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Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Top 20 places to go snorkeling with rays

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The world’s oceans are home to over 500 different ray species of all shapes and sizes. These close cousins to sharks are mesmerizing to swim with and leave a lasting impression upon anyone who swims with them. Whether you want to snorkel with huge mantas, spotted eagle rays, friendly stingrays or thousands of mobulas, you can. Read on to find out more.

Reef manta rays  

  1. Hanifaru Bay, Maldives

One of the most famous manta ray destinations of all, Hanifaru Bay is simply incredible. This UNESCO Biosphere Reserve hosts hundreds of feeding mantas from May to November each year and you can go snorkeling with them.

  1. Kona, Hawaii

Kona in Hawaii is one of the only places in the world where you go can night snorkeling (or night diving) with reef mantas. Lit up by the beam of you torch, you can watch the mantas feeding right in front of you. It is one of the best-loved highlights of any Kona scuba diving trip.

  1. Lady Elliot Island, Australia

Lady Elliot Island, known as the ‘home of the manta ray’, is a gorgeous island in the southernmost reaches of the Great Barrier Reef. It hosts manta rays year-round and offers snorkeling safaris to swim with mantas and explore the island’s coral reefs.

  1. Barefoot Manta Island, Fiji

Sitting just south of the Yasawa Islands, Barefoot Manta Island is renowned for its manta ray encounters and has some of Fiji’s best coral gardens. You can swim with mantas there for May to October each year.

Oceanic manta rays

  1. Komodo, Indonesia – manta point (both reef and giant) 

The Komodo National Park in Indonesia hosts both reef and giant mantas, which you can snorkel with at Manta Point. As well as mantas, Komodo has some of the world’s most diverse coral reefs and an endless list of incredible marine life to swim with.

  1. Mozambique (both reef and giant) – Tofo

Like Komodo, Mozambique’s waters are frequented by reef and giant mantas. These graceful rays visit Mozambique’s cleaning stations in numbers, where you can dive or snorkel with them. Tofo Beach in Mozambique is a great place to go snorkeling with both manta rays and whale sharks.  

Stingrays

  1. New Zealand

If you want to combine topside adventure activities with world-class subtropical snorkeling, visit New Zealand. The famous Poor Knights Islands are rated as one of the top 10 dive experiences in the world and offer snorkeling with huge stingrays and countless schooling fish.

  1. Stingray City, Cayman Islands

Stingray City is one of the world’s top places for snorkeling with stingrays. The calm clear waters of this lagoon host dozens of stingrays, which cruise along the white sand landscapes and are tolerant of people in the water.

  1. Moorea, French Polynesia

Moorea Lagoon in French Polynesia is known for its friendly stingrays. This idyllic lagoon also hosts reef sharks, and you can go swimming with humpback whales further offshore.

  1. Shark Ray Alley, Belize

The Hol Chan Marine Reserve has some of the best Belize diving and snorkeling opportunities. At Shark Ray Alley, you will find beautiful coral formations, plus numerous stingrays, nurse sharks and sea turtles.

  1. Egypt’s Red Sea

Egypt is a classic and affordable destination for snorkelers and divers alike, offering vibrant coral reefs busy with gorgeous blue spotted stingrays.

Spotted eagle rays

  1. French Polynesia

Bora Bora Lagoon and Moorea Lagoon in French Polynesia host plenty of spotted eagle rays, as does Fakarava Atoll, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve. This is one of the most romantic and beautiful destinations you will likely ever find.

  1. Egypt’s Red Sea

As well as hosting blue spotted stingrays in abundance, Egypt’s many house and offshore reefs also host spotted eagle rays. Simply grab your snorkel, walk off the beaches and start exploring.

  1. Félicité Island, Seychelles

The channel at Félicité Island hosts eagle rays year-round and is a gorgeous place to go snorkeling. If you don’t have any luck finding eagle rays there, the surround islands are some of the best places for spotting eagle rays in the Indian Ocean.

Guitarfish

  1. La Jolla Cove, USA

Shovelnose guitarfish are strange-looking rays that also look a bit like sharks. These curious creatures can be found among the rich kelp forests of La Jolla Cove in California, where you can also spot leopard sharks and sea lions.

  1. The Maldives

Bowmouth guitarfish are a type of ray found at the Maldives. Although they are not commonly seen, keep your eyes out for them whilst snorkeling there. Even if you don’t see a guitarfish, you’ll be exploring one of the best snorkeling destinations in the world.

  1. Ningaloo Reef, Australia

Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia is visited by an array of ocean giants, including whale sharks, humpback whales, mantas, dugong and more. There, you can also find Guitara the giant guitarfish. Much loved by locals, Guitara is comfortable with people in the water and comes over to check divers out.

Electric rays

  1. Egypt’s Red Sea

In case you need another reason to go snorkeling in Egypt, the rich waters there host adorable-looking leopard torpedo rays. These small and round electric rays are often spotted wriggling across the reefs as they go about their business.

  1. Channel Islands, USA

Pacific electric rays are only found in the coastal waters of the northeastern Pacific Ocean. You can find them at rocky reefs and kelp forests from Baja California up to British Columbia, though the Channel Islands are one of the best places to encounter them.

Mobula rays

  1. Baja California, Mexico

Last but by no means least, the Sea of Cortez is one of the best places to go Mexico diving and is renowned for its snorkeling with rays. This incredible destination hosts tens of thousands of mobula rays each year, which gather in huge groups to feed. Go snorkeling at Baja California to witness this true spectacle of nature.


Kathryn Curzon, a shark conservationist and dive travel writer for Scuba Schools International (SSI), wrote this article.

Scuba Schools International (SSI) is the largest professional business-based training agency in the world. For over 50 years now, SSI has provided the ultimate training experience for millions of certified divers, not only in Recreational Scuba, but in every training category: Freediving, Extended Range, Rebreather Diving, Mermaid, Swim and Lifeguard.

Marine Life & Conservation Blogs

Creature Feature: Undulate Ray

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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 we’re looking at the Undulate Ray. Easily identified by its beautiful, ornate pattern, the Undulate Ray gets its name from the undulating patterns of lines and spots on its dorsal side.

This skate is usually found on sandy or muddy sea floors, down to about 200 m deep, although it is more commonly found shallower. They can grow up to 90 cm total length. Depending on the size of the individual, their diet can range from shrimps to crabs.

Although sometimes called the Undulate Ray, this is actually a species of skate, meaning that, as all true skates do, they lay eggs. The eggs are contained in keratin eggcases – the same material that our hair and nails are made up of! These eggcases are also commonly called mermaid’s purses and can be found washed up on beaches all around the UK. If you find one, be sure to take a picture and upload your find to the Great Eggcase Hunt – the Shark Trust’s flagship citizen science project.

It is worth noting that on the south coasts, these eggcases can be confused with those of the Spotted Ray, especially as they look very similar and the ranges overlap, so we sometimes informally refer to them as ‘Spundulates’.

Scientific Name: Raja undulata

Family: Rajidae

Maximum Size: 90cm (total length)

Diet: shrimps and crabs

Distribution: found around the eastern Atlantic and in the Mediterranean Sea.

Habitat: shelf waters down to 200m deep.

Conservation Status : As a commercially exploited species, the Undulate Ray is a recovering species in some areas. The good thing is that they have some of the most comprehensive management measures of almost any elasmobranch species, with both minimum and maximum landing sizes as well as a closed season. Additionally, targeting is entirely prohibited in some areas. They are also often caught as bycatch in various fisheries – in some areas they can be landed whilst in others they must be discarded.

IUCN Red List Status: Endangered

For more great shark information and conservation visit the Shark Trust Website


Image Credits: Banner – Sheila Openshaw; Illustration – Marc Dando

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Guarding Against Coral Invaders

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coral

Protecting (Dutch) Caribbean Reefs from Unomia stolonifera

Recent reports highlight the concerning spread of the invasive soft coral, Unomia stolonifera, currently devastating Venezuela’s marine ecosystems and detected in Cuba. With the potential threat of its expansion to the (Dutch) Caribbean islands, urgent action and awareness are essential to safeguard marine biodiversity and local economies from possible catastrophic consequences.

Invasive species are animals or plants from another region of the world that don’t belong in their new environment. These species can have major ecological effects by decimating native flora or fauna. They can also cause large economic losses and impact human health. Invasive species also pose a significant threat to marine ecosystems worldwide, including the Dutch Caribbean. Among these invaders is the octocoral species Unomia stolonifera or “Pulsing Xenia”, originally from the Indo-Pacific. With its rapid growth and lack of natural predators, this species can outcompete native species and disrupt fragile marine habitats such as seagrass beds and coral reefs.

Background

The invasive soft coral U. stolonifera was first identified in 2014, off the coast of Venezuela. It is believed to have been introduced via the illegal aquarium trade.  Since this species can reproduce sexually and asexually (or fragment), even small pieces can regenerate to spread.  Once introduced it quickly took over shallow reefs and hard substrate at depths of 0-50 meters, outcompeting local corals and seagrass for space.  Follow on surveys found that this coral species exhibited average percentage cover as high as 80%, vastly outcompeting native corals. In highly colonized areas, fish are disappearing due to loss of habitats.

In 2022, during a survey conducted in Cuba by the University of Havana, an unknown octocoral was discovered which was later identified as the invasive Unomia stolonifera. It is suspected that the coral larvae arrived in ballast water from fossil fuel ships originating from Venezuela, as nearby sites adjacent to Venezuelan ports have been heavily affected by the invasion.

How to help

Prevention through continuous monitoring, particularly in high-risk areas such as marine harbors and oil facilities, is paramount. Early detection plays a pivotal role in mitigating the threat posed by Unomia stolonifera.

The public’s involvement and awareness are also vital. Local communities, recreational divers, tourists, and all stakeholders are urged to participate in early detection efforts by reporting sightings (photo, location and date) of this invasive coral to their respective Protected Area Management Organization (PMO’s)- the Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba (FPNA)STINAPA BonaireCARMABI Curaçao Saba Conservation Foundation (SCF)Nature Foundation St. Maarten (NFSXM) and St. Eustatius National Parks (STENAPA). If an invaded area is confirmed, follow the recommendations by the local PMO’s.

Keys to Success

Despite the challenges, early detection is key to mitigating the threat posed by Unomia stolonifera. With continued vigilance, research, and community engagement, there is hope for containing this potential issue before it becomes a major threat.

About the DCNA

The Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) supports (science) communication and outreach in the Dutch Caribbean region by making nature related (scientific) information more widely available through amongst others the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database, DCNA’s news platform BioNews and through the press. This article contains the results from several scientific studies but the studies themselves are not DCNA studies. No rights can be derived from the content. DCNA is not liable for the content and the in(direct) impacts resulting from publishing this article.

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