The North-East monsoon Manta Ray season was particularly exciting this year at Coco Bodu Hithi, North Male’ Atoll!
First of all, because of the number and the frequency of Manta Ray encounters. At Rasfari North and at Bodu Hithi Thila, our diving and snorkeling sites only a few minutes away from the Resort, these fascinating and harmless sea giants were spotted almost on a daily basis. We observed them mainly at their cleaning stations, a sort of “Fish Spa” location where Manta Rays gather in order to get their skin cleaned by fully dedicated cleaner fish.
They were also encountered while simply cruising and feeding on plankton along the edge of the reef or, on very special occasions, while showing their elegant courtship behavior, when an adult female is followed by several mature males in a “mating train”. Few lucky guests observed this behavior in awe of the sheer grace of these magnificent creatures on January 16th at Bodu Hithi Thila.
Manta Rays are currently divided into two different species: the Oceanic Manta Ray (Manta birostris) and the smaller and less migratory Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi); it is largely known that the individuals usually encountered in the Maldives belong to this second species, the Reef Manta Ray. Oceanic Manta Ray sightings are rare and truly extraordinary in the Maldives.
The most remarkable Manta Ray encounters at any of the Coco Collection resorts so far, however, happened on February 4 and 10 … On February 4, four Manta Rays were spotted during a drift dive at Bodu Hithi Thila and the first individual that appeared out of the deep blue looked clearly BIGGER than usual, despite the low visibility. An extremely excited Marine Biologist tried her best to swim against the current to take an identification picture of the ventral side of the Manta Ray. Great was the surprise and even greater the excitement when she reviewed the picture back at the diving center: the size and the peculiar color pattern, dark coloration around and inside the mouth, and no spots within the gill slits doubtless revealed her it was a male Oceanic Manta Ray!
This remarkable sighting was quickly shared with the marine biologists at Manta Trust. Their identification analysis showed it was a new individual, never before spotted in the Maldives. Accordingly, it was registered with the code M69 in the Oceanic Manta Rays database and named “COLOMBRE”. What a day!
Only a week later, Bodu Hithi divers and the Marine Biologist were so incredibly lucky to encounter “COLOMBRE” again while diving at Shark Point. He was slowly (as much as “slow” means for a an Oceanic Manta Ray) floating at the edge of the reef at -30 meters. This exceptional encounter resulted in an even more exceptional event: this is the FIRST EVER reported Oceanic Manta Ray re-sighting in Maldives!
Come and dive with us!