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    Swimming With The Manta Rays - Maldives at a moderate price


    Travel report August 2023

    By : Martin Paceman


    Three years ago, we learnt to dive for the first time at Reethi Beach Resort https://www.reethibeach.com/ in the BAA Atoll in the Maldives. The incredibly relaxed diving school Ocean Fanatics offered a very affordable taster dive in the usual manner, which opened up a world to us that we had never known before. 

    From Reethi Beach, the Ocean Fanatics also offer snorkeling trips to Hanifaru Bay, which is known for the accumulation of manta rays during the rainy season. The excursions are not quite cheap (160.- + various taxes per person) as is typical for a resort, but the incredible experience made us want to repeat the experience even more intensively. 

    As we had already had good experiences of staying on a local island in the Maldives, we chose Dharavandhoo - an island established as a relay station with a small airport, about 1 kilometer from Hanifaru Bay. There is a selection of hotels and guesthouses for almost every budget and several diving schools, the best known being Liquid Salt Divers https://www.liquidsaltdivers.com and Dharavandhoo Divers http://www.dharavandhoodiving.com/ . We opted for Kiha Beach Hotel and Dharavandhoo Divers. Overnight stay with breakfast in the region of 150.- for 2 people, dinner in the restaurants approx. 15-20.- for 2 people. 

    The island itself shows the real life on the Maldives, not the artificial world of the resorts. Unfortunately, there is a lot of plastic waste, even though the beaches are often cleaned. The locals are incredibly friendly, unobtrusive and helpful. 

    Attention: There is no alcohol, in any form. 


    The house reef is rather sobering. The island has been well fortified because of the airport and is surrounded by breakwaters made of large, imported stones. Turtles, moray eels and rays as well as the usual reef inhabitants can still be found. There is no point in scuba diving on the house reef. 

    You can only snorkel with the manta rays in Hanifaru Bay. There is always an alternating day for the resorts and for the "locals" - monitored by a ranger, who also makes sure that the 45 minutes in the water are not significantly exceeded. The rangers always report when the manta rays swim into the bay and how many there are - they regularly fly the drone. 


    When the resort guests are there, they splash and splash about in the water, which the manta rays don't like so much and sometimes leave again. On other days, guests who can swim and even freedive predominate. The best time is June to September, and the plankton is thickest at full moon, when up to 250 manta rays come into the small underwater bay (approx. 50 x 200 metres). We travelled with the hotel's boat, at a very moderate cost compared to the resorts (most recently 65.-/person). 

    The manta rays themselves are an experience you will never forget. If you wait calmly for the majestic giants to make their move and don't swim after them, you will at best be perceived as a piece of driftwood - you have to tighten your legs to avoid being brushed against. Visibility in the water is limited due to the plankton, but when a group of 10-15 manta rays suddenly appears out of nowhere, it is a magical experience. 


    In order to catch as much as possible of the densest and presumably tastiest plankton, the giants do loops, swim like a whirlpool and do various laps. 


    But divers don't miss out either - the diving schools usually do two dives before heading to Hanifaru Bay and ending the day with the manta rays. The usual coral reefs can be found here, although there is almost always a current. Sharks are more common in other areas, but there are always reef sharks here too. 










    In August this year, a large population of whale sharks passed by for the first time - they were regular guests until well into October. We had three encounters during our 14-day stay: Twice in Hanifaru Bay, where they shared the plankton with the manta rays. 

    Once, however, a smaller specimen swam along a nearby reef edge and we were allowed to accompany it for a quarter of an hour. A gigantic experience.  



    Conclusion: If you get involved with the local islands and don't set your standards too high, you can have a wonderful holiday at an acceptable cost and see more manta rays than you could ever believe. Pack your longblades! 

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