Travel Features

5 best dive sites for seeing Manta Rays and other sea life

Is there anything more awe-inspiring than being underwater with marine life? Watching a manta ray glide over you while you dive? Most scuba divers you’ll meet have a must-see list of deep-sea giants (also known as pelagics) they’d like to spot on a dive eventually. But to find these rare and curious creatures, you have to know precisely where to go. From manta rays to hammerheads, this article will introduce five world-class locations where divers often encounter pelagic sea creatures.


Palau diving with manta raysThis Pacific republic is surrounded by deep waters where manta rays, sharks and turtles thrive. Part of the Micronesian Islands, Palau shares maritime borders with the Philippines and Indonesia. Palau made news in 2009 when it declared the world’s first “shark sanctuary.” Divers, as well as sharks, have benefitted from the island’s ban on commercial shark fishing. Almost all species of tropical sharks may be seen here, including grey reef sharks, blacktips and whitetips. Local dive experts say the conditions are most ideal between November and May.

The Maldives

Manta rays in maldivesDivers wanting luxury accommodation in addition to diving should check out holidays in Maldives. The Maldives are made up of twenty-six atolls famous for white beaches and blue waters. Some say this island nation has the best diving in the Indian Ocean, because of the clear visibility and abundance of sea life. The islands’ waters boast more than 1,000 species of fish as well as more than 20 kinds of dolphins and whales. A good time to go is during the southwest monsoon season, between May and November, when manta rays congregate at the atolls to feed on the plankton brought in by the weather pattern. If the conditions are right, on one dive divers can watch the dozens of mantas. For shark lovers, at Maaya Thila divers can see plentiful whitetip sharks.

The Azores

Azores manta ray divingSharks. Whales. Turtles. The Azores has some of the finest diving for the world’s most-loved sea creatures. Owned by Portugal, this Atlantic Ocean archipelago’s biodiversity attracts divers looking for encounters with manta rays (and their cousins, mobulas) and sharks, including blue sharks and Mako sharks. If the predators are there, you can bet their prey is too — divers report seeing huge shoals of jacks and tuna. The Azores archipelago has nine major islands and is located about 1,500 kilometres west of Lisbon. Local experts say June to November is the best time to dive in the Azores.

Queensland, Australia

Queensland diving best places to see Manta RayAustralian diving opportunities don’t end at the shallow-water coral cruises on the Great Barrier Reef. Divers of the wreck of the S.S. Yongala are treated to the sight of manta and eagle rays, man-sized groupers, schools of trevally and occasionally bull, tiger and leopard sharks. In the winter (May – September), minke and humpback whales passing Australia on their migrations may also be spotted. The steamship wrecked and all lives aboard were lost in 1911 on its way from Melbourne to Cairns; however, it wasn’t discovered until 1950. Now, it’s a part of the Great Barrier Reef National Park and one of the area’s most popular wreck diving sites. Serious wreck divers may be disappointed to know law prohibits penetrating the wreck.

Cocos Island, Costa Rica

Cocos Island diving sharksThis small, jungle-covered island may look unassuming above water, but underwater it’s a shark playground. On the Pacific coast of Central America, it’s an offbeat destination for most tourists, but attracts plenty of divers, most of who come by liveaboard. Schools of scalloped hammerheads, lone giant manta rays and pods of dolphins inhabit the waters and are a common sight. At around 60-metres depth, the sharks pause and allow smaller fish to clean them. Divers who stay calm and quiet may observe huge hammerheads at only a few metres distance. It’s also possible to spot whale sharks, whitetip sharks, humpback whales and sea lions, though not always underwater. The most sharks come between May and November, but visibility is the highest between December and May.

Check out this short video of Manta Rays in Palau. Enjoy!

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