UNESCO site Hanifaru in the Maldives is a rugby pitch of water in an ancient atoll where Manta Rays congregate yearly to feed in the plankton rich waters. Like a bowl in the ocean just a few dozen meters deep, this magic spot attracts nature enthusiasts hoping to witness a once in a lifetime ballet of up to 150 feeding Mantas.
We’ve been to Hanifaru before and saw nothing but sand. Even during the season it can be hit or miss. But going on a full or new moon stacks the odds in the diver’s favor and this time we struck it rich. Reaching the spot in the middle of the open ocean by boat, we dive into the sea with mask and snorkel and make our way into the middle of the lagoon. Suddenly we are surrounded by a scrum of Manta Rays. We are absorbed by dozens of giant spaceship-like creatures doing cartwheels and spinning about. With carbon black tops and pearl white underbellies, these magnificent creatures fly though the water often in single file like the coordinated takeoffs and landings of airplanes. Like stings of black and white saucers sailing through the sea, we watch as they majestically scoop up the plankton into their menacing looking gapping mouths before circling around for more.
We float in the water breathing silently through our snorkels as these massive prehistoric looking beasts pass within inches, never once bumping us. They are smart and very aware of our presence as well as that of their playmates- rarely touching each other. For over half an hour we are treated to a manta dance as they glide up from the depths towards the surface capturing dinner before breaching over backwards and descending again. Ballerinas of the sea with no signs of stage fright.
We are blessed to be here to witness this performance. A dance, which only a few luck humans have the honor of taking part in.