Manta Rays: Gentle Giants of the Sea
Manta Rays are one of the most amazing Sea Creatures
A few years ago I was scuba diving in Thailand at the famous Manta Ray hot-spot, Koh Bon. It's known for wild currents where the Manta Rays float effortlessly, with open mouths feeding on all the Plankton that is streaming by. As a scuba diver, floating in the wild current is not so effortless as you have to grab a piece of rock and just hang on. However, this trip was well-worth it because as soon as we rounded the corner, there was a massive Manta Ray. We held on and just watched for what seemed like an eternity. It was a humbling, awe-inspiring experience. From that moment on, I've loved Manta Rays and even got one tattooed onto my back!
Check out the amazing photos and videos on this site, as well as learn a little bit about this fabulous animal. Eating habits, best places to spot them, physical characteristics. It can all be found here! Enjoy.
All about Manta Rays
Manta Rays, related closely to sharks are the largest species of Ray and one of the largest creatures in the ocean. The largest recorded manta ray is as astounding 8m across the wings and weighs 1300 kg. They are brown/black on top and have light-colored bellies. Their markings differ, making them easy to identify as individuals.
Manta Rays typically live in warm, tropical water around coral reefs but also venture to more temperate locales. Mantas have also been seen in the open ocean and can travel long distances. They have been known to dive as deep as 500m.
(image from National Geographic)
Have you ever seen a Manta Ray in the wild?
Manta Ray's Feeding Habits
The primary food of manta rays is Plankton, of which they take in 20-30 kg/day. They feed in a very interesting way, filtering water (and food) into their mouths as they swim with the 2 lobes that extend forward from their eye region. They sometimes engage in a feeding spiral, of which not much is currently known. It's perhaps thought that this behavior helps to funnel more food into their mouths.
Manta Rays have almost non-existent teeth because they don't bite their food, but instead just filter. Besides, Plankton, they will sometimes take in fish larvae, small fish, and tiny crustaceans to supplement their diet.
(image from Manta Ray World)
For the Manta Ray Fanatic
What's the most amazing thing about Manta Rays?
Are Manta Rays Dangerous?
Unlike some other mantas that have a stinging tail, Manta Rays are completely harmless. They have short tails, very small teeth and a non-stinging spine. The only way that they defend themselves against predators (sharks and orcas) are their extremely powerful wings which can offer powerful blows.
Usually Manta Rays are curious, or indifferent to humans, including scuba divers and snorkelers.
(image from it's Nature)
Amazing Manta Ray footage from the Maldives
Manta Ray Reproduction
The Manta Ray mating season is from December to late April and often seems to be triggered by a full moon. Several males will court a single female, chasing her around for up to an hour. The actual mating happens very close to the surface, with the male biting the female's pectoral fin and clasping on, belly to belly. The mating lasts for about 90 seconds.
The female holds the eggs inside of her for a few months, until the eggs hatch inside of her. She nourishes the pups for a time and then the young mantas are eventually released after a few months. There are 1 or 2, 45 kg pups born at a time, rolled up in a tube. As soon as they unroll their wings, they are active and grow very quickly.
(image from the BBC)
More information about Manta Rays
Scuba Diving with Manta Rays
Some of the top sites for Manta Rays encounters when scuba diving are:
1. Kona, Hawaii (all year round)
2. Baa Atoll, Maldives (May-July)
3. Koh Bon, Thailand (October-May)
4. South Plaza Island, Galapagos Island (June and October)
5. Coral Coast, Australia (year-round)
6. Yap, Micronesia (year-round)
7. Komodo Island, Indonesia
The Blue Edge
Free-diving with the Manta Rays (among other things). It's a page-turner that I had a hard time putting down.
Manta Ray Feeding Frenzy
Manta Ray Behavior
Manta Rays can frequently be seen jumping, or breaching out of the water. It's not entirely known why they do this, but it's thought that perhaps it's a form or play or social behavior. It's also possible that this action helps to rid parasites from their bodies.
Another behavior that Manta Rays engage in is visiting cleaning stations. Cleaner Wrasse, or other small fish remove parasites from the Manta Ray's body.
Fifty Places to Dive Before you Die
Want to see Manta Rays in the wild? This is the book for you!