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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Sea Shepherd UK launch new Ghostnet Recovery speciality course with SDI (Watch Video)

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In this exclusive video, Scubaverse Editor-at-large Jeff Goodman talks to Sea Shepherd UK about their Ghostnet Campaign and the exciting new launch of the Scuba Diving International (SDI) and Sea Shepherd ‘GHOSTNET RECOVERY’ speciality course.

To find out more, email ghostnet@seashepherduk.org or visit www.seashepherd.org.uk.

Jeff Goodman is the Editor-at-Large for Scubaverse.com with responsibility for conservation and underwater videography. Jeff is an award-winning TV wildlife and underwater cameraman and film maker who lives in Cornwall, UK. With over 10,000 dives to his credit he has dived in many different environments around the world.

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Top Destinations to dive with Manta Rays

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In their mission to create a billion Torchbearers to explore and protect the ocean, PADI is encouraging divers to seek adventure and experience first-hand the vital eco-systems below the surface of the ocean.

To further raise awareness of this mission on International Manta Ray Day (17 September 2021), PADI has rounded up the top destinations in the world that are currently open to divers.

Machadilla National Park, Isla de la Plata, Ecuador

Diving in Ecuador offers a special paradise for scuba divers, in which the chance of encountering marine species nowhere else on earth is extremely high due to the heavy currents and nutrient rich waters. And for those keen to dive with manta rays, head out with PADI 5 Star Dive Center Exploramar Diving, or PADI 5 Star Dive Center Mares Ecuador here they take divers out to Machadilla National Park in Isla de la Plata for a chance to greet these graceful creatures every July to September.

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Ecuador

Kona, Big Island, Hawaii

Hawaii’s volcanic origins and isolated geographical location makes for a whirlwind of scuba diving encounters underwater, with manta ray encounters being likely all year long. For those looking for an extra special experience,  PADI 5 Star Dive Center Jack’s Diving Locker offers a manta ray night dive and a PADI Distinctive Specialty Course called Manta Ray Diver, which covers everything from the manta ray anatomy to cleaning habits, reproduction and how to identify individual rays in the local population.

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Hawaii

Bryon Bay, Australia

For those who are currently in Australia, they can have their backyard manta ray encounter with PADI 5 Star Dive Center Sundive Byron Bay. The summer months of December to May bring manta rays to the nearby Julia Rocks Marine Reserve, which National Geographic once acknowledged as one of the top 20 dives in the world.

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Australia

Manta Point, Nusa Penida, Bali

The name speaks for itself. Manta Point in Bali is a haven for manta rays all year long, with the best time to see them being from April to May. PADI 5 Star Dive Center and Resort  Scuba Junkie Penida  offers the ultimate manta ray diving experience in the area, adding coral dives and drift dives to the day’s adventure.

Find out more with PADI’ Dive Guide for Bali

Komodo National Park, Labuan Bajo, Indonesia

One of Indonesia’s most famous diving destinations is also one of the best places to dive with manta rays! PADI 5 Star Dive Resort Blue Marlin Komodo is the perfect place for a manta ray holiday, where divers can stay at the dive resort while getting their PADI Open Water Diver certification and then hop aboard their dive vessel for a day of diving out at sea with manta rays!

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Indonesia

Six Senses Manta Point, Laamu Atoll, Maldives

Crystal clear warm waters, white sandy beaches and manta rays—PADI 5 Star Dive Resort Six Senses Laamu offers the ultimate luxurious manta ray holiday. As the only dive resort in the Laamu Atoll, divers of all levels will have extremely personable encounters with manta rays every month of the year in this world-class diving area.  There are also more than 180 PADI Dive Centers and Resorts in the Maldives that can take divers out to have a manta ray encounter.

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for the Maldives

Azores, Portugal

The islands that make up the Azores off the coast of Portugal are one of the most diverse for marine life. One  specific type of manta rays known as the Mobula birostris is known tohang out in large groups around the island of St. Maria between June and October, with PADI 5 Star Haliotis Dive Center offering guided boat trips to the island.

Find out more with PADI’s Dive Guide for Portugal

Diving with whale sharks and manta rays can make a difference in protecting these incredible species for future generations – dive tourism encourages protection from local communities and governments. But its important to always adhere to local guidelines and best practices to ensure these creatures’ well-being is always at the forefront. PADI dive operators understand the importance of using the proper equipment, the time of day to dive with sharks, and the maximum number of operators that should be on the water at any given time. To learn more about responsible shark and ray tourism and other ways you can support the protection of these incredible animals, visit padi.com/aware/sharks.

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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Creature Feature: Manta Rays

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In this series, the Shark Trust will be sharing amazing facts about different species of sharks and what you can do to help protect them.

This month they’re showcasing the largest rays in the world. Made up of 2 different species, these captivating giants are highly intelligent. And, come in a range of unusual colours!

The word ‘manta’ is Spanish for blanket or cloak, which perfectly describes the body-shape of a manta ray. These enormous, flat, diamond-shaped animals, have wingspans stretching up to 7m wide and can weigh up to 1,350kg.

Mantas also have 2 horns at the front of their head, giving them the nickname ‘devil fish’. But there’s nothing devilish about these gentle giants. Or their close cousins the devil rays, who often get confused for mantas. Both, use their ‘horns’ (or cephalic fins) during feeding to scoop up tiny plants and animals in the water. Similar to how we use a spoon to eat soup. Their cephalic fins may also play a role in sensing their environment and during social interactions.

Just like the Basking and Whale Shark, manta rays are filter feeders. Swimming with their mouths wide open, they suck in huge volumes of water – rich in zooplankton. Their tiny prey is then filtered through gill plates that line their mouth. Sadly, these gill plates are highly sought after in the Chinese medicinal trade, which has led to mantas being heavily over-fished.

As any diver can attest, seeing a manta in the wild is a pure delight. Their elegance and grace in the water is unrivaled. Particularly at feeding time. Mantas need to keep moving to breathe, so individuals will perform multiple somersaults to stay in a single spot where there’s lots of food. Like a perfectly orchestrated dance, mantas will also follow each other in a circle to chain-feed. Their movements expertly creating a vortex that traps their prey inside.

Manta Rays live in tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters around the world. They tend to live on their own or in small groups. But will often gather in large groups to feed. Hotspots for this feeding behaviour include the Bahamas, Fiji, Indonesia, Thailand, Spain and the Maldives. And aggregations are known as a squadron of manta ray.

In 2008, scientists discovered that the Manta Ray, which was once thought of as a single species, was in fact two different species. The Giant Oceanic Manta Ray (Mobula birostris) and the much smaller Reef Manta Ray (Mobula alfredi). Both species were formerly classified under the separate genus Manta. But following genetic testing in 2017, scientists discovered they were more closely related to devil rays (genus Mobula) than previously thought and reclassified them as such.

The Giant Manta is widespread, spending most of their time far from land in open ocean. While the Reef Manta tends to prefer the warmer coastal waters of the Indo-Pacific. Fully grown, the wingspan of a Giant Manta can reach up to 7m (typically 4.5m). While the largest wingspan for a Reef Manta is 5m (typically 3-3.5m). Both are dark in colour on top with a pattern of white lines. On the Giant Manta the white lines form a T shape, while on the Reef Manta they form a Y shape.

We can also identify each individual manta by their unique markings. Found on the underside of their body (between the gills and on their bellies), these act just like a human fingerprint. Enabling scientists to use photo-ID to discover more about them.

Manta Rays regularly visit cleaning stations, like many other marine animals, often returning to the same spot. Here smaller animals groom them, removing pesky parasites and dead skin. These spa trips to the coral reef provide researchers with the perfect opportunity to photograph and study them in the wild.

In Raja Ampat, researchers have discovered an unusual group of Reef Mantas, affectionately known as the ninja warriors. This area has the highest percentage of melanistic (black) Reef Mantas in the world. Usually melanistic mantas comprise around 10% of a population, but here they represent 40%. This genetic trait is inherited and doesn’t appear to affect their survival rate.

If you visit the Great Barrier Reef, you may witness an even more astounding sight…

A 3m male Reef Manta named ‘Inspector Clouseau’, who also happens to be bright PINK! Big thanks to Kristian Laine Photography for providing the incredible photo above.

The Inspector is the only known pink manta in the world. His rosy hue is believed to be the result of a condition called erythrism – a genetic mutation in melanin production. Again, this doesn’t seem to impact his survival. Indeed, he’s been spotted a handful of times since his first debut in 2015, so is doing well.

Highly intelligent, these majestic animals have the largest brain to body weight ratio of any fish. Studies suggest they have high cognitive function – similar to dolphins, primates and elephants – and excellent long-term memory.

Due to their large size, adult mantas don’t have many natural predators. Although, larger sharks and orca have been known to prey on them. Yet, the biggest threat they face comes from humans. Due to their low reproductive rate mantas are incredibly vulnerable to over-fishing.

These long-living animals are thought to live up to 50 years. Giving birth every 4-5 years, they’ll only produce between 4-7 pups during their lifetime.


GIANT MANTA RAY:

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Mobula birostris
  • FAMILY: Mobulidae (Manta & Devil Rays)
  • MAXIMUM SIZE: 7m
  • DIET: Zooplankton, krill & small fish.
  • DISTRIBUTION: Worldwide in tropical and temperate waters. Found from the surface to depths of 1,000m.
  • HABITAT: Spends long periods of time in the open ocean. Visits shallow coastal waters near coral and rocky reefs.
  • CONSERVATION STATUS: Endangered

REEF MANTA RAY:

  • SCIENTIFIC NAME: Mobula alfredi
  • FAMILY: Mobulidae (Manta & Devil Rays)
  • MAXIMUM SIZE: 5m
  • DIET: Zooplankton, krill & small fish.
  • DISTRIBUTION: Tropical and sub-tropical waters of the Indian and Pacific Ocean. Found from the surface to depths of 432m.
  • HABITAT: Shallow coastal waters near coral and rocky reefs. Moves into deeper waters at night to feed.
  • CONSERVATION STATUS: Vulnerable

Header Image: Frogfish Photography

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