Hanifaru bay – a reef famous for being a nursery for sharks and sting rays. It is a place where the mighty whale sharks come to mate and a park for the ever graceful manta rays come to feed and play.
Hanifaru bay was chosen as a Marine Protected Area and is an important area of the Biosphere Reserve in Baa Atoll, Maldives. This site is strictly a “Look but Do Not Touch” Zone meaning Diving is prohibited. Over the years, Hanifaru Bay has become one of the world’s largest manta ray feeding destinations and has long been famous among underwater photographers.
The manta ray is known as an opportunistic feeder and they dine on plankton and small fishes. While feeding they constantly swim in small circles. These circular movements allow them to dine easily without many of their victims getting away.
So imagine what happens when the season changes and large concentration of tiny organisms that together make up the plankton gets trapped in Hanifaru Lagoon. When these planktons wash over the corals and sway on the surface at the mercy of the ocean current, it attracts large groups of manta rays. When they arrive and together form one large group, their natural feeding patterns are spontaneously replaced by a feeding frenzy behavior and this is when Chaos begins.
Video Credit: Biosphere Reserve Facebook Page
According to one dive instructor sometimes the destination attracts as many as 200 to 250 rays and when that happens, they no longer get to swirl in circles. Instead they spiral out and the circle breaks down.
Best Time of Year
May to November is considered as the best season to visit the Hanifaru bay. This is known as the South West Monsoon that causes massive buildup of plankton in the area which draws in hundreds of Manta Rays accompanied by whale sharks.
Resorts Closest to Hanifaru bay
Hanifaru bay is located in Baa atoll in the Maldives. Here is a list of some of the resorts located around this area
Anantara Kihavah Villas
Coco Palm Dhunikolhu
Dusit Thani Maldives
Royal Island Resort and Spa
Soneva Fushi Resort
Video Credit: National Geographic