With the Maldivian Manta Ray season in full swing, visitors to Coco Bodu Hithi can get up close and personal with these graceful ocean giants during guided Manta snorkelling tours offered by the expert in-house Marine Biologist.
The luxury resort island is just a 15-minute boat ride away from Rasfari North, a lengthy and flat reef regularly visited by nomad Reef Manta Rays (Manta alfredis) during the Northeast monsoon season. Rasfari North is known to the majestic marine animals as a cleaning station, or so-called ‘spa’. Cleaner wrasses or shrimps clean bigger species of fish, sharks, rays or turtles of parasites and algae, a valuable food source to them – a perfect example of inter-species interactions in the ocean.
Experiencing Manta Rays up close is a thrilling adventure for nature lovers, as they spend a fair amount of time roaming the surface waters chasing their preferred food source: plankton. Manta Rays are gentle and often quite curious. Equipped with significantly reduced teeth, a stingless tail and the biggest brain of all fish (relative to their body size) they pose no threat to humans but offer a stunning sight with an impressive 3-5 metre wingspan.
The Maldives is home to the largest known population of Reef Mantas in the world, with an estimated 5,000 individuals. However, the Maldives is also a popular tourist destination, partly due to the abundance of ocean wildlife found there. Mantas attract thousands of people every year, which benefits the Maldivian economy but can also have some negative associated impacts on the Manta Rays and their habitat, which the Coco Collection team work hard to combat.
The team at Coco Bodu Hithi and sister resort Coco Palm Dhuni Kolhu play a huge role in Marine Biology education, conservation and research programs. They have an established Marine Biology Centre and run numerous initiatives aimed towards preserving Marine Biodiversity including a Manta Ray Identification Project run in collaboration with Manta Trust, a Sea Turtle Identification Project, and a partnership with the Oliver Ridley Project.