During our trip around the south Ari Atoll we are always looking for places where we can see manta rays. On the western side of the Ari Atoll on our way northwards we just pass the island of Moofushi, when we see a boat from the local resort looking for something. It turns out that they are searching for manta rays. So we decide to do the same but first without success. At least we can watch three mobula rays gliding next to us in the water (see picture 1). Just when we decide to head to our anchorage we notice some funny fins above the water next to our boat. Tom and Martin jump in the water to check it out but at first can't see anything because of the murky water. But suddenly one manta ray with his mouth wide open glides by them (picture 2). There is a lot of plankton* in the water at the moment and it seems to aggregate at this site. At least 6 mantas are feeding and filtering plankton out of the water while gliding around with their gaping mouths close to the surface (picture 3 and 4). We take turns going in the water and taking ID pictures. It is very strange because one can only see approximately 2 to 4 meters and you see the mantas only just before they almost crash into you.
We are really lucky because we are able to take pictures of two manta rays which are not in the database of Manta Trust yet. That means we get to name them. The first one is a young male which we name "SoKeTo" and the name of the second one, which is a female, is "Ursula" after the seawitch of H. C. Andersen (to see them take a look on our Manta ID page).
Guy Stevens, the founder of Manta Trust, who we are able to meet in Hulumale', tells us to go to Fesdu Lagoon. Because there the diving boats gather and turn on their huge flood lights at night to attract plankton and manta rays which feed on it. He is sure that one of the diving boats will allow us to go in the water there. We ask politely and are really lucky. Five diving boats are at anchor in the bay and we are allowed to use their flood lights. The dive guide tells us it will happen some time after 8 pm. We get ready and wait until the divers jump into the water. So we go there with our dinghi and ask if there is a manta around. They tell us that one has been here a short while ago but we only can see lots of divers in the water. After a while we decide to jump in anyways although the place looks like a whirlpool from the diver's bubbles. Also that's what we see at first below the surface, only divers. After a while we recognize a swarm of Indian mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta). The swarm is circling like a tornado under water, with wide open mouths they also filter plankton out of the water. It looks very strange in the dark and murky water and it even gets more surreal as we see one manta ray coming from the bottom with his wide open mouth to make a somersault directly in front of us. It is a female and the video light on Tom's camera seems to attract it (or actually even even more yummy plankton). She whirls around and around very closely to the camera, like about 2 cm away, to filter as much plankton as possible. After a while two more mantas turn up. This time it's two males which also behave like two huge feeding machines in a wild dance. Sometimes we feel like in between a manta sandwich when they do there somersaults on our left and right sides. We are frozen in awe and don't know where to look first. Also the small remoras (Echeneis naucrates) don't know what's happening and change back and forth between the mantas.
It is almost unbelievable what's happening in front of our eyes and so we just enjoy this experience!
(***Don't forget to watch the video!***)

*Plankton: Organism, animals as well as plants, that have only limited power of locomotion and therefore are at the mercy of prevailing water movements.

Devil ray (Mobula sp.)
Tom with Manta at Ari Atoll
Manta feeding at Ari Atoll
open gills while feeding

project manaia

Krüss Mikroskope