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.
The Maldives is one of the world’s hotspots for manta ray activity and is home to the largest and most studied populations on the planet. In fact, this archipelago is one of the best places to visit if you want to enjoy diving with mantas. But you might like to know that there is a precise relation between the location you intend visiting and the period of the year you choose.
The reason is that manta rays are filter feeders and eat huge amounts of plankton. While planning your trip, it is important to understand which is the right location to meet mantas, depending on the time of the year.
A haven of natural tranquility, Olhuveli Beach & Spa Maldives is a top destination for seeing some of the world’s rarest sea creatures. Until November, enjoy the ‘manta ray season’, offering divers, snorkelers and even dry-land spectators an even greater chance of spotting one of nature’s unusual creatures.
They thrive in the Maldives’ waters. Especially during the summer months when the higher level of plankton in the water and prevailing winds and currents of the hot weather entice rays of all sizes to migrate to Olhuveli’s tempting shores. One of the most exciting experiences Olhuveli offers with manta rays is seeing them from the jetty at dusk, when its spotlights entice shoals of frenzied fishy activity.
These muscular creatures flip in and out of the water. A wonderful experience for those wanting to watch nature’s theatre played out to the backdrop of a perfect sunset.
To snorkel or dive with manta rays is an almost indescribable experience. They move through the water with such grace, gently soaring through the turquoise lagoons, over reefs bursting with life. It is truly a magical feeling to see these creatures fly through the water. Manta Rays are inquisitive by nature and if you can control your excitement and remain still, the rays will swim around you with tremendous elegance.
Olhuveli Beach & Spa Maldives
Nestled amid lush tropical vegetation and shaded by graceful palms. Encircled by stretches of powdery sandy beach and a vast crystal clear lagoon, a truly breathtaking island with plenty of secluded sandbanks where paradise seekers escaping from the pressures of daily modern life can forget the outside world and let go of all inhibitions.
Beautifully designed villas stand over turquoise waters, fusing modern flair with traditional architecture, white sandy beaches giving way to endless sea views that stretch for miles. It is truly a place where mind and body can relax, the senses can be invigorated and spirit will feel soothed.
Set in the turquoise heart of the Indian Ocean that is Maldives, Olhuveli Beach & Spa Maldives is situated at the tip of South Male’ Atoll and offers one of the best luxury water villa accommodations, restaurants and recreation activities. It is made easily accessible by a 45-minute exhilarating speedboat transfer from Velana International Airport.
A rare opportunity to join a thrilling seven-night research odyssey studying the Maldives’ most exciting residents, manta rays and whale sharks
If swimming with manta rays and whale sharks isn’t already on one’s bucket list, it most definitely should be. Words cannot capture the wonder of sharing the water with some of the ocean’s most majestic marine marvels – and with Four Seasons Explorer Manta Trust Expeditions, one doesn’t even need to be a diver to get in on the action.
Following the success of the annual Manta Trust Expedition, Four Seasons Resorts Maldives announces the dates for the upcoming year’s manta-focused cruises: August 17 to 24 and August 30 to September 7, 2017.
Conceived in conjunction with The Manta Trust – the world’s leading manta ray charity – and escorted by its founder and world-renowned manta expert Guy Stevens, the two all-inclusive seven-day expeditions (with the option of shorter 3- and 4-night cruises within the dates) will immerse participants in every fascinating aspect of the Trust’s research and conservation efforts.
The expedition dates reflect The Manta Trust’s peak sighting predictions, based on the southwest current movements of plankton (mantas’ and whales sharks’ favourite food) through the Baa and Ari Atolls. Each exclusive expedition route will take daily climatic and environmental factors into consideration to maximise the chances of successful encounters – and with 2016’sexpeditions boasting a 100 percent sighting success rate, the scene is set for some exhilarating encounters.
Manta rays and whale sharks feed at the surface of the ocean, making the expeditions suitable for divers and non-divers alike.
As honorary researchers, all expedition participants are encouraged to engage in every aspect of the conservation experience: learning how to freedive and take ID photos; contributing to data collection; helping record critical environmental information; participating in workshops and even naming any mantas new to the Trust’s database.
Hosted aboard the Maldives’ fastest and most luxurious liveaboard, Four Seasons Explorer, the all-inclusive itineraries also give participants effortless access to a side of the Maldives rarely experienced by tourists: remote snorkel hotspots, secluded cultural experiences, isolated craft village visits, deserted sandbank barbecues, castaway beach massages, uncrowded water sports and spectacular daily sunrises and sunsets, afloat in the middle of the world’s most mesmerising aquatic nation.
For rates and bookings, contact the Reservations Department tel: (960) 66 00 888 or email: [email protected]
Four Seasons and The Maldivian Manta Ray Project (founding project of The Manta Trust)
Based at Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru since 2006, The Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP) is one of the world’s longest running manta ray research and conservation initiatives. It is also the founding project of The Manta Trust – the world’s leading manta ray charity – established to co-ordinate global research and conservation efforts for manta rays, their close relatives and their habitats. Thanks to the work of the MMRP at Landaa Giraavaru, the Maldivian manta ray population is one of the most intensely studied in the world, placing it at the forefront of international manta ray research and conservation: most notably, the successful 2013 listing of manta rays on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). In addition to collecting data on the manta rays it encounters, MMRP also studies environmental and climatic factors, as well as tourism and human interactions, contributing vital knowledge to global research efforts.
The waters of the pristine Baa Atoll around Four Seasons Resort Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru are some of the richest in the Maldives. Declared a UNESCO World Biosphere in July 2011, the Atoll is home to nine core protected areas including Hanifaru Bay and Baathala, two renowned manta ray hotspots within easy reach of the Resort.
Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru offers our guests a once-in-a-lifetime chance from June to October to get up close and personal with majestic manta rays and the world’s biggest fish, the whale shark. During this time of the year, a combination of southwestern monsoon currents and lunar tides bring large quantities of planktonic shrimp (mantas’ favourite food) to various sites around Landaa Giraavaru, attracting large numbers of manta rays.
The manta rays with wing-like pectoral fins that stretch to a length of 13 to 15 feet (4 to 4.5 metres) move gracefully through the water while feeding with their enormous mouths. Having one of the largest comparable brain sizes of any marine animal makes them highly curious, resulting in some very close snorkelling encounters.
Guests who visit the Resort during the months of June and November 2017 can also sign up for the Resort’s Manta on Call service: a thrilling experience that sees them collected from wherever they are in the Resort when mantas are spotted and whisked away in a speedboat to snorkel with them. Guests are provided with Manta Phone on which they will be called immediately when mantas are sighted.
Hot dates for a Manta Visual Feast – 2017
Guy Stevens – founder of the world-renowned Manta Trust – has identified the below hot dates for 2017 when manta rays are most likely to converge at renowned local feeding and cleaning sites:
June 7 to 11
June 22 to 26
July 7 to 11
July 21 to 25
August 5 to 9
August 19 to 23
September 4 to 8
September 18 to 22
October 3 to 7
October 17 to 21
November 2 to 4
November 16 to 21
Please note that sightings are subject to weather conditions and the temperaments of the mantas themselves.
Available from June 7 to November 21, 2017, the Manta Watch! package is perfect for guests who seek to experience the best of the manta season. The Manta Watch! package at Landaa Giraavaru includes:
Round trip airport transfers by seaplane for two
Daily buffet breakfast for two
One Manta-on-Call snorkelling excursion for two persons by speedboat
A personal coral frame propagation
One dolphin cruise and marine biologist briefing for two
The four-night package starts from USD 6,285 and it is subject to 10 percent service charge and all applicable taxes.
For rates and reservations, contact your travel consultant, book online or call the central reservations department of Four Seasons Resorts Maldives at tel: (960) 66 00 888 or email: [email protected]
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.