridge cleaning station @Timocean

Manta Ray Season in Raja Ampat

For many divers, it’s the lure of manta rays that brings them out to Raja Ampat.

Between November and May with the oceans rich in plankton, you can expect to find both reef and oceanic mantas at many of the dive sites across the region. 

Unfortunately, with many people visiting at the same time and watching to catch a glimpse of these majestic creatures, certain dive sites can become chaotic, and bad practices have been observed throughout 2023 and 2024. To ensure you have the best chances of seeing the mantas in Raja Ampat, and to do so in a safe, responsible way, read our top tips below!

Pick a reputable dive shop with trained guides

The first thing you should do when looking for mantas in Raja Ampat is pick a reputable dive shop with officially trained and certified dive guides. This is really important because with professional guides:

  • They know the dive sites intimately, giving them a better idea of where to find the mantas and where to position you safely with the currents.

  • They will ensure your dive is safe and your presence in the water doesn’t harm or impact the mantas.

  • All marine park rules and regulations will be followed at all times, protecting this fragile ecosystem.

Manta Ridge Raja Ampat
Manta Rays at Manta Ridge @Timocean

Best practices underwater

When you take the plunge underwater, it’s important to remember the following.

Learn how to dive with a reef hook

Depending on which site you’re diving, the currents can be pretty strong in the areas where mantas like to feed and clean. This means you should be confident and knowledgeable about diving in currents and understand how to use a reef hook safely and efficiently. The chances are, you may need to hook in to watch the show!

Listen to what your dive guide says

Your dive guide knows best. Follow closely and pay attention to what they’re asking of you. It’s your best chance of having a great manta ray experience!

Stay clear of the cleaning stations

The biggest no-no for manta ray encounters is entering the cleaning station area. If you do this, you’ll scare the manta rays away and in the worst case scenarios, when this behavior happens repeatedly, the manta rays may stop coming to that cleaning station for good! 

Additionally, the currents at the cleaning station may be strong and volatile, so it’s not a great place for you to be. Listen to your dive guide and hang out at the right spot. Manta cleaning stations are advanced dive sites and best to listen to your guide's recommendations if your level is suitable to dive these dive sites. We all know everyone loves to see these creatures, We provide safe diving here in Soul Scuba Divers and we want to our Manta Rays to continue coming to our water in the future also.

Give the mantas space

Just like us humans, manta rays appreciate their space. You should approach mantas slowly from the side, so that the animal is aware of you but can still travel in a clear path ahead. Never chase after a manta – they’re far faster than you can ever hope to be, and you’ll scare them away for good! 

Mantas are incredibly intelligent animals and the chances are they’ll continue circling back around to come and investigate who you are and what you’re up to. Just stay positioned in place, and they’ll come to you.

Watch your bubbles

It’s worth bearing in mind that some manta rays don’t like the bubbles produced from divers exhaling. If one is flying directly overhead, be mindful of this. At the same time, there are also some manta rays who love to play with the bubbles! It depends on each individual character.

Manta Madness Raja Ampat
Giving space to Manta Rays, they will come close to you @Timocean

New regulations for Manta Cleaning stations

On May 25th in Yenbuba, a meeting was held by the Raja Ampat National Park to discuss the future of the region and improve conditions for the Manta Rays. To protect these magnificent creatures and enhance the experience for divers, a booking system has been introduced to regulate the number of divers at manta cleaning stations. This system ensures that divers can enjoy observing the Manta Rays without overcrowding, reducing stress on the animals caused by over-tourism.

New Regulations for Manta Cleaning Stations:

  • Snorkelers are no longer permitted at cleaning stations.

  • Companies that bring snorkelers to these sites will be fined.

  • Additionally, customers on boats with snorkelers will also face fines imposed by rangers.

These measures aim to create a sustainable environment for both the Manta Rays and visitors, ensuring that future generations can continue to enjoy the natural beauty of Raja Ampat.

Be mindful of others

Remember, your bad practices have a negative impact not just on the manta rays but all the other divers around you. If you’re entering the cleaning station or harassing the manta rays, you may be getting in the way of other people’s photos and video footage(No flash/lights allowed at Manta Cleaning stations), ruining their encounter. 

Max number of people at each site

Talking of other divers, in recent years it’s been the unfortunate reality that some manta dive sites have become incredibly crowded. When there are too many people in the water at the same time, there are lots of negative impacts:

  1. The manta rays are scared away

  2. There’s not enough space for everyone to hook into the reef and rock

  3. Safety is compromised

  4. Coral reefs are damaged more frequently, degrading the site over time

To avoid this, marine park rangers are now patrolling popular sites and a booking system has been implemented, allowing only a certain number of boats at any one time. If you pick a reputable dive shop that is official and certified, they’ll stick to these mandatory rules and regulations, helping to preserve the manta cleaning stations and ensuring that manta encounters remain sustainable for all of us to enjoy! Writer Josh Edwards

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