There are many amazing dive sites around Bali. However, if you want to dive or snorkel alongside magical manta rays, there is only one place you need to go: Manta point at Nusa Penida attracts these friendly giants all year round. Before you embark on this exciting scuba diving trip, we invite you to get to know the manta a little better. Here are some of the many interesting facts about manta rays:
1. Mammal or fish?
Many mistakenly consider mantas to be mammals. In reality, they are fish, belonging to the same class (Elasmobranchii) as sharks, and other species of ray.
2. (Not so little) manta babies.
The gestation period of a manta lasts over a year. They give birth to a single pup every other year, or even every three years. While you may think that they give birth to a live pup, they actually produce eggs that hatch internally. The pup continues to live in the oviduct for a while and receives milky secretions with nutrients from his mother. When delivered, the pup can measure up to 2 meters. Not exactly what you would call a small baby, right?
3. A long life?
Manta rays may live to up to an impressive 50 years. Unfortunately, they are very vulnerable to overfishing. One of the reasons behind this is obviously their naturally slow reproduction. A more serious problem is that, despite being protected by law, even here in Indonesia, mantas are still being caught for their gill rakers. These are used in Chinese medicine to supposedly cure almost anything, including cancer, or infertility.
4. Friend or foe?
Despite their impressive size of 5-7 meters and weight that can reach up to 1 600 kg, mantas are completely harmless to humans. Around scuba divers, they are usually calm, friendly, even curious. They do not have stingers on their tails and they have no intention of hurting us. We haven’t found any mention of a manta slapping a diver either, while researching for this article, although some would argue that certain irresponsible individuals would surely deserve one. J
5. Identify yourself, please.
Every manta ray has spots and marks on their belly. Just like a fingerprint, these spots are unique and there are no two mantas with the same pattern. While scuba diving, you can actually contribute to global research and conservation by submitting your photos where the spots are clearly visible to any of the NGOs that aim to create a Manta ID catalogue in order to understand the species better.
6. Smart is the new sexy.
Mantas display intelligent behavior, such as cooperative feeding. They actually have the largest brain of all fish known today.
7. Ground control to Major Tom.
Have you ever seen a Manta fly? Well you must have been really, really lucky, and we are jealous! Although it is a rare sighting indeed, mantas can actually jump out of water to impressive heights (more than 2m). When they do, they flap their fins as in the attempt to fly. Scientists haven’t yet come to the conclusion as to what might be the reason for this. It might be a part of the mating ritual or to get rid of parasites. Or maybe just for the fun of it? J
We could go on about more interesting facts, but let’s face it, no piece of information can match the excitement of a personal encounter. Hardly anything can beat the breathtaking moment (figuratively speaking) when a manta, or a whole train of them, glides graciously right past you.
Join us on the next Manta Point diving adventure to meet some of these amazing creatures and let them cast a spell on you.