Sometimes you come across a natural phenomenon that is almost too hard to put into words. A one-of-a-kind moment that truly is a result of everything being in sync. Hanifaru Bay, situated within Baa Atoll in the Maldives, is known as the largest manta feeding hotspot in the world. Here, beneath the turquoise waters and surrounding the tiny sand bar of Hanifaru island, an underwater banquet of zooplankton and feasting mantas come together to create one of the most incredible underwater sights on earth.
The Magnificent Manta Gathering
Hanifaru Bay hosts magnificent gatherings of reef manta rays (Mobula alfredi) from May to November. Declared a protected marine park, Hanifaru Bay is part of the UNESCO biosphere reserve of Baa Atoll, and is renowned for its vibrant coral reef ecosystem.
But what exactly makes Hanifaru Bay the world’s largest known manta feeding station? The answer lies within a combination of fundamental factors. To start with, Hanifaru Bay’s unique, elongated shape and geographical location serve as a natural funnel, gathering plankton brought up from the deep sea. During the Southwest Monsoon, the Indian Ocean’s currents push nutrient-rich water into the bay. Additionally, the lunar tide counters the oceanic current, trapping the plankton inside the bay. This results in a thick soup of zooplankton, attracting an astonishing number of manta rays from all over the Maldives, all with one thing on their mind … dinner!
On a good day, up to 200 manta rays can potentially be seen. Their feeding behaviour is both chaotic, and incredibly graceful. Averaging up to 3 and a half metres in length and weighing up 700kg, mantas fly past like giants, wings spanned wide and mouths open, gorging on the plankton-rich water. They glide and roll, inhaling as much plankton-rich soup as possible. If you’re lucky enough to score this feast in all its glory, then you will witness a truly special phenomenon known as cyclone feeding, when more than 50 mantas form a chain and swim in synchronised rows with mouths wide open. The head of the chain eventually catches the tail, creating a manta whirlpool of synchronised dance.
Amilla Fushi: Your Gateway to Manta Magic
Just a 15-minute boat ride from Hanifaru Bay lies the incredible jewel of Amilla Fushi. This is one of the most spacious private islands in the Maldives, offering the perfect setting for your Baa Atoll experience.
What sets Amilla Fushi apart and makes it the best place to stay during your manta adventure? Its close proximity to Hanifaru Bay is a significant advantage, allowing convenient access to the manta party. Dive Butler Amilla is your local expert at Amilla Fushi and will have your manta experience totally sorted from the get-go.
Conservation & Regulations
Recognizing the significance of Hanifaru Bay as a unique foraging ground for manta rays and whale sharks, the Maldivian government declared it a Marine Protected Site in 2009. The entire Baa Atoll was later designated as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2011. Regulations aim to maintain a sustainable tourism model and protect marine life. Fishing and diving are prohibited, and visitor numbers and boats are limited. Flash photography, motorized vehicles, and touching marine animals are strictly forbidden, ensuring a harmonious (and future sustainable) interaction with these gentle giants.
- Location: Hanifaru Bay is on the east side of Baa Atoll, approximately 115 km north of Male and the Velana International Airport (MLE). Alternatively, it’s just a short speed boat ride from Amilla Fushi Resort.
- Getting to Baa Atoll: You can reach Baa Atoll by seaplane directly to your resort or by taking a domestic flight to Dharavandhoo Airport (DRV), on the aptly named Manta Air. https://amilla.com/
- Best Time to Visit: The manta season at Hanifaru Bay spans from May to November during the Southwest Monsoon. For higher chances of witnessing the manta madness, consider booking your stay around a full or new moon when tides capture more plankton in the bay. Dive Butler Amilla are your resident experts when it comes to diving Baa Atoll, so be sure to reach out to them whilst planing your trip. https://www.dive-butler.com/
- Accommodation: Amilla Fushi is a five star resort that is located in the heart of Baa Atoll, making it the ultimate location to stay during your manta adventures. https://amilla.com/