Hanifaru Bay Manta Snorkeling

When we first stumbled upon videos of manta rays in Hanifaru Bay in the Maldives, our bags were practically packed. We aimed for the sweet spot—between June and November—to hopefully catch these magnificent creatures during the southwest monsoon.

Table of Contents

Our Base

We chose the Royal Island Resort to be our base. Their dive center stood out, with its focus on sustainable trips. We appreciated their commitment to ensure Hanifaru Bay and all of the surrounding dive sights remained as pristine as ever despite the growing number of visitors.

Drone shot of the lush green Royal Island Resort withe the beautiful house reef in the foreground
As you can guess, the Resort has a beautiful house reef as well, but we came for something else this time

Mifrah, our dive guide, broke the news when we arrived at the dive center to inquire about the trip. There were no manta sightings for two weeks.

But hope wasn’t lost. The attentive rangers, who manage both tourists and the bay’s health, seemed optimistic about our chances.

A couple of days breezed by at the resort, filled with snorkeling the house reef, good food and relaxation. Out of the blue, Mifrah approached: “How about a dive at 9 am tomorrow?” We didn’t think twice.

Sea turtle in shallow waters swimming through a coral reef
We spent the time waiting for the mantas enjoying the house reef and had a turtle greeting us on our first dive

Hanifaru Bay

The next morning came quickly. After a light breakfast, we met a smaller-than-expected group at the dive center. Post a brief safety chat, our boat sped towards Hanifaru Bay. In about 25 minutes, we were there. 

And to our delight, the first manta ray appeared as we dived in, with more soon joining the spectacle.

Free diving at hanifaru bay with a manta ray passing by
We were the first ones to follow Mifrah into the water and got to see the first manta right away

Yet, despite the morning’s slightly rough seas and a hint of rain, the visibility underwater remained surprisingly clear.

A group of manta rays at hanifaru bay doing the famous barrel rolls
There were about 15 mantas roaming around hanifaru bay in total when we have been there

Being submerged in that environment, watching the mantas execute their barrel rolls was just breathtaking.

Manta ray at hanifaru bay performing a barrel roll seen from the bottom
We could not stop watching the mantas and taking photos

We could have spend all day watching the elegant rays. That is probably why each visiting group in Hanifaru Bay is given a window of 45 minutes, ensuring the space isn’t overwhelmed. 

Despite being the only boat there at that time, the guides were on their toes watching our group carefully. Their primary concern was, of course, keeping an eye on everyone for safety. This meant staying close, a precaution that occasionally made capturing the perfect photo challenging—often a fin would sneak into the frame.

That is why we usually prefer solo or smaller group trips. This particular journey felt just right in every way, though. A private tour would just have blown the budget.

Service Jetty pier at Royal Island resort's Dive Oceanus Dive Center
When we got back, the weather turned better again so we could enjoy the rest of the day hanging around by the beach rewiewing our morning snorkeling trip

Special Thanks

Big thanks to Mifrah for enhancing our experience. He explained, with his unique humor, why Hanifaru Bay is a manta hotspot. The bay’s channel funnels in waters abundant with plankton. As it narrows, the waters flow into the sea, leaving behind a plankton feast. This not only draws manta rays but occasionally, if you’re in luck, whale sharks or even dolphins hunting smaller fish, too.


  • olaf
    27. September 2023 at 05:17

    Ich liebe eure Photos
    😉 ich war auch schon mal in der Gegend, aber solche Photos habe ich in den Jahren nicht hinbekommen — sehr sehr schoen- Danke fuers teilen

    • Gerrit
      1. October 2023 at 15:36

      Danke Dir wir fanden die Hanifaru Bay auch mega schön! 😍 Und ein bischen Glück hatten wir auch…

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