Divers end up loving sea
Let me tell you one thing straight away – nothing can prepare you for this experience. It doesn’t matter whether you have 10 dives or a hundred, meeting these graceful creatures face to face will leave you breathless (metaphorically speaking). Manta Rays are one of the main reasons why many people come diving to Bali. However you don’t have to be a scuba diver to enjoy a magical encounter with these friendly giants. In Bali even snorkelers can see them if the conditions on the surface allow.
Manta Ray Facts and Information
There are two kinds of Manta rays – Oceanic and Reef. Oceanic mantas usually reach up to 7 meters. In Indonesia you can spot the smaller kind – the Reef mantas which are generally up to 5m wide. These are the mantas one can dive with in Bali or in Komodo Islands too. Regardless of the size Mantas are fascinating fish, crossing the oceans singly or in groups of up to 50. They are strictly protected in the international waters and in Indonesia as well.
The name Manta comes from the Portuguese and Spanish word meaning a cloak or blanket. In the old times they were both worshipped and feared, mostly because of their size and shape. Nonetheless, there is really nothing to be afraid of. Manta rays are friendly plankton feeders. Many people mistakenly think that their tail has a poisonous spike, similar to that of sting rays, but that is just not true.
Theory and encyclopedia information is one thing, but the actual encounter face to face is a whole other story. When I was getting ready for my first dive with the Mantas here in Bali, I had all sorts of questions racing through my mind. Will they be scary? What if they come too close? What if I panic? The reality was just overwhelming. In spite of their impressive size and peculiar shape, there is something really calming, almost meditative, about them that just makes you feel relaxed.
They glide elegantly through the water waving their powerful wings as if in slow motion. They seem not to mind the presence of the divers, that is if the divers behave responsibly, stay calm and don’t chase them around. Then the Mantas usually reward them by circling above their heads, letting the air bubbles tickle their white bellies. Sometimes they get so close you could easily reach out and touch them. However that is a big no-no! You might not realize that, but touching the marine life, whether big or small, might actually harm the animal as the contact can damage their natural protective layer and make way for parasites.
The season for the Mantas in Bali is practically all year round. The most popular dive site to dive with them has a very fitting name - Manta Point. It can only be reached by boat and the ride takes about 50 minutes from either Padangbai or Sanur. There are numerous dive operators in both towns offering the trip. Be wise about choosing a reliable one and you are in for a truly amazing Manta experience.