Divers from all over the world come to dive in Nusa Penida, Bali, to meet two pelagic fish : the Manta ray and the Mola Mola. You can indeed see there Manta rays almost all year round and very regularly Mola Mola, from July to October. This article is dedicated to the Manta Ray: the different species, the cleaning stations, where to see manta rays in Bali and Nusa Penida. Another article deals with Mola Mola.
If you only want to know where to swim with manta ray in Bali, you can switch now to Manta Point page. This is where you are the more likely to meet them, in Nusa Penida, close to their cleaning station. But I am pretty sure that afterwards you will want to know more about this great fish and come back here !
Oceanic or reef manta ?
There are two types of mantas : the oceanic manta ray or giant manta ray (birostris) and the reef manta ray (alfredi). The one that you will see in Bali, and more specifically in Nusa Penida are reef manta rays. Their wingspan can reach 5 meters. They have pectoral fins, horn-shaped cephalic fins, a large, forward-facing mouth and five pairs of gill slits on their ventral surface.
Their back is generally black. But their ventral face is white with black marks that form a unique signature. Like a fingerprint.
There are also Mobula rays in Nusa Penida. They are smaller but you can sometimes confuse them with young mantas. The main difference is the position of the mouth, ventral in the Mobula rays, and a much shorter tail.
Where manta ray lives ?
Mantas live in warm temperate, subtropical and tropical waters. The ocean manta migrates across open oceans. But the reef manta lives closer to the coast. It can also stay all year round on the same site as in Nusa Penida. The rays indeed come every day to Manta Point cleaning stations to get rid of their parasites. When they move away from the coasts the reef mantas can go as deep as 400 m.
What is a manta ray cleaning station ?
A cleaning station is a location where fish gather to be cleaned of their parasites present on their body, in their mouth or their gills. Cleaning stations are often located at the top of a coral head.
The ray slowly swim around or above the coral head while the cleaning fish eat the parasites. Rays and cleaning fishes form indeed a kind of symbiosis.
Around the station the rays can be alone. But they are most often in groups, which can reach dozens of individuals.
They sometimes jump, entirely or partially, out of the water. Why manta ray jump out of the water ? There have several possible explanations. Some people think this is another way to get rid of their parasites. Other than it is mating rites or a mode of communication.
What does manta ray eat ?
The Manta ray feeds on plankton, in the form of shrimps, krill and planktonic crabs. It is therefore a suspensory animal! A manta eats about the equivalent of 13% of its own mass every month.
The manta ray locates its preys using its sight and smell. It swims slowly towards them and uses its cephalic fins to channel the food towards its wide open mouth. Then the water is filtered and comes out through the gills. When it swims without eating the cephalic fins are rolled up in helical form to be more hydrodynamic!
What about the babies ?
The gestation of a baby manta lasts more than a year. At birth, the little one measures between 1.30 meters and 1.50 meters. It will then double in size in one year. It is also estimated that a manta ray reproduces every 5 years and that it has a life expectancy of 50 years. During the breeding period, the Manta rays return to the open sea and the Manta point site is sometimes deserted.
Are manta ray dangerous ?
No. Manta rays are not dangerous. They may come very close to you but they will avoid you. But like anything under the sea, don’t try to touch them. Even if they are very close …
Are manta ray endangered ?
The reef manta ray has no natural predators, apart from some great sharks, thanks to its large size and its ability to flee quickly in case of danger (24 km / h). But manta is nevertheless is classified as vulnerable by the Convention on Migratory Species. The main threats are overfishing, pollution and global warming.
In 2014 Indonesia banned the fishing and export of manta rays. Today it is therefore the largest sanctuary in the world for these animals, with , its 5.7 million km2 of oceans.
Where are Manta rays found in Bali ?
There are two main sites to dive with manta ray in Nusa Penida, Bali. Manta Point cleaning stations are located on the southwest coast of the island, approximately 45 minutes by boat from Toyapakeh port. But you may more rarely see them in one of the many dive sites around Nusa Penida.
It’s the perfect place to see them. Outside the breeding season, you will have about a 95% chance of seeing mantas. You can also have the chance to see mantas from the top of Nusa Penida cliffs. But you will not be able to go down to any beach from the cliff to swim with manta rays.
Some dive centers stop at Manta Bay to shorten the trip and save on gas. The probability of seeing mantas there is lower, around 80%, because there are many snorkeling boats chasing them. And, unlike Manta Point, the dive site is not really interesting.