Scientists from the Marine Megafauna Foundation and Murdoch University are reporting a large number of juvenile manta rays in the waters of Nusa Penida, a small island 18km southeast of Bali, suggesting the area may be a nursery for this threatened species.
Reef mantas (Mobula alfredi), which grow up to 5m, tend to reside and feed in shallow, coastal habitats. They also visit ‘cleaning stations’ on coral reefs to have parasites or dead skin picked off by small fish. In Nusa Penida, they are present year-round making the Marine Protected Area (MPA) a snorkeling and diving hotspot.
One of the popular dive sites (Manta Bay) described in this new study is predominantly frequented by juvenile males looking for food. Some are as small as 1.5m in disc width on first sighting, providing strong evidence that the site forms part of a nursery habitat and foraging ground for the local reef manta population. Most individuals have been seen repeatedly across multiple years.
“Where manta rays are born and grow up still baffles us. Our research in Indonesia suggests there might be a reef manta nursery in the Nusa Penida area and possibly also in the famous Raja Ampat archipelago”, said lead author Elitza Germanov. “It’s really important for us to know where these nurseries are. They provide a safe space for young, vulnerable manta rays to grow and develop away from the reach of predators.”
Interestingly, mature males and females seem to prefer Manta Point, a second dive site a mere 12 km away. Here, the manta rays are mostly observed visiting cleaning stations and engaging in social activity as well as courtship display during the mating season (peaking in May).
Nusa Penida attracts more than 200,000 tourists each year. Of the 11 main dive spots in these waters, Manta Bay and Manta Point are frequented most by tourism operators, putting the local manta ray population under increasing pressure. While manta rays are protected in Indonesia2, there are currently few regulations in place to manage the growing tourism industry. The number of boats allowed to enter manta ray habitats is not limited and codes of conduct for manta ray interactions are voluntary. The average annual number of boats present at the two manta ray sites has increased by 60% since 2012 and tourism is highest during the mating season.
Germanov commented: “Large diving groups and boat engine noise can cause chronic stress to these vulnerable animals. Tourists may disrupt the foraging, cleaning and mating behavior of manta rays if they get too close, which can have serious implications for their growth and fitness.”
Limiting the number of tourism vessels allowed at one time and making codes of conduct for diving and snorkeling with manta rays mandatory are proposed as a way to minimize the impact from tourism. Seasonal closure of Manta Point could also be considered to protect the manta rays from disturbance during the mating period.
Artisanal fishing poses a further threat to the local population. During the study, 14% of manta rays were either trailing hooks and lines or had injuries and even amputations from fishing gear cutting through their skin and cartilage skeleton. While all fishing activities are officially prohibited in both Manta Bay and Manta Point, the whole west coast of Nusa Penida could be closed off as a precautionary measure.
Dr Andrea Marshall, principal scientist and co-founder of the Marine Megafauna Foundation said: “This is clearly an important habitat for reef mantas. In fact, the resighting rates in the Nusa Penida MPA are higher than anywhere else in the world.
“The two aggregation sites are very close to each other but used for different purposes. We still don’t know much about when and how the mantas move between the feeding, cleaning and mating grounds. Putting the pieces of this puzzle together will help us figure out how to protect these slow-growing animals.”
For more information about the work of the Marine Megafauna Foundation visit their website by clicking here.
Introducing two new Colours of OBLU resorts in the Maldives
COLOURS OF OBLU, a brand by Atmosphere Hotels & Resorts, has opened two exciting new resorts in Male Atoll in the Maldives this year.
OBLU XPERIENCE Ailafushi opened in June. Translating from the Maldivian dialect of Dhivehi, ‘Aila’ means family and ‘Fushi’ means island, in essence, the Family Island. A 15-minute speedboat ride from Velana International Airport brings guests to this beautiful tropical island.
The four-star resort’s 268 villas and rooms are designed to experience nature at its best. A striking fleet of water villas shaped like dhonis are lined up along the jetty – a perfect spot for snapping some selfies. From the moment of arrival, a carefree and relaxed holiday unfolds with the generous Fushi Plan™. Dining, activities, a multi-level kids club with a pool and food corner, overwater gym, and live entertainment are all blended within the stay for a hassle-free holiday.
Sumptuous all-day dining options are available at the Element X Restaurant which serves modern Western, Central Asian, and Far Eastern cuisines. X360 Bar features a 1000 sqm infinity pool – one of the largest in the Maldives. Guests can enjoy unlimited orders of refreshing spirits, wines, and beer from the grab and go bar counter. Evenings come alive with enthralling music and party vibes at the bar’s dance floor. The Copper Pot Food Truck parked on the beach is perfect for an open-air dinner of choicest fresh seafood and meat grills that can be relished on the soft sandy beach beneath the starry sky.
Walk up to La Promenade located beside a channel that meanders across Ailafushi island. This picturesque walkway has cosy seating corners along with a wine boutique, souvenir shop, and café. There is so much to do here — lounge at the scenic overwater deck, sip a cup of coffee, and socialise with like-minded travellers. Experiential highlights also include The Dome, a futuristic 15-meter theatre and entertainment centre.
Sister resort OBLU SELECT Lobigili is an adults only property that opened in March. In the Maldivian language of Dhivehi, ‘Lobi’ means love and ‘Gili’ means island. Lobigili is, in essence, the island of love.
Blessed with verdant foliage, this five-star resort features 68 contemporary beach and water villas – all assuring gorgeous views of the turquoise-blue lagoon. With the resort’s exclusive Lobi PlanTM guests can immerse in a blissfully carefree stay. This generous plan includes specialty fine-dining, unlimited beverages, spa services, Indian Ocean excursions, a selection of non-motorised watersports as well as a fully stocked minibar replenished daily.
OBLU SELECT Lobigili continues with the brand’s tradition of exceptional fine dining, elevating the mealtime experience with playful and fun touches. At Ylang-Ylang, the All-Day Dining Restaurant, delectable world cuisine with intimate nooks for couples and a unique book corner are unmissable. The Swing Bar with itschilled out beachside vibe features chic hammocks, swings and a stunning infinity pool that is one of the largest in the Maldives. Evenings come alive with handcrafted, aromatised cocktails and hypnotic DJ and Live Band performances.
That is not all. There is Gaadiya 17 Food Truck serving grab-and-go game meat grills to be relished in a fun, open-air setting on the beach under starry skies. And an exotic ONLY BLU Underwater Restaurant, one of the largest underwater restaurants in the country, where guests can experience impeccable modern gourmet cuisine.
A standout experience is ELE | NA The Spa – designed exclusively for couples and adults – featuring locally inspired spa treatments including Lobi Dhooni (Love Bird) Hithun Hithath (Heart To Heart) and Dhekanbalun (You & Me).
Scuba Diving from both resorts is with OBLU’s partner dive centre, TGI Maldives, one of the best-known in the country. The dive centre teaches a variety of PADI and SSI courses. The island’s house reef is perfect for relaxed dives, snorkeling and training, whilst many of North Male Atoll’s best dive sites are just a short boat ride away. In particular, the atoll is well-known for its manta ray sightings from May to October.
Discover more at www.coloursofoblu.com
SSI releases new Explorers program for kids
SSI has announced the release of the SSI Explorers Program, where kids aged 6-11 years old can get a taste of the many ways to explore the aquatic world around them. This exciting program makes diving for kids stress-free, guiding them in engaging underwater adventures where they can scuba dive, act like a real mermaid, and go underwater on a single breath with freediving. SSI has invested much time and energy into re-vamping this child-centered experience program.
Formerly known as Scuba Rangers, the new SSI Explorers Program is today’s most extensive aquatic experience program for kids in the dive industry. Children who have not yet reached the minimum age for scuba diving will not only gain a solid foundation in ocean conservation, but they will have the opportunity to experience four main aquatic adventures and many specialties.
Your young aquatic explorer will join Emma and Nico on exciting underwater adventures with their marine friends, Star the starfish, Shelly the sea turtle, and Spike the shark. The comprehensive children’s manual is very engaging, with colourful cartoon drawings and authentic ocean images for this young audience. Emma and Nico guide children throughout the manual’s educational content in a fun and engaging way, using Spike as their equipment expert and Shelly as the ocean environment advocate.
The SSI Explorers materials start by introducing children to the importance of protecting and preserving our oceans by becoming a Blue Oceans Explorer. After learning why our oceans are important, about the world’s five oceans, and what they can do to help protect our oceans, students earn the SSI Blue Oceans Explorer recognition rating. They can then move on to learn all there is to know about snorkel equipment and snorkelling in a confined water environment to earn their Snorkel Explorer rating.
After completing these two initial experiences, SSI Explorers can choose from one of three aquatic adventures and either become a Scuba Explorer, Mermaid Explorer, or Freediving Explorer. Better yet, they can continue on to earn all three ratings!
SSI Mermaid Explorers get to swim around like real mermaids while improving their swimming skills. SSI Freediving Explorers will go underwater and dive deeper by holding their breath longer in an encouraging, relaxed environment. Explorers who have not met the minimum age for scuba diving can try it out within the safety of a pool or confined water and become an SSI Scuba Explorer.
The fun doesn’t stop there, however! SSI Explorers can go on even more underwater adventures to earn 22 different Specialty Explorer ratings. They can improve their explorer skills with exciting specialties like Underwater Model Explorer, Rescue Explorer, Shark Ecology Explorer, and Search & Rescue Explorer, just to name a few. Your child can earn the Specialty Explorer recognition rating by completing two Explorer specialties. When they complete four specialties, they will become Advanced Explorers, and after completing the Rescue Explorer specialty, they can become a Master Explorer. SSI Explorers will even be able to earn real C-Cards just like their parents to show off their hard-earned recognition ratings.
To look back on their explorer fun, SSI has included a logbook section toward the back of the colourfully engaging SSI Explorers manual. The Explorer Logbook is where students can record details of their underwater adventures as they work through these exciting experiences. Near the logbook, SSI has also included an area for the Explorer Instructor to place an SSI recognition sticker specific to each completed explorer activity. Children will be excited to work toward earning them all!
The SSI Explorers program is now available as a book or digitally in four languages: German, English, Spanish, and Italian, with more languages hopefully coming soon.
Training the next generation of ocean lovers and aquatic enthusiasts is very important to SSI and all SSI Training Centres and Pros. The SSI Explorers Program is an excellent way to promote ocean conservation and aquatic safety in our younger population and prepare them for future open water certification opportunities once they reach the minimum age for scuba diving.
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