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Manta ray - Photo by Pug50
Manta rays are one of the most graceful and majestic creatures in the ocean, and if you wanna see one up close you’ve gotta know where to go. Mantas are known to congregate around cleaning stations, where schools of fish feed off the debris on their skin, or feeding stations where you can find scores of plankton.
If you want to snorkel with a manta ray, there are many places around the world where you can have your very own personal encounter with one. Here are the best places in the world to snorkel with manta rays, for beginner snorkels all the way to die-hard adventurers!
Snorkelling with Manta Rays in Australia
Great Barrier Reef
Lady Elliot Island - Described as 'Home of the Manta', this is the best spot to snorkel with manta rays in Australia. You'll find mantas here all year round, with the population peaking between May and August.
North Stradbroke Island, Great Barrier Reef - The warmer months of October to March are the best times to snorkel with manta rays here. You’ll see congregations of giant manta rays cleaning.
Heron Island - The shallow waters surrounding Heron Island are crawling with sea life, and manta ray sightings are common in the cooler months.
Hook Island - Snorkel around the Pinnacles or the aptly named Manta Ray Bay, and if you’re here during winter then you’re guaranteed to be swimming with manta rays.
Bait Reef - You can snorkel with manta rays at two spots here. Stepping Stones is teeming with manta rays and Manta Ray Drop-Off is home to huge populations but prone to a current. The best time to spot manta rays here is from May to September.
Coral Bay, Coral Coast - There are over 600 manta rays feeding and cleaning along this part of the Ningaloo Reef, and lots of manta ray snorkeling tours to show you the best spots to find them. If you go between June and November you might even spot whale sharks here!
Snorkelling with Manta Rays in Bali
Manta Bay - Lots of tour companies will advertise Manta Bay as being in Nusa Lembongan, but don’t be mistaken. Nusa Penida is where they’ll be taking you every time, and Manta Bay is Bali’s best destination for snorkeling with giant manta rays. You can find mantas swimming all year round in the shallow waters here, feeding on the scores of plankton in the area. The best time to visit is in the morning before it gets super crowded.
Manta Point - Surrounded by high cliffs with a strong current and rough ocean conditions, this is a manta ray cleaning station where you can see the gentle giants resting in 4 - 6 metre deep water while being cleaned by smaller fish. Due to the rough conditions this destination might be best for advanced snorkelers or divers.
Crystal Bay - Another spot in Nusa Penida where you can have the chance to snorkel with mantas, we’re only putting this one on the list because it’s popular with bout tours. Most manta snorkeling tours in Bali will take you to these 3 destinations in Nusa Penida, giving you the chance to swim with mantas in all three. That said, Manta Bay is definitely the highlight!
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Brazil
Fernando do Noronha - You can snorkel with manta rays in this world-class diving island in Brazil. This is for the seriously adventurous as the island is remote, but you’ll be snorkeling in a beautiful reef with manta rays and lots of marine life, as well as the world's largest spinner dolphin colony. Visibility here is over 50 metres!
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Costa Rica
Catalina Islands - These islands are home to a huge population of giant manta rays with wingspans of up to 7 metres. The best time to snorkel with manta rays is from November to May, when numbers are at their peak and visibility is best. Hit up Tamarindo Beach for your best bet to see mantas, and if you come between January and March this area will be teeming with giant mantas.
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Fiji
Mantaray Island - A protected sanctuary and marine park, this is the best place in Fiji to snorkel with manta rays. They feed in huge numbers on a daily basis between May and October, and you'll lots of manta ray tours and operators here that take you directly to where they've been spotted.
Barefoot Island - During the months of May through to October, schools of massive manta rays float through the Manta Ray Passage between Nanuya Balavu and Drawaqa Islands. If you come during this time, you'll see them passing through almost daily as they feed on plankton.
Naviti Island - The southern end of Naviti Island is another spot where you can snorkel with the manta rays gliding through the Manta Ray Passage. They’re here almost daily between May and October, and there's even a drum that sounds every time one has been spotted.
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Florida Keys
Islamorada - While this isn't a hugely popular manta ray gathering spot, people often spot mantas while snorkeling the waters of Islamorada. Keep your eyes peeled!
Key Largo - Manta rays have been spotted while snorkeling here, particularly in the areas around John Pennekamp State Park.
Key West - The manta ray population here isn't big enough that you can guarantee a sighting, but if you're lucky you might be able to see manta rays while snorkeling around Dry Tortugas National Park. It's been known to happen!
Looe Key - Looe Key is a complete reef ecosystem with huge varieties of tropical marine species. If you're lucky you'll spot manta rays while snorkeling here, and maybe even eagle rays or whale sharks.
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Hawaii
Manta Ray in Hawaii - Photo by Pixabay
Kailua-Kona - The Kona coast is one of the few places in the world where you can bet on snorkeling with mantas. With a huge manta ray population, you'll find no shortage of snorkel tours to take you straight to the manta ray feeding and cleaning stations. The mantas here are the second largest species of manta rays with wingspans of up to 5.5 metres. Best of all, you’ll find them swimming around the islands all year round as Hawaiian mantas don’t migrate.
Waikoloa - This is Hawaii's second most popular spot for snorkeling with manta rays, and the tours are much more peaceful here! The Kohala coast is home to as many manta rays as the Kona, but it’s a lot less visited by tour boats. That means you can enjoy a much more intimate experience with the mantas.
Molokini Crater - Many mantas have been spotted swimming in the deep waters of the Molokini Crater. The best time to spot them swimming is in the early morning, before all the tourist boats arrive. Mantas will feel more comfortable showing themselves and rising up to the surface of the crater waters with less swimmers around.
Olowalu Reef - On the west side of Maui is this reef system where you'll find a manta ray cleaning station with over 350 mantas to discover. It’s the world’s fourth largest population of mantas, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll always be easily spotted. If you’re lucky, you will see them!
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Indonesia
Raja Ampat - You'll find just about every rare and majestic sea creature here, from manta rays to wobbegong sharks. Manta Ridge is your best best for snorkeling with mantas in Indonesia, a cleaning station where you can spot up to 30 manta rays at a time! Come between October and April and you’ll be able to swim with mantas from a number of different snorkel sites here. Other good spots to snorkel with mantas in Raja Ampat are Mountain and Manta Sandy. You’ll find lots of operators to take you there, and locals are always in the know.
Komodo Island - Komodo National Park is crawling with unique wildlife in their natural habitats, and that includes mantas! The best spot to snorkel with mantas in Komodo is Karang Makassar, where you can see crowds of mantas feeding and maybe even schooling. Come during rainy season, from December to February, when temperatures are cooler and mantas come to feed on plankton. Visibility is not great but there are lots of mantas to swim with!
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Japan
Ishigaki Island - People come to this Japanese island specifically to swim with giant manta rays, and you don’t have to scuba dive to see them! The waters in the reef around Ishigaki Island are home to ‘Manta Scramble’, a known spot where giant manta rays congregate to clean and feed. You can often see them gliding along the surface while snorkeling.
Snorkelling with Manta Rays in The Maldives
South Ari Atoll - Here you can snorkel with manta rays during the northeast monsoon season from September to May. Your best chances to spot mantas will be between February and April, but you can see whale sharks here all year!
Baa Atoll - There are up to 200 manta rays feeding along the Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll. The best time to snorkel with mantas here is between May and November when they congregate to feed on plankton - the largest manta feeding station on Earth!
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Mexico
Giant Oceanic Manta Ray in Mexico - Photo by Elias Levy
Cancun - Manta rays are often spotted swimming in the waters of the Yucatan Peninsula around Cancun. Your best bet for snorkeling with manta rays is on a whale shark boat tour, where you’ll spot mantas feeding on the plankton amongst the whale sharks. You’ll get to enjoy snorkeling with two of the ocean’s most majestic creatures at once!
Isla Mujeres - Isla Mujeres is your best bet for snorkeling with manta rays in Mexico. Home to the largest population of mantas in the region, if you come between May and September you can catch hundreds of mantas congregating in the waters around the island to feed on plankton.
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Oceania
Yap - This island is famous for its huge manta ray population that come to feed on the plankton provided by the mangroves surrounding the area. The mantas here are huge, with wingspans of up to 7 metres, and there are numerous cleaning stations to explore. Come between November and May and you’ll find mantas in the Mi’il Channel, and visit in the summer to see them in the Goofnuw Channels.
Papa New Guinea
Gona Bara Bara Island - This diving spot is known for its huge population of manta rays which congregate at a cleaning station just off the northern side of this island. The mantas here are gigantic, but the island is quite far from shore and you’ll need to take a private boat charter or go with a dive company.
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Puerto Rico
Tamarindo Beach - Near Flamenco Beach on Culebra Island you’ll find a trail to this small beach with an incredible reef where you can often spot small manta rays while snorkeling.
Vieques Island - If you're lucky you can spot small manta rays while snorkeling in the waters around Vieques. Mantas have been spotted swimming around the pier at Esperanza Beach, especially in the early mornings. Try your luck!
Snorkeling with Manta Rays in Thailand
Koh Bon Island - This is the best place to snorkel with manta rays in Thailand, home to the largest manta cleaning and feeding station and giant mantas up to 5 metres in length. They’ll be swimming in the shallows between January and April, and you can also head to nearby Koh Tachai to see another (smaller) manta population.
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