Manta Rays. They have NO stinger, are very smart and eat zooplankton. That’s right, these huge rays, who are related to sharks and can grow between 5-7m wide, are completely harmless. They couldn’t hurt you even if they wanted to… and let’s be clear; they DON’T want to. They’re naturally curious and trusting creatures who spend most of their lives swimming, eating and dancing. Why am I telling you this? Because manta rays are a threatened species and need our help. One way that we can help is learning more about Manta Rays, and that’s why I did my Manta Ray Conservation PADI Specialty course with Blue Corner Dive on Nusa Lembongan.
The Manta Ray Conservation PADI Specialty is split into 2 sections – manta knowledge and diving with mantas.
Knowledge review for the Manta Ray Conservation PADI Specialty was split into 4 sections – Manta Overview, Manta Identification, Threats & Protection, and Manta Tourism.
Manta Overview covered general knowledge of mantas, including their biology and behaviour. Here we learnt various facts, including how long they’ve existed (over 5 million years!), how long they live (40 years) and how they mate (a dance that can last up to 48 hour before mating!)
Manta rays are born like a little burrito, already over a meter long. Adorable.
Manta Identification – Manta rays are mostly identified by the spots between their gills on their belly. Conservationists use these identifiers to track the location, lifespan and general health of mantas around the world. We were lucky enough on our manta dive to identify a new manta and name her.
Threats & Protection obviously covered the threats of manta rays and the conservation efforts being made around the world. Manta rays are currently classified as a threatened species. The usual threats of captivity, unregulated tourism and habitat destruction were there, but one of the most surprising was that they were still being poached for soups and medicines. Not cool.
A cool fact that I think is worth spreading is that in a year, manta tourism generates US$27 million, where as the manta ray fishing trade only generates US$11 million. If it’s money you’re after world, you’re doing it wrong. Sort yourself out okay?
Conservation Strategy comes last but not least. How can YOU help manta rays. It’s super easy you guys;
- Don’t buy manta OR shark products (sometimes manta is labelled as shark).
- Sign petitions when you see them.
- Go diving or snorkelling wherever there is regulated manta ray tourism
- Use less plastics and don’t litter
- Help collect information on Manta Rays by submitting photos using MantaMatcher or similar websites.
- Spread knowledge!
It’s really that easy. Don’t forget when you see the manta to stick with the code of conduct;
Manta Encounter Code of Conduct;
– Look but don’t touch
– Don’t ride the mantas
– Don’t restrict their movements
– Move slowly and wait for their approach
Manta rays are naturally curious, so if you don’t flail around or look like a threat, they’ll come over to take a look at you.
Diving with Mantas
The last part of the Manta Ray Conservation PADI Speciality with Blue Corner Dive is DIVING with manta rays. Yeah boi! Equipped with cameras, we had a practice run taking “belly shots” of each other at Crystal Bay, then we moved to Manta Point to get the real thing. Here’s a video of what I saw at Manta Point. How do you think I went?
Poor little GoPro, I’m really testing its limits. I need some nifty dive lights for it.
This is just a snippit of what you learn on the Manta Conservation course. You’ll have to sign up to learn about these incredibly intelligent animals. Hit up Blue Corner Dive and ask them when the dates are for their next course.