The Five Ws of Hanifaru Bay
Hanifaru Bay is a marine protected uninhabited island located in the Baa Atoll of the Maldives. Its size is no greater than that of a football field and yet it has become the hottest spots on the planet for underwater photographers and videographers. The reason for this modern day phenomenon of underwater diversity is because plankton is trapped in the funnel like lagoon during the West monsoon from May until November. If the plankton stays at the surface, it would wash over the bay’s coral walls and out to the safety of the open sea. But instinct forces them to dive away from daylight. When they do, they get trapped in the lagoon. In just a few hours a massive concentration of plankton builds up attracting manta rays by the hundreds. At any one time there can be up to 200 manta rays feeding off the coral reefs as well as plenty of whale sharks which do the same. Hanifaru Bay has become the world’s largest Manta Ray feeding destination. Here are our 5 Ws!
Manta rays are cartilaginous elasmobranch fishes. This means they are a close relative of all sharks and rays. The fact that they are fish means they don’t breathe air, but instead they use their gills to respire underwater. Mantas must keep moving in order to keep water flowing over their gills, which means they can never stop to sleep or rest on the seabed. The word “Manta” comes from the Spanish for cloak or shawl and in the Maldivian language mantas are known as En Madi, which in English means “small fish eating ray”.
Growing up to 9 mt wide, these elegant but harmless plankton feeders are a spellbinding sight for the diver. Hanifaru Bay, a huge lagoon on the Baa Atoll Hanifaru in the Maldives, has become renowned as a global manta ray hotspot. Mantas gather here in their hundreds, along with whale sharks and other big pelagics, to engage in a feeding frenzy on the unusually-rich plankton blooms that appear here each year from June to October. Diving is prohibited in Hanifaru Bay, but if ever wanted to snorkel with mantas, this is just about as good as it gets.
If you can afford it, stay at the nearby Gili Lankanfushi. Set on the private island of Lankanfushi in the North Malé Atoll, Gili Lankanfushi, Maldives is an intimate coral island in a sparkling lagoon, with jetties threading across the water out to spacious villa accommodations, where ultimate privacy can be found. The scenery at Gili Lankanfushi is breathtaking. It is an upmarket boutique resort that stands at the forefront of the eco-luxury sector and acts as a benchmark for luxury resorts. All of its 45 over-water villas which reflect the harmony of life by the water’s edge. At Gili Lankanfushi they are very sensitive to the environment. The utmost care has been taken in developing the island with respect to its ecological balance.
Mantas are seen here between June and October, but the best time, with the highest congregations, is in July and August. Large aggregations of mantas are difficult to predict, but the greatest number of manta rays are seen in July and August. When ocean conditions are perfect, divers can swim alongside the greatest gathering of mantas ever seen in the wild. When ocean currents are fickle, the bay can be nothing but sand. However good timing and luck are essential!
Here are the video of Under Exposure by Backscatter which offer us a perfect view about this amazing experience. Say hello to Mantas!