Manta Rays

Learn about Manta Rays

Each year between May and October the waters around the resort are blessed with the elegance of our name sake, the Pacific Manta Ray. As many as 20 manta rays have been recorded in front of the resort at one time. Daily manta ray snorkelling trips allow guests to experience these magnificent creatures up close as they glide majestically through the nutrient rich channel.

The waters around Mantaray Island Resort are an internationally recognised refuge for manta rays.

Where do Mantarays live?

Manta rays are large beautiful creatures that live in warm tropical, subtropical and temperate waters around the globe. There are two species of manta ray in the world – the reef manta ray (Manta alfredi) and the giant manta ray (Manta birostris).

Here at Mantaray Island we’re mostly visited by reef manta rays, which stick closer to islands, seamounts and reefs in shallower water. Giant oceanic manta rays venture further out into the depths of the open ocean. They visit shallower areas and cleaning stations occasionally, which is when we might be lucky enough to see them.

Don’t let the names fool you though – while the giant manta ray really is a giant, reef manta rays are no featherweights either!

Do manta rays migrate?

Yes! Giant oceanic manta rays migrate vast distances of around a thousand kilometres or more. Reef manta rays have shorter migrations because they like to stay in shallower water. They are believed to usually migrate under 100km but have been known to travel over 250km.

Reef manta rays migrate to areas with a good food source and stay there for months at a time.

Why do manta rays come into the channel in front of Mantaray Island?

Manta rays come here each May to October to feed in the nutrient-rich waters which are funnelled through the narrow channel.

The strong currents flowing through the channel during the change of tide concentrates nutrients between Nanuya Balavu (our island!) and Drawaqa Island. This makes it a perfect feeding spot to access their main food source, plankton, with ease, and in great abundance.

What are the fish that suck onto the manta rays?

The suckerfish you may see attached to the manta rays are called remoras. They attach themselves to manta rays or sharks, often near the head.

They don’t harm the manta ray host, but rather have a symbiotic relationship (one that benefits them both). The remoras eat skin parasites attached to the manta ray. In return they get free transport and the occasional snack the manta missed.

Remoras suck on strongly enough to stay in place but can let go and move around if they choose to.

What is the size of the largest Manta Ray ever found?

Records of giant mantas are notoriously difficult to verify. The largest reported in the scientific literature measured 22 feet (6.7 metres) across and there is one report of an individual 30 feet (9.1 metres) across. But most mantas encountered by people are about 12 feet (4 metres) across.

Manta Ray Facts & Figures

In Fijian manta rays are called the “VAI”. With wingspans reaching over 20 feet across, manta rays are one of the largest fish in the ocean. In recent years, Mantaray Island Resort has been visited by a manta ray spanning 6.5m! The manta ray in the above image is approximately 4.5m across.

Are manta rays friendly?

Manta rays may be intimidating because of their large size (4-6m) but they are gentle creatures. They might watch you as you swim by and show gentle curiosity but will usually keep their distance at the same time.

Manta rays are very intelligent. They have the biggest brain-to-body size of all fish. Studies that set out to understand just how smart they are found that they could be able to recognise themselves in a mirror. They also have well-developed long term memories and can map out their environment using sight and smell.

What do Manta Rays eat?

The answer is definitely not you!

Manta ray are filter feeders. They possess cephalic (head) fins that they use to help funnel food and water into their cavernous mouths. They eat zooplankton, krill and very small crustaceans – all tiny inhabitants of the water column.

To catch these little guys they swim around with their mouths wide open and filter their lunch through gill plates, which are like tiny filtering rakes.

You may also see them doing slow somersaults while feeding. They might also be seen swimming in a circle with other manta rays. This is called chain feeding and manta rays do it to trap zooplankton in a funnel of water between them.

Why do manta rays look the way they do?

Manta rays are large animals with wing-like pectoral fins on each side. These help them to gracefully propel themselves and glide through the water while filtering the water for plankton. Their wing-shaped fins generate a lot of thrust. This creates vortexes of water that propel the manta ray forward.

Cousins to the shark, manta rays have cartilaginous skeletons that make for their graceful flexibility.

Do manta rays have teeth or venomous barbs?

Manta rays have gill plates that they use to filter tiny creatures out of the water to eat. These are each 1 – 2 mm long. They do not have teeth for defence or biting large prey.

They also don’t have venomous barbs in their tails like stingrays do.

Swimming with manta rays is a wonderful choice for anyone wanting a remarkable animal encounter with a gentle giant.

Can manta rays leap out of the water?

Yes, they can. They can make impressive leaps out of the water when they are playing or trying to impress a mate. This also helps them to remove parasites from their skin.

How fast can manta rays swim?

Manta rays are strong swimmers. They can swim fast and hold their position in strong currents. They can move about a whole body-length in one second!

They can maintain a speed of 14 kilometres (9 miles) per hour, with bursts of up to 35 kilometres (22 miles) per hour.

Do manta rays sleep?

Nobody knows for sure but it’s unlikely. Like sharks, manta rays have to keep swimming to pump water over their gills. This is how they breathe.

It’s possible that they shut down certain parts of their brain to give them a rest, though.

What are the fish that suck onto the manta rays?

The suckerfish you may see attached to the manta rays are called remoras. They attach themselves to manta rays or sharks, often near the head.

They don’t harm the manta ray host, but rather have a symbiotic relationship (one that benefits them both). The remoras eat skin parasites attached to the manta ray. In return they get free transport and the occasional snack the manta missed.

Remoras suck on strongly enough to stay in place but can let go and move around if they choose to.

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