In Baa Atoll the summer months of June to November mean only one thing: manta ray season. This is when mantas (Manta alfredi), in their hundreds, migrate to the atoll’s plankton-rich waters for astounding animal-viewing opportunities unequalled anywhere else on the planet. The recently-opened Milaidhoo Maldives is perfectly located for prime manta ray viewing, being only about 12-minutes by speedboat from Hanifaru Bay, which is known as the biggest manta feeding station in the world.
During the season Milaidhoo offers trips to snorkel with mantas up to three times a week, with the timings being coordinated with Hanifaru Bay park rangers to ensure guests enjoy the most rewarding sighting opportunities. Guests can go in group trips or book a private excursion, perhaps adding on a picnic on a deserted sandbank or a cruise to a local island for a truly memorable day. The resort’s resident marine biologist will be happy to join excursions to make this a meaningful learning experience.
Hanifaru Bay is a protected marine reserve which is carefully managed with entry limited to a small number of visitors every day to conserve the environment. Known as the world’s largest manta ray feeding station, it’s also famous for being nursery grounds for grey sharks and stingrays and is one of the very few places in the world where whale sharks congregate to mate. It’s best known for its concentration of reef manta rays, where on good days it’s possible to see and swim alongside a hundred mantas.
For the newly opened Milaidhoo Maldives, this is particularly exciting as this will be the luxury resort’s first year to greet these spectacular seasonal visitors. Preparations to make this as meaningful an experience as possible for guests are being made with passion, from arranging personalised alerts to creating bespoke manta watching tours. The staff at the Ocean Stories Aquatic Centre are ready to teach guests about the gentle giants of the ocean and how to ensure encounters are safe for the animal. The team have identified several secret spots outside of the marine reserve for yet more private and personal one-on-one manta snorkelling. Divers can enjoy spectacular scuba diving at special dive sites within Baa atoll where manta rays can also often be found.
To make this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity even more tempting, Milaidhoo has launched a special summer offer of 40% off its published rates.
What are manta rays? Not to be confused with the much more common sting rays, manta rays are peaceful, large (from 4m up to 8m in size) filter feeders, sucking in plankton. Listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, they’re not always easy to find in the wild. Hanifaru Bay, and certain ‘cleaning stations’ within the Baa atoll offer some of the best places in the world to see manta rays from June to November.
Maldivian-owned Milaidhoo Island Maldives opened in November 2016 and is proudly rooted in the local island traditions, curating a bespoke selection of experiences to showcase the destination. Set on a tiny island in the Baa Atoll’s beautiful UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, each of Milaidhoo’s 50 private villas have been designed by a local Maldivian architect and each thatched-roof villa features generous private pools and is serviced by Island Hosts. The villas are just a short, barefoot stroll away to three world-class restaurants, incredible watersports, fitness, spa, yoga and world-class diving. Milaidhoo is a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World.
Press Release: Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) and The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN Maldives) is collaborating with Maldivian artists to celebrate the whale shark in The Second Annual Maldives Whale Shark Festival. Hosted in Dhangethi, this year’s festival will be the culmination of months of community engagement workshops in which school students and community members have come together to create artwork representing their island and celebrating the marine diversity of South Ari Atoll and its Marine Protected Area (SAMPA).
This unique festival, which places island communities at the centre of creative decision making, will transform the host island on Saturday December 6th, festooning the streets with colour, filling the air with ‘Boduberu’ and providing an unmissable learning experience for over 250 people who have participated in its development. The carnival procession at 1pm will see 3 whale sharks swim above the heads of the crowd, a giant green turtle, butterfly fish and manta ray dance through the streets and a feast of brightly coloured costumes created by each island.
Each participating island has chosen a mascot to make and has been working with professional artists to realise their designs for large scale, kinetic sculptures and mobile recycled artwork and costumes. Inspired by the stories of their community they have been working with creative practitioner Fazail Lutfe to create high impact, theatrical presentations to share with festival goers. Weaving together the traditional forms of ‘Raivaru’ and ‘Boduberu’ with contemporary storytelling, each island will tell part of the Atoll’s story, giving voice to the area’s rich cultural heritage.
Local artists Nadee Rachey and Kareen Adam from Malé city have been leading on the artistic vision for the festival, collaborating with Festival Director Chloe Osborne from the UK, to provide a series of multi-disciplinary art workshops with 4 main islands – Dhigurah, Dhangethi, Dhiddhoo and Mandhoo, with support from neighbouring islands and resorts.
“This is just the beginning – we plan on putting the festival on the cultural calendar for the Maldives, bringing people from across the country and the world together to celebrate the rich marine and cultural diversity of the archipelago. Nowhere else is uniquely placed to support the collaboration between Marine Biologists and Artists, community members and international researchers. We look forward to building on this year’s success and, with thanks to our generous sponsors, to offering the opportunity to participate to more islands everywhere.”
Chloe Osborne – Festival Director, Maldives Shark Research Programme.
We hope to attract festival-goers from across the Atoll, Malé and beyond with this yearly opportunity to celebrate the craftsmanship and creativity of the island communities and to celebrate the area’s unique role in the International Whale Shark ecology.
The 2014 festival has been created with support from our technical partner IUCN Maldives with sponsorship from Voyages Maldives, FlyMe, Allied Insurance with Mirihi, Lux* Maldives, Lily Beach, Vilamendhoo, Holiday Island and Sun Island resorts, online partner Maldives.com, and our official hydration partner 100PLUS.
MWSRP programme coordinator Ibrahim Shameel added “For the past 5 months MWSRP have been working with the local islands to bring this festival to life. Along the way we have been fortunate enough to work with some amazing people without whom this festival would not be possible. The idea of a festival is still a very new concept to the communities but have been delighted at how the openly the idea has been received. Its been an inspiration and an honour to witness this festival bring people of all ages come together in a shared endeavour.”
Festival Background: Developed by MWSRP and IUCN Maldives in 2013, the festival is designed to provide the island communities of South Ari Atoll with the opportunity to celebrate the Whale Shark and the Marine Diversity of their Atoll whilst promoting environmental sustainability and conservation at a grassroots level.. Seeding the idea of an international collaboration between marine biologists and artists and promoting the use of community art as a tool for social and environmental engagement, the project seeks to boost local and national awareness and tourism to support future generations.
Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme
The Maldives Whale Shark Research Programme (MWSRP) is a charity that carries out whale shark research and fosters community focused conservation initiative in the Maldives.
What initially began as a scientific expedition in 2006, the MWSRP has grown to become the only long term organisation dedicated to study the iconic, yet vulnerable whale shark species in the Maldives.
Our goal is simple: we seek to advance the field of whale shark knowledge and to advocate for sound conservation policy in the Maldives. By encouraging and valuing community and industry stakeholder participation, we are able to leverage the scientific research to safeguard the rich biodiversity and fragile marine ecosystems that are the basis for not only whale sharks, but also life, livelihood and culture in the Maldives.
Community mobilisation is one of our core values. Participation from the local residents of South Ari Atoll and throughout Maldives is very important to the work of MWSRP.
contact for more information: Richard Rees, Managing Director MWSRP [email protected]
IUCN Maldives Marine Projects
The objectives of the IUCN Maldives Marine Projects were developed to address the environmental priorities and challenges that the Maldives faces. They include enhancing coral reef resilience (both social and ecological), supporting climate change adaptation, advancing marine species management and increasing environmental awareness across different sectors. These are ambitious but urgent priorities that require vision, dedication, perseverance and commitment by many individuals, groups and stakeholders of society in order to address them.