Diving with Manta Rays in the Maldives
The Maldives are located in the Pacific Ocean, south of India and are a series of small islands known as Atolls. During certain months of the year (this varies depending on which islands you visit), manta rays will come into the Atolls making it possible to dive with them.
This experience has always been on my wildlife bucket list and after a lot of research, it was a choice between the Maldives and Mexico. The Maldives won as there was ‘other’ diving available beyond the manta ray dives.
Why are the Manta Rays in The Maldives?
Manta rays are some of the largest fish in the ocean and, like many larger fish species, utilise what is known as cleaning stations. At the cleaning stations, they will glide close to the reef allowing the small cleaner fish to pick off the debris from the surface of their bodies. This is one of the easiest ways to see these gentle and secretive ocean giants up close. Very little is actually known about their lives beyond their short visits to the reefs.
Visiting the Maldives is a bucket list experience in itself. The flight from Male, the capital down to Addu Atoll, where we were based was beautiful. Below you are a string of small white islands, most empty of human life, with just palm trees and sandy beaches surrounded by the dazzling blue sea.
Addu Atoll is a bustling local island, but everyone was so friendly that it made the boat trip out to the feeding station feel like you were amongst friends.
What's it like to experience diving with Manta Rays?
I personally found the dive itself challenging. There were strong currents and despite having over 1000 dives logged, there were a few moments where I found myself wondering what I was doing. However, once we reached the cleaning stations at the bottom and securely positioned ourselves to wait, there was a strange calmness.
The first sight of the manta ray was a feeling of disbelief. It circled us once from a distance and then came in close. It made eye contact, lingering for a moment deciding what to do next. This was a magical moment to have such a huge, mysterious and special creature look into my eyes from less than a metre away. I was diving with two of my best friends and we just looked at each other in absolute excited awe.
As we sat watching, we realised that we were surrounded by another 5 or 6 of these huge creatures. They were queuing to get into the cleaning station. As they waited, we realised that they were playing. Swimming through our bubble trails, twisting as they went through before looping around and repeating.
At the end of the dive, we were sad to leave but we all knew that it was an experience that we would repeat again if we could.
I highly recommend anyone who is visiting the Maldives and has a scuba dive certificate this bucket list dive experience. It isn’t just the dive and the encounter but the journey and the country that all feeds into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Getting to Addu Atoll
Getting to the Maldives is relatively easy and you can fly direct to Male from several international airports. From Male, it is a two-hour flight south across the Equator to Addu Atoll. From the small airport at Gan, it is a short taxi ride to the town of Maradhoo where the dive boat departs from.
It is a long journey, but we found that everything went smoothly including the connections between the internal flights from the international flights.
Although it is possible to organise this trip independently, you may prefer the peace of mind by booking through an organised tour, especially if you do not have experience of booking scuba diving trips or are less experienced as a diver.
Where else can I dive with manta rays in The Maldives?
If you’re planning to dive with manta rays in the Maldives I would suggest you look at all the options. There are several places where it is possible to dive with manta rays. Not all of them are as remote or extreme as Addu Atoll.
If you want to escape the commercial dive operators and resort divers then heading south or going on a liveaboard boat is the best option. While some of the manta encounters can be made by snorkelling, the sites are busy and you are on a time limit.
Our dives took place in a more isolated location, which meant we were alone each time we dove. We also visited the dive sites during the weekdays. We managed to dive with the manta rays on multiple occasions as we were not having to fit around the schedule of the tour operators in the area.
It is also worth deciding what else you want to do in the Maldives. Do you want luxury accommodation in a 5-star resort or do you prefer to have a more authentic Maldives experience? Do you want to dive every day or is relaxing and being pampered your main priority? All of these things will alter what you do and how you plan your trip.
Diving with manta rays in the Maldives really is an experience that should not be missed if you are able to dive and can get to the country. I highly recommend adding it to your Maldives Bucket List.
About the Author
Suzanne is a travel writer based in South West England and is the owner of Meandering Wild.
Meandering Wild is a travel blog dedicated to slow travel and road trips. It focuses on visiting the more remote areas of the world with an emphasis on wildlife encounters and photography.
Save it for later
If you loved this bucket list article about how to experience diving with manta rays in The Maldives, or know someone that will, then please share and pin it for future reference.
If you have any questions, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.
Have a bucket list travel idea of your own that just needs to be shared? Fill out this form to get featured on the site.