Manta rays can be found in the ocean waters near the Maldives. // © 2015 iStock
Feature image (above): Clients who stay at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas have the chance to come face-to-face with manta rays. // © 2015 Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas
Ocean lovers who’ve always wanted to spend a little face time with a manta ray may want to consider a stay at Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas. The destination resort in the Maldives is located near an annual feeding ground for the majestic sea creatures.
“An encounter with a manta ray, or a group of them, is an amazing experience,” said Joseph Lassus, resident marine biologist for Anantara Kihavah Maldives Villas. “It’s hard to describe the intensity one feels when it happens.”
Unlike stingrays and eagle rays, mantas have no stinger and are friendly, often curious animals with wingspans that can reach as wide as 16 feet.
Located in the Maldives’ southern Baa Atoll, Anantara is just a 20-minute boat trip from the warm and nutrient-rich waters of Hanifaru Bay, which welcomes an annual migration of manta rays that generally runs from May to November each year.
According to Lassus, next season’s visit is likely to be an impressive one.
“There was a significant amount of pregnant manta rays observed [this year] among the population that seasonally dwells in our atoll,” Lassus said. “This is great news for people looking to have an encounter with these amazing creatures.”
Lassus notes that researchers saw more pregnant manta rays this season than they had for nearly 10 years in Hanifaru Bay, which is one of the world’s largest manta feeding destinations thanks to huge amounts krill and plankton in summer months.
“The data tends to confirm that the mantas are able to reproduce efficiently and sustain a healthy population, which is a positive indicator for us of low perturbation levels in their ecosystem,” he said.
Lassus was also quick to note that there is a great deal more for ocean lovers to see at Anantara.
“Guests have access to a great diversity of marine life, ranging from tiny reef creatures adored by scuba divers to bigger animals such as sea turtles, sharks, rays and dolphins, which we can spot on a casual snorkeling excursion,” he said.
One major amenity at the property is The Golden Wall, a stunning coral reef ecosystem just a short swim from the resort.
“The so-called Golden Wall is part of our house reef, starting just a few fin kicks away from the beach of our dive center,” Lassus said. “It is the spot that we recommend most to all of our guests to enjoy snorkeling by themselves or with a guide in an easy, safe environment.”
Lassus noted that The Golden Wall is often used in the resort’s introductory scuba courses, which allow travelers who have never dived before to become certified in one of the destination’s most extraordinary underwater environments. Lassus added that Anantara offers ocean experiences for all levels — whether a guest is a seasoned dive vet or a complete novice.
“We offer all kinds of activities to match with all levels — from snorkeling lessons on our house reef to guided snorkeling tours on a remote, untouched reef, as well as all levels of scuba-diving courses, from open-water levels to dive masters,” he said. “Everyone is welcome.”