Manta Madness in the Maldives

Reef manta rays of Maldives are the most gorgeous things in the world. While I planned my first dive holiday in Baa Atoll during manta season, little did I know, they’re not just swimming around in Hanifaru Bay, all the time. In fact, there were no manta sightings in my first 4 days. On my last dive day, we got the call – Hanifaru Bay was alive and buzzing with over 60 manta rays!

Hanifaru’s Manta Ray Season

Manta season in Hanifaru Bay, Baa Atoll is technically from May to October (off-season in Maldives). But peak manta months are late June, July and August. I travelled on the last week of June and things were just picking up. But on the second week of July 2023, there were over 100 mantas and two whale sharks feeding inside the bay. It’s all a matter of weather, currents and plankton!

Manta Feeding Patterns

Manta rays are one of the first animals I’ve come across that have multiple feeding techniques. It was definitely mind-blowing to watch them do the 3 main ones, while snorkelling in Baa Atoll.

Cyclone feeding – think of what a cyclone looks like, and yep, that’s exactly it. A cyclone of mantas!

Barrel feeding – this is where they summersault over each other.

Line feeding – exactly as it is, they feed in a straight line.

Do Mantas sting or bite people? I got this question a lot. Mantas are non-venomous and only eat plankton. That being said, respect their space and avoid touching or obstructing them.

Can you Scuba Dive with Mantas?

Since Hanifaru Bay is a Marine Protected Area, scuba diving is prohibited.

You can dive outside the bay and have your fingers crossed that a manta ray will glide past you. But otherwise, only snorkelling and freediving are allowed inside Hanifaru Bay. Up to 80 people are allowed to snorkel within the bay – but that feels like too many!

Ethical Swimming with Manta Rays

Swimming with 60+ mantas can be exciting and overwhelming. But here are some best practices to follow when snorkelling or diving with Mantas in the Maldives.

  • Don’t free dive in the middle when they’re cyclone feeding
  • Never obstruct them during their feeding.
  • Stay horizontal when mantas are below you, so your flippers don’t knock into them
  • As exciting as it is, don’t scream and shout. It scares them away. Parents, please tell your kids this.
  • Don’t flash your torch or any light at Mantas. This applies even when diving too.
  • Don’t chase them. This applies when diving too.

What I was not Prepared for

The strong AF currents. Hanifaru Bay is U-shaped, and boats are only allowed as far out as the nearby reef. You hop off the boat and swim for a few metres against the current to get inside the bay.

We were told to be wary about drifting to the other side of the bay, as the currents were strong. At which point, we would be in deep sea and the boat would have to go on a massive loop to pick us up. But cool, I swim, I dive, all good, right?

EXCEPT IT WASN’T. I was not prepared to get swept up after a few minutes with my head underwater gawking at the mantas. The panic attack followed moments later when I realised I couldn’t find my group in a sea of orange life vests and floating bodies. Luckily, the boat was still there, so I swam in that direction for a while. With waves hitting my face and my snorkel, I swam half the distance before my legs cramped up. And then decided, yep, this was how I was going to die – with mantas.

Luckily, Dreamland’s dive group was the closest to me. I signalled their guide for help and swam towards their ring buoy for a rest. In a sea of floating bodies, he helped me locate my dive group and get to them safely. They were on the far side of the bay – so more swimming! When I eventually got to them, no one even noticed I was missing – talk about the perks of solo travel!

The swim back to the boat was even more excruciating – battling currents with tired limbs, I had never been more excited to get on that boat! We rested, caught our breath, wore our dive gear and jumped back into the sea at our dive site, for a more relaxing experience.


Snorkelling with Mantas was definitely one of the most beautiful experiences in my life. Such wild, majestic creatures in their local habitat (as opposed to the marine life being fed by hotels or fishermen and lured into an area for tourism). But diving with manta rays was a whole other feeling. Their true beauty amplified 50 times more, about 20m underwater. Watching them so elegantly and effortlessly glide through the water, when all you can hear is the sound of your breathing. Absolute peace. I can only hope there are more manta experiences in my life.

Check out more Manta footage on my Instagram and TikTok!

Yours truly,

Imperfect Traveller

Recommended Articles