Here come the mantas: World-famous Hanifaru Bay to reopen from Saturday

Hanifaru Bay in Maldives, the biggest manta feeding hotspot in the world, is set to reopen to visitors from Saturday.

The Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Office, which oversees the marine protected area, has formulated ‘new normal’ guidelines to ensure visitors can enjoy a safe experience.

“With the opening of Maldivian borders to the world and the steady increase in tourist arrivals, we want all visitors to experience the best of Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve,” an announcement read.

The centrepiece to the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, Hanifaru Bay is a vital feeding and breeding ground for manta rays and whale sharks; you have an excellent chance of seeing these incredible sea giants while snorkelling here.

While diving in the bay is banned, swimming with manta rays is a remarkable, once-in-a-lifetime experience that snorkelers of all abilities should not miss out on. Watching from above as they glide, swoop, swerve and somersault just metres beneath you is one of life’s truly spectacular experiences.

Each year, from May to November, huge amounts of krill and plankton collects in the Hanifaru Bay, attracting all kinds of marine life, making it the world’s largest natural manta ray feeding destination.

The gentle giants of the ocean, manta rays are one of the most mysterious and largest fish in the ocean with wingspans of up to seven metres. Curious, friendly and harmless, manta rays have the largest brain of any fish. They feed on a variety of plankton, which accounts for their large, gaping mouths.

Resorts and guesthouses in Baa atoll and the surrounding region work closely with the rangers who protect Hanifaru Bay to offer tours and excursions.

At the bay, snorkelers are treated to an amazing underwater ballet as the giant mantas glide and somersault in mesmerising patterns. The mantas often swim within centimetres of snorkelers, always managing to avoid contact at the last second.

On any given day, visitors to Hanifaru Bay can see anywhere from a couple of mantas to more than 40 depending on plankton levels. Around the full moon, as many as 100 mantas can congregate in the bay.

Getting this close to these majestic creatures is truly an experience of a lifetime!

During manta ray season, there is also the possibility of snorkelling with whale sharks, another gentle giant of the ocean and once-in-a-lifetime encounter.

While no means guaranteed, whale shark sightings are reasonably frequent from May to November as they are also attracted by the abundance of plankton and krill in Hanifaru Bay.

Photo: Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Office

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