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Dive Photo Guide


Manta Madness - The Big Birds of Hanifaru Bay
By Tobias Friedrich, October 15, 2012 @ 10:00 AM (EST)

In the Maldives, there are several cleaning spots called “manta points,” where the manta rays meet on a regular basis for some skin care. The team at National Geographic made one of these points public in the year 2008—Hanifaru Bay, which is situated in the Baa Atoll, northwest of Malé. The bay consists of little more than a big bank of sand with some small reef blocks in the middle of it.

Up to 200 mantas have been reported at the same time, feeding in the bay where there are large concentrations of plankton. They perform marvelous behaviors in the bay, swimming a short distance from one another so that the plankton that doesn’t get filtered by one wide-open mouth streams into the mouth of the next, forming a big cyclone.


Scenes like this made the bay famous but also attracted an influx of tourists. The authorities therefore restricted the access to the small bay and only alternately let the live-aboard and resorts come in to visit the manta rays. It is here where true manta magic happens…

It was easy to get beneath the manta rays to get nice shots with the sun in the background. But you need to improve your freediving skills before attempting this.
Tons of divers surround the animals once they have been spotted, but good photos are not easy to take. One approach is to get away from the big groups of divers and wait for the mantas to come to you.
Mantas roll around to get more plankton into their mouths.
From a snorkeler’s perspective, there is still a good chance to get some nice photos, especially in the outer bay where the water is deeper but visibility is actually improved by the current.
Like birds, these elegant creatures fly through the water.
Mantas sometimes swim in formation to maximize plankton feeding.
Even with many of us in the water, the mantas are able to maneuver easily between the divers.
Freediving at its best. When you are well trained, it may be the best way to explore these animals in the ocean.



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