Swimming with Manta Rays in Fiji | Majestic Goliaths

Manta Ray Project Fiji Islands

Manta and devil rays, known collectively as mobulids (mobula rays), are among the most charismatic creatures in our oceans. Boasting the largest brain of all fish, their intelligence and curiosity make encounters with these animals a truly amazing experience. Despite their popularity among divers and snorkelers, many aspects of their lives remain a mystery.  The Manta Project Fiji is dedicated to the conservation of manta rays in the Fiji Islands through research, education, and collaboration. They are working to better understand manta ray movement ecology, population dynamics, and genetic connectivity within the Fiji Islands, assisting the government, local stakeholders, and…

Two Manta Species found in Fiji

Identifying the Manta Species
Reef Manta Ray (Mobula alfredi) (Left) Oceanic Manta Ray (Mobula birostris) (RIght) (Images Manta Trust)

The Reef Manta rays (Mobula alfredi) have a very distinctive Y-shaped shoulder pattern, with spots usually found between their gill slits. The Reef Manta Ray can grow to have a wingspan of up to four metres in length. They spend the majority of their lives as residents of certain reefs and islands in shallow or coastal areas.

The Oceanic Manta Ray (Mobula birostris) features a distinctive T-shaped shoulder pattern, with typically dark mouths and dark bands along the edges of their pectoral fin. Unlike the Reef Manta Ray, they rarely have spots found between their gill slits. The Oceanic Manta Ray can grow to have a massive wingspan of up to seven metres in length. They live in deeper waters out in the open ocean.

Fun Fact 1: In Fijian manta rays are called the “VAI”

Fun Fact 2: A group of Manta rays is called a ‘fever’!

Fun Fact 3: A Leap of Passion – Occasionally, manta rays perform breathtaking leaps out of the water, often as a display to impress potential mates. Consider yourself fortunate if you’re a traveler lucky enough to witness these majestic giants gracefully soaring through the air.

Fun Fact 43: Remoras – The fish you might observe clinging onto manta rays are known as remoras. They typically attach themselves to manta rays, often near the head. Remoras do not harm their manta ray hosts; instead, they engage in a symbiotic relationship that benefits both parties. The remoras feed on skin parasites affixed to the manta ray, receiving free transportation and the occasional snack that the manta missed in return.

Find A Base Partner & Responsible Manta Tour Operator

The top three resorts listed at the top of the table have taken on the responsibility to integrate the Manta Trusts Swim with Mantas Code of Conduct in all of their operations, supporting the research and conservation of these beautiful majestic creatures. By choosing these resorts and their dive operators you will experience a magical few moments in time that will live with you throughout your life, whilst at the same time ensuring their manta tourism excursions are run sustainably, in a way that minimizes human impacts.

VenueLocationBase Partner
Kokomo Island ResortKadavu IslandsBase Partner
Wakaya Club & SpaYasawa IslandsBase Partner
Barefoot Manta IslandYasawa IslandsBase Partner
Mantaray Island ResortYasawa Islands
Paradise Cove ResortYasawa Islands
Nanuya Island ResortYasawa Islands
The Remote ResortVanua Levu
Matava ResortKadavu Islands
Table: of Manta Ray Tour Operators and Venues

Kokomo Island Resort | Kadavu Islands | 5-Star Resort

Seclusion Immersion Space at Kokomo Private Island
Seclusion Immersion Space at Kokomo Private Island | Image: Supplied

Kokomo Private Island fuses unscripted luxury with the bounty of space and the generosity of time to do as much (or as little) as your holiday heart desires. Cradled by the world’s fourth-largest reef, the Great Astrolabe, our stunning unspoiled, and naturally immaculate island is more than a backdrop, it’s your home for as long as you choose to linger.

Our reef provides a virtual portal into an unparalleled underwater world, while our land experiences offer a paradise for adventure seekers, a restorative sanctuary for families, and an enticing retreat for honeymooners.  Kokomo Private Island will absorb your idea of luxury – whatever that might look like for you.

Wakaya Club & Spa | Wakaya Island | 5 Star Resort 

Wakaya Club & Spa Wakaya Island Eastern Division 5 Star Resort
Wakaya Club & Spa Wakaya Island Eastern Division 5-Star Resort | Image: Supplied

Wakaya Island is home to the legendary Wakaya Club and Spa, an exclusive and intimate 10 “bure” (suite) beachfront resort and two spectacular private villas. Wakaya Island is abundant in dense tropical forests, and stunning beaches, and is surrounded by a Marine Protected Area, home to vibrant coral reefs and a plethora of ocean life.  Our commitment to you is to ensure your stay at the Wakaya Club & Spa leaves you full of wonderful life-long memories.

Barefoot Manta Island | Yasawa Islands | 3-Star Resort

Beachfront Bure Double at Barefoot Manta Island
Beachfront Bure Double at Barefoot Manta Island | Image: Supplied

Barefoot Manta Island, known traditionally as Drawaqa Island, lies in the Southern Yasawa Islands of Fiji. The breathtaking coral gardens, situated just off the coastline, are among the finest in the Fijian isles. Barefoot Manta Island offers a tranquil environment, with the gentle sound of the waves lapping the shore. Our island home is the perfect destination for nature lovers in search of one of the few Fijian islands unspoiled by man.

Manta Ray Experience (Full Day Adventure) South Sea Cruises

South Sea Cruises
South Sea Cruises | Image: Supplied

A dedicated coach from South Sea Cruises (SSC) will pick you up from your accommodation in the catchment area of Nadi, Denarau, or Wailoaloa and safely transfer you to Port Denarau, where you will board a world-class high-speed catamaran bound for the majestic Yasawa Islands. You’ll cruise through the Mamanuca and Yasawa groups of Islands before disembarking at Mantaray Island Resort.

South Sea Cruises has worked with the experienced team at Mantaray Island Resort to carefully choose dates that have a higher chance of manta rays coming to feed in the manta channel’. Following a briefing, you will board tender boats and be taken out to have the chance to swim and snorkel amongst the manta rays while they glide throughout this popular feeding ground. Lunch is provided at Mantaray Island Resort before the catamaran collects you again at 3 p.m. for your return journey to Port Denarau.

10-Step Guide to Swimming with Manta Rays

YouTube: A Video Guide To Sustainable Manta Interactions

Step One

Enter the water quietly and calmly, no closer than 10 meters/33 feet from the manta ray.

Step Two

Keep your fins below the water’s surface when swimming. Splashing and noise can scare mantas away, so you want to approach the manta as quietly as possible

Step Three

Do NOT approach closer than 3 meters/10 feet. Instead, remain still and let the manta come to you

Step Four

You should approach the manta from their side, giving them a clear path ahead

Step Five

As the manta swims past you, do NOT chase after them! You will never catch up to a manta away, and will likely scare them away in the process.

Step Six

Do NOT touch a manta ray. You will ruin the encounter

Step Seven

For Scuba Divers Only – Chances are if you are diving with a manta, you will be encountering them at a cleaning station. These are important sites for manta rays. During the encounter, remain at the side of the cleaning station. Do NOT swim onto the main cleaning area.

Step Eight

For Scuba Divers Only – Keep low and hover close to the seabed, but be careful not to damage the reef beneath you. Depending on the dive site, you may need to stay in an area designated for divers

Step Nine

For Scuba Divers Only – When a manta swims towards you, do NOT block their path as they swim overhead. Stay low and stay where you are.

Step Ten

In addition to the above steps, be sure to follow any extra rules, laws, and regulations that may be specific to the manta site you’re visiting

Frequently Asked Questions

Manta Ray Seasonal Diving in Fiji - Kokomo Private Island Fiji
Manta Ray Seasonal Diving in Fiji – Kokomo Private Island Fiji | Image: Supplied

What are Manta Rays

Manta rays are giants of their kind, with the largest individuals reaching seven meters in width and weighing up to two tonnes. Despite their colossal presence, mantas are gentle creatures. They have the largest brain of all fish, and their intelligence and curiosity make ncounters with manta rays a truly magical experience.

What are the habitats of Manta rays?

Manta rays inhabit warm tropical, subtropical, and temperate waters worldwide. There are two known species: the reef manta ray (Manta alfredi) and the giant manta ray (Manta birostris). Reef manta rays tend to stick closer to the outer islands, seamounts, and reefs in shallower waters. On the other hand, giant oceanic manta rays venture further out into the open ocean and can swim to depths of between 200m and 500m. They occasionally visit shallower areas and cleaning stations, providing opportunities for lucky sightings.

What are cleaning stations and cleaners?

CLEANING STATIONS are usually a prominent reef outcrop or coral bommie, where small reef fish and many shrimp species set up shop these fish are commonly known as CLEANERS, and these species have created a mutually beneficial symbiosis with Manta Rays. and other client species, each day they make a trip to the cleaning station where the host body gets serviced, helping them remove waterborne parasites whilst at the same time feeding the small fish.

What is the best time of the year to swim with the Manta Rays?

The idyllic paradise of Fiji is a reliable place for year-round manta ray sightings, with the most frequent encounters from May to October.

How long do manta rays live?

While researchers haven’t confirmed this with absolute certainty, they estimate that manta rays have a lifespan of between 40 and 50 human years.

What is the size of a manta ray?

Manta rays exhibit a range of sizes, with the giant oceanic manta ray spanning widths between 23-29 feet (7-8.8 meters), while the reef manta ray generally has a wingspan of approximately 11-12 feet (3.5-4 meters).

What color are manta rays?

Manta rays are typically dark on their back with a white belly, though occasional individuals may be entirely black. Each manta ray bears a unique pattern of spots on its belly, aiding researchers in identifying them as no two patterns are alike. Additionally, there have been rare sightings of albino manta rays, characterized by their completely white coloration.

Are manta rays friendly?

Manta rays, despite their imposing size ranging from 4 to 6 meters, are actually gentle creatures. While they may observe you with curiosity as you swim by, they typically maintain a respectful distance.

How fast can manta rays swim?

Manta rays can maintain a steady pace of up to 14 kilometers (9 miles) per hour, with bursts reaching an impressive 35 kilometers (22 miles) per hour. Manta rays, known for their substantial size and wing-like pectoral fins, navigate water with remarkable elegance. These fins serve to propel and glide through the water effortlessly while they sift through plankton. The wing-shaped fins create powerful thrust, generating water vortexes that propel the manta ray forward. Additionally, their cartilaginous skeletons contribute to their supple flexibility.

What do Manta Rays eat?

There is no need to worry; humans are not on the menu for manta rays! With no teeth or venomous barbs, they have rightfully earned the nickname “Gentle Giants.”
Manta rays, as filter feeders, possess cephalic (head) fins that aid in funneling food and water into their expansive mouths. They primarily consume zooplankton, krill, and small crustaceans, all of which are tiny inhabitants of the water column.
To capture their prey, manta rays swim with their mouths wide open, utilizing their gill plates, which function like tiny filtering rakes, to strain their lunch from the water.