Time to get clean – for mantas!14 Nov 2017
With manta season in full swing it’s time to turn our attention to a very special place for mantas, divers and snorkelers too – Fushivaru. A marine protected area in the Northeast of the Lhaviyani Atoll, Fushivaru comprises of several different parts and of special interest to the mantas is Fushivaru Thila.
A thila is an underwater island with it’s top lying at a depth of 12-14 meters. Plankton gets trapped in the waterways near the Thila and this attracts the mantas; they swim in groups at the surface, opening their mouths wide so that they can funnel the microscopic plankton into their mouths. They can sometimes be seen barrel-rolling near the surface – quite a spectacular feeding technique to observe! Keeping still and quiet is they key to close encounters – the mantas may then come very close to snorkelers at the surface and take a look. They are incredibly intelligent and harmless creatures and one can really feel the eye contact when in such close proximity.
When mealtime is over, or when it’s time for a clean, the mantas swim down to the thila which has two cleaning stations. On the cleaning stations there are lots of small cleaner wrasse waiting to swim around the mantas and bite off any parasites they have on their skin. Divers descend onto the Thila and wait near the cleaning stations for mantas to come. Mantas will hover over the cleaning stations allowing the wrasse to enter their gills and mouth and, once they feel clean, they leave again.
Even when it is not manta season Fushivaru is an incredible dive site for large marine life such as grey reef sharks, turtles, napoleon wrasse, eagle rays, and dogtooth tuna. The Thila is also covered in huge schools of blue striped snapper, red snapper, goatfish, clownfish, leaf scorpionfish, nurse sharks and the occasional black spotted stingray.
Guests can join Hurawalhi’s Resident Marine Biologist on the manta search boat to try and encounter the mantas and learn a little more about these amazing creatures.
The Manta Trust have put together a very useful guide about how to safely swim with mantas without posing a threat to their well-being, please follow these guidelines during your encounters:
- Enter the water quietly
- Keep fins under the water to avoid splashing
- Do not approach closer than 3 metres – let the manta come to you
- Approach from the side – never block it’s path
- Do not chase the manta as it swims past
- Never touch a manta ray
- Stay at the side of cleaning stations – never on top
- Keep low but be careful not to damage the reef
- If a manta swims towards you, stay low and stay still – do not block its path
- In addition, follow local guidelines given during the dive or snorkel briefing
Happy Manta searching!