Identifying Rays of the Maldives

30 Nov 2021

During your holiday in the Maldives you will be surrounded by some of the most diverse and abundant marine life on the planet including a variety of rays. There are mantas and eagle rays as well as stingrays to see, and whether you see them from the beach, a snorkelling adventure or a while scuba diving, we’re sure you’ll want to tell everyone all about it so we’ve put together a quick guide to help you identify them correctly. If you’re interested in finding out more about rays and sharks, and you’re a diver, you can complete the PADI Specialty Course “Maldivian Shark & Ray Diver’ during your holiday – just pop into the Prodivers dive center for more information.

Manta Rays
Reef mantas have a diamond body shape with a wing span reaching up to four metres. The dorsal (upper) surface is black blending to white and forming a black ‘v’ shape. They have a small dorsal fin at the base of the long, thin tail which is about the same length as the wing span. At the front is a wide, forward facing mouth and a cephalic fin each side – these can extend straight out like horns from their bodies to help channel the plankton into the wide forward facing mouth while feeding. Often seen in shallow waters while at cleaning stations or when feeding, they are unforgettable sightings for our divers and snorkellers.

Marine Biology Maldives

Eagle Rays
Usually around metre in wing span with a diamond body shape formed by pointed pectoral fins. Eagle rays are mainly black with small white spots and have a distinct head that is shaped perfectly for digging up food from the sandy bottom; the mouth is positioned on the ventral (under) side of the head. The tail is long and has spines at its base. Eagle rays can often be seen ‘flying’ through the water column in large groups and diving with an underwater scooter will give you the best chance of seeing big formations of them.

If the ray you see has a more round, disc-like shape with no distinct head and mouth on the underside of the body, it is likely to be a sting ray, the size of which depends on the species. They are usually found on the bottom where they search for crustaceans, rest and hide from predators; they are rarely seen swimming in the water column and when they move to a new place they usually swim very close to the reef. Most stingrays have a barb on their tail for defense against predators but, as with eagle rays, unless threatened pose no threat to divers or snorkellers.