World renowned Hanifaru Bay, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Maldives’ stunning Baa Atoll – 15 minutes away from The Nautilus – is one of the largest manta feeding hotspots in the world
Manta Ray season runs every May to November
The pandemic has caused a shift in priorities for the most discerning travellers, with guests looking to vacation more thoughtfully than ever before. Post-pandemic travel wish lists of elite travellers imply out-of-the-ordinary experiences as guests search for creative and outstanding ways to make the most of their trips with meaningful adventures and long-lasting memories to enrich the mind, body and soul.
The Nautilus deeply understands this mindset and has lovingly crafted ‘The Manta Ray Symposium’ together with the resident marine biologist expert and AquaNautica team at the private island resort. During the Manta Ray Symposium, the marine biologist will share valuable knowledge with The Nautilus’ guests in a casual and free-spirited atmosphere as well as accompany and guide The Nautilus guests on private excursions within Hanifaru Bay’s waters and coordinate with the Hanifaru Bay park rangers, who are experts in ensuring guests enjoy the most rewarding sighting opportunities.
In convivial discussions, whilst guests are sipping fine concoctions created by The Nautilus’s mixologist, the resident marine biologist expert will share in-depth knowledge about these beautiful, captivating, and mysterious creatures, different species, breeding and feeding habits and about Hanifaru Bay itself. Guests can learn about interesting facts, such as mantas are born into a life of everlasting motion and that they can never stop moving and need the flowing of water over their gills to breathe or share important guidelines on how to snorkel with mantas sustainably and respectfully; or how to best capture a photo of this one-of-a-kind experience without disturbing these gentle giants.
In close interaction, the marine biologist and AquaNautica team will ensure that guests leave with an enriching experience and unforgettable moments spent amongst the corals and sea life of the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
World renowned Hanifaru Bay, the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in Maldives’ stunning Baa Atoll, which is just 15 minutes away from The Nautilus by luxury yacht, is one of the largest manta feeding hotspots in the world. Hanifaru Bay is unique as it has a vigorous water circulation system due to the funnel-like reef shape – approximately 1,300m long and 600m wide. During the north-western monsoon (May to November), enormous quantities of plankton get trapped in the bay, creating what is known as plankton ‘soup’, which attracts large numbers of filter feeding megafauna’ such as whale sharks and manta rays. More than 1600 individuals have been identified in Baa Atoll in the last manta season alone.
Along with a few whale sharks, these manta rays display the unforgettable spectacle known as cyclone feeding. In this particular location, cyclone feeding can consist of more than 100 individual mantas. This special behavior is almost exclusive to Hanifaru Bay, the only location where you’re allowed to swim and snorkel with these beautiful creatures. For an almost guaranteed sighting of the mantas, guests could consider booking their aquatic Nautilus adventure over a full moon or new moon phases. During this time, the tides are naturally a little higher, therefore capturing the most plankton within the bay ready for the mantas to eat.
The lunar tide pushes against the oceanic current creating a dynamic clash of currents, increasing the sub-aqua nutrients available. If there is no presence of a counter-tide, the mixture of plankton simply washes over the bay into the outer periphery of the atoll. If there is a collision of currents, the plankton is swept up from deeper parts of the sea. Once it has risen, it’s biological instincts reject the light making it return back down to a higher point of the sea bed. This method of naturally collected plankton is what drives the mantas back for their plankton feeding frenzy. When all of these facets align, mantas in their masses, usually up to 200, commune and perform a show of feeding and intrigue, whirling up to the surface to take a look at the snorkelling visitors.
Typically known as Mobula Alfredi, the reef manta ray is not only one of the largest but also one of the most iconic marine species in waters surrounding The Nautilus. Snorkellers and divers are far more likely to witness the grandeur of Mobula Alfredi than, for example, the Oceanic Manta Ray species, because they prefer communing in far shallower waters and are typically more sociable. With an average width of 325cm-400cm, weight of 700kg and life span of around 40 years, these magnificent creates will continue to grace Hanifaru Bay’s waters and The Nautilus’ atoll for many years to come.