Manta Madness in the Maldives

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Just as it was on my previous trip four years ago, it was a case of starting the week as you mean to go on.

On the first and second dive after our arrival in Male, we visited a dive site close to the city called Lankan Paradise: a cleaning station known for good Manta Ray sightings. Just the week before our dive boat had a dive there with around 10 Manta Rays so our hopes were high. The current on the first dive wasn’t running in the ideal direction for Manta sightings and we flew across the reef with no luck. We decided to try the site again to give as much chance as possible for a good Manta Ray sighting.

The dive started slow and we passed the cleaning station without luck. It was starting to get a little disappointing as the main reason to visit the dive site is for the Mantas. We turned around to head back as we were coming up to around 30 minutes into the dive. As we got closer to the cleaning station we saw a large aggregation of divers and got excited our luck was about to change. Sure enough when we arrived at the cleaning station we saw what was probably the biggest Reef Manta Ray I’d ever seen!

I’ve been lucky enough to dive with both Oceanic and Reef Mantas on a few occasions and this reminded me more of an Oceanic due to it’s sheer size. A great way to start our week in the Maldives, and great to see my fellow divers who had never done tropical sea diving before get a real buzz. The dive boat was rocking with the excitement after the dive and this gave me a great feeling as I had helped to organise the trip.

A couple of days diving had passed with only a fleeting glimpse of another Manta Ray by a portion of the boat (not me). Then came the second dive on day four to Moofushi Corner and wow, what a dive. Literally from the first minute of the dive there was action.

We plummeted straight down to around 35 minutes into the channel where we saw a school of 20 or more Eagle Rays gliding along in the current. We fought really hard to try keep up and I was in awe of such beauty and grace underwater. I managed to get a snapshot of the scene that greeted us butit was difficult to keep up and at 35 metres. We hovered over the channel marvelling at the many Grey Reef Sharks for a little longer until our computers were getting close to Deco and it was time to shallow up to the cleaning station to see if there were Mantas.

Can this dive really get any better. AMAZING!!!! As we got to around 24 metres we spotted the two Manta Rays on the cleaning station a little further above us on the sloping station. The current was really strong and threatening to take us off the reef and fly us away from the Manta show. However we fought hard and managed to work our way to a sheltered area at the top of the cleaning station around 15 minutes. It was nice to get a short respite from the current but where was the Manta?

I couldn’t see over the lip of the reef and started to get a little anxious. Then suddenly the adrenalin started pumping as this Manta came up over the top of the reef right above my head. It literally pinned me to the reef it got that close. What an amazing interaction with such a graceful marine animal. It continued to circle the cleaning station right above us and a couple of more Mantas came into view at times. I would definitely regard this dive as up there with some of my best ever.

The day didn’t end there and this is probably why it has become one of my best day’s underwater ever. We moored up in Fesdhoo Lagoon for the night where Manta Rays are known to come to feed on blooms of plankton. To increase our chances of seeing them, and possibly getting to do an extra night dive with them, the boat attached a large halogen light to the steps at the back of the boat. This attracted blooms of plankton up to the surface and below our boat to hopefully attract Mantas to the back of the boat to feed.

We started at night fall around 6pm and there was a huge anticipation on the boat for what might soon happen. Everyone waiting patiently on the back of the boat. 2-3 hours went by with the odd call of excitement – “NURSE SHARK”. A fairly large curious Nurse Shark went by on a couple of occasions intrigued by what was happening at the back of the boat. Then, “MANTA” was the call and sure enough a Manta made a quick bypass beneath the boat under the light full of plankton.

It was gone quicker than it arrived and we started to worry that our time in the water wouldn’t come. Slowly as the time approached 10pm most of the boat had succumbed to their disappointment and headed to bed. There were only three of us left committed to the cause. Then as the time worked it’s way to 10.30pm my excitement was plain to see as I screamed “MANTA” and quickly grabbed my camera, mask, snorkel and fins. Diving was not an option at this point and I just wanted to get in and get some photos. The bell rang and most got out their beds to come enjoy the show.

What a show it turned out to be as we had around three or four different Mantas dancing for us at the back of the boat, barrel rolling as they gorged on the plankton bloom created under the boat. This lasted for at least two hours until we eventually had to leave one Manta in there to continue feeding. Most the guests managed to get in with them at some point and a couple of other guests and I stayed in for 2-2.5 hours marvelling at the show. I was reluctant to get out of the water but knew I had enough photos to keep me happy for a lifetime and it was time to get to sleep ready for another day of diving the next day. With the high I was feeling I didn’t get to sleep until around 2am and was up at 6am to go diving. It was well worth every minute though and these memories will last a lifetime.

Sean’s trip was organised by The Scuba Place aboard www.topclasscruising.com. For more information and to book call +44 (0)207 644 8252, email reservations@thescubaplace.co.uk or visit www.comedivewithus.co.uk.

Sean Chinn

Sean Chinn

Sean Chinn’s scuba diving adventure started in a freezing cold quarry back in January 2011. Maybe the reason he wasn't instantly hooked! However, after an amazing trip to Indonesia in 2013, he realised he needed to see more of the underwater world. With no photography background, he enlisted some help in developing both his diving and photo skills. This kickstarted his diving and underwater photography adventure which has become something of an addiction. Seeing and photographing wildlife is Sean’s real passion in diving but he is always keen to try new ideas.

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