Dive Charters Help Manta Ray Conservation in Indonesia
Graceful, elegant and loved by divers and snorkelers everywhere, manta rays symbolise the gentle majesty of the ocean. Not only are these amazing pelagics identifiable by their own original speckled markings, they are also the fish with the largest brain to body ratio. Dive charters all over the world are helping to preserve this amazing creature as it has become apparent that they are worth more to tourism than to the poachers.
A fearsome reputation
In addition to their beauty, their intelligence means divers can create a connection with them making them even more attractive to swim with. In the past fishermen feared these gentle giants and tales were told of how they would eat boats and terrorize fisherfolk. Moreover, they were nicknamed “devilfish” because of their horn-shaped cephalic fins, which were imagined to give them an “evil” appearance. It took quite a while for this fish to escape its gruesome reputation.
In fact, it was as recently as 1978 that divers began to recognise the mild idiosyncrasies of this wonderful creature. Enthusiasts around the Gulf of California found manta rays to be placid and capable of interaction, one of these divers was Peter Benchley, the author of Jaws.
Manta ray tourism
Once the reputation of these spectacular fish started to change and people began to realise they could have unforgettable close encounters, manta tourism has soared. Tourists and deep sea devotees alike flock to the Bahamas, the Cayman Islands, Spain, the Fiji Islands, Thailand, Indonesia, Hawaii, Western Australia and the Maldives in pursuit of diving the with this dream fish. Of course, wherever manta rays congregate, people gather, generating income for the local population.
One of the best places to find manta rays is Indonesia, hardly surprising given that the islands that make up this country are surrounded by 5.8 million square kilometres (2.2 million square miles) of tropical ocean. Furthermore, as of January 2014, Indonesia became a manta ray sanctuary as the government brought in a fishing and export ban. Indonesia is now the world’s largest sanctuary for manta rays.
A fish worth protecting
Essentially, the Indonesian authorities recognise manta ray tourism as more economically beneficial than allowing the fish to be killed. A dead manta is worth $40 to $500 when they sold to the lucrative Chinese medicine market while it is estimated that manta ray tourism can bring in $1 million during the life of a single manta ray. Tourism and the money it brings is literally saving these creatures in this developing nation.
Found in the tropics, manta rays live up to 50 years but do not mature until age eight to ten and typically give birth to a single pup only every two to five years. Their slow rate of reproduction means heavy fishing cannot be sustained, and mantas are classified as vulnerable to extinction on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species.
Best Dive sites for Manta Rays in Indonesia
Indonesia is one of the top spots in the world to dive with manta rays and there are many places that they can be found all year round.
Komodo Islands and Flores
The Komodo Islands are one of the best places for swimming with manta rays. The months of June through to September offer the best conditions for visibility and weather patterns but the mantas are present year-round as they migrate from north to south with the changing seasons.
The plankton found on the sandy bottom makes this a prime location for witnessing bottom feeding. This is also a great place for exciting night dives with these awesome creatures.
There is an ever-growing list of dive sites emerging from this developing location. The reef manta ray is best seen at Manta Ridge, Manta Sandy, Eagle Rock and Wayag Lagoon while Blue Magic consistently hosts Oceanic Manta Rays, and at Magic Mountain, you can see the two species together. Both species display the common morph as well as the rarer black morph.
While manta rays can be found in Raja Ampat from October to May, December to March offers the best conditions. Possibly one of the best location for diving anywhere in the world with an extraordinarily high species count and fabulous coral gardens. This location is also far off the beaten track and only really accessible on a diving charter.
Prana, a luxury diving experience
If you a dying to get in the water with manta rays, the best way to immerse yourself in the experience is to book a trip on a luxury dive charter. This way you can spend every day in the deep blue ocean observing a myriad of fantastical creatures and then return to the comfort of your floating hotel.
Prana is the most luxurious dive charter sailing in Indonesian waters and she has 9 beautiful suites spread over 4 enchanting decks. Furthermore, if you have never been scuba diving before you can gain your qualification with the team onboard.
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