Encounters with Manta Rays and Anantara Kihavah Villas‘ house reef ‘The Golden Wall’ are two lifetime experiences snorkellers of every ability shouldn’t miss out on. The manta ray is one of the most mysterious and largest fish in the ocean with wingspans of up to 5 metres or more and Anantara Kihavah Villas offers your best opportunity to encounter these amazing creatures in their natural annual migration to The Maldives.
“This year’s migration to Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll is particularly exciting,” says Joseph Lassus, Anantara Kihavah Villas resident Marine Biologist. “According to reports from the Manta Trust research team based in Baa Atoll, when the mantas arrived in May this year, there were more sightings of pregnant mantas than in the last 10 years. We are noticing this as well with the mothers getting bigger as the season progresses. With a pregnancy term of 12 – 13 months, this means that next year we can expect to see a lot of baby mantas in Hanifaru Bay. Already on a recent snorkeling trip we came across a newborn pup, which is really quite rare to see, roughly measuring 1.2 metres from wing-tip to wing-tip.”
Curious, friendly and, unlike stingrays or eagle rays, mantas do not have stingers. They feed on a variety of plankton, which accounts for their large, gaping mouths. Hanifaru Bay is situated in Baa Atoll, a UNESCO marine protected biosphere covering an area of 303 hectares. From May to November each year, huge amounts of krill and plankton here attract all kinds of marine life, making it the world’s largest natural manta ray feeding destination.
Being the best place to spot manta rays in the Maldives, access to Hanifaru Bay is regulated by park rangers, who have close contact with Elements water sports centre at Anantara Kihavah Villas, giving our guides information on sightings before they head out on the 20 minute boat ride to the protected area. With no previous snorkelling experience required, tours depart 3-4 times a week from Anantara Kihavah Villas. Our tour guides scout the spots where mantas frequent, usually in Hanifaru Bay or in nearby currents where plankton and krill swim. Once in the water, snorkellers are then treated to an amazing underwater ballet whereby giant mantas glide and somersault in mesmerizing patterns. The mantas often swim within centimetres of snorkellers, always managing to avoid contact at the last second. On any given day visitors to Hanifaru Bay can see anywhere from a couple of mantas to more than a forty depending on plankton levels. Getting this close to these majestic creatures is truly an experience of a lifetime.
At Anantara Kihavah Villas itself, the house reef has become known by the local divers as ‘The Golden Wall’. Joseph explains, “The beauty of this dive site results from the incredible amount of sedentary life forms inhabiting the wall, completely covering its steep surface, edges and overhangs. This provides an immense variety of habitat to many local species of fish, lobsters, sea stars etc. The area is clearly dominated by widespread colonies of soft corals, these being of many different species displaying a huge range of colours, such as the orange, magenta or mauve spiky soft corals and cauliflower soft corals. To have this quite literally on our doorstep means an amazing dive no matter what the conditions are. Among all the bright colours displayed, the particular presence of yellow and golden coloured variations make it clear to any diver why this reef is best called The Golden Wall and a “must dive” reef when in the Maldives.”
Anantara Kihavah Villas provides a stylish haven just 35 minutes by seaplane from Malé. The Ocean Discovery Package for two persons is bookable on Anantara.com and includes five nights’ accommodation in a Beach Pool Villa or Over Water Pool Villa, daily buffet breakfast, and both guests enjoy a Dolphin Discovery excursion, a Turtle Quest or Manta Ray Snorkelling excursion, a choice of one Scuba Dive or one Scuba review course, a 30 minute Seabob water sport experience and a local island visit.