It’s the world capital of manta rays, no doubt.
I’m talking about the Maldivian atoll of Baa, and in particular the area of Hanifaru Bay.
Very particular, unique. That’s how it works.
There is a horseshoe-shaped coral formation (a little more than a kilometre long), inside which there is a lagoon of crystal clear water with an embarrassing blue colour that, with the right current, fills up with plankton and other nutrients. The manta rays know this and go on to get a bit of a kick out of it. But they go there in mass, in hundreds. Yes, hundreds. On the right days, if you pull a dead cat in the lagoon, you catch a manta ray on your back. Or a whale shark (rarer than the manta here), since they often go here too for a nice plankton abbot.
In short, this is the biggest “feeding station” in the world: practically the canteen of the great filtering fishes, that is, manta rays and whale sharks.
In Hanifaru Bay you can only go snorkeling, nothing difficult. It is a Protected Marine Area, a UNESCO reserve.
And there are so many mantas that Jessica and Virgil, owners of the very efficient diving center “Dharavandhoo Divers Maldives”, when I told them I was a freediver, told me “Ah, but you don’t want to do great apnea there: if you go down too much you risk being run over by the mantas, or you risk not being able to climb, because sometimes they are so thick that not a single passage remains open.
Do you buy?
If you don’t believe it, watch these films…
The question I think you’ll be asking yourselves at this point is, when can I go? I say it clearly, mark it out for you: the big gatherings of manta rays take place between May and November.
And not only in the lagoon. During the dive, this time with the tanks on your shoulders, in the “cleaning stations”, shallows or freemasons scattered on the bottom of the atoll of Baa, you can see the manta rays, even by dozens, while enjoying the services of the cleaning fish.
Here, the manta rays wander around you, elegant and curious, and reach a few spans from you.
I hope the message has arrived loud and clear: Hanifaru Bay is the world marine sanctuary for those who love snorkeling with manta rays and whale sharks.
And the whole area allows excellent diving, with everything that the Maldives can give to divers and snorkelers, namely gray sharks, tuna, whitetip sharks and blacktip reef sharks, nurse sharks, large schools of gunfish, emperor fish azzannatore, many turtles, and all the reef fish to go-go.
The base is the island of Dharavandhoo, a “real” Maldivian island, with its simple village, its Maldivian inhabitants and their everyday life, authentic, the little restaurants of local cuisine and the white beach that I will now show you in a photo.
“Last but not least”, you’ll be surprised how affordable this corner of paradise is: in fact, I would say that they are the most accessible Maldives you can imagine… Not bad, right?
Where: on the island of Dharavandhoo, Atoll of Baa, Maldives
When: May-November if you want to see whale sharks and manta rays; for the rest, all year round.
Water temperature: 27-30 degrees.
What you see in the water: manta rays, whale sharks (in season), grey sharks, reef sharks (white fin and black fin), nurse, tuna, carangidae, turtles, platax, groupers, moray eels and other benthic fauna typical of the Maldives, at will, on reefs and shoals.
With whom: Mastrosommerso
Activities on the island: diving (also courses), snorkeling, excursions on sand tongues and islets, healthy relaxation on white beaches, knowledge of local culture, fishing by boat.
TAGS: Diving With Sharks, Maldives, Mantas, Snorkeling, Whale Shark, Grey Shark, Blacktip Oceanic Shark, Underwater & Animals, Underwater Travel