Manta Rays are one of the most beautiful and graceful creatures in all the world’s oceans. Exmouth and Coral Bay in Western Australia are two of the best places in the world to see these wonderful creatures. Aussie Marine Adventures specialises in Manta Ray interactions. I have been a skipper/divemaster on Manta tours and Danielle has been a guide/swimmer in Coral Bay and Exmouth for many years. We have both developed a passion for these amazing animals after seeing and swimming with hundreds of them over the years.

We are very lucky here because both the Exmouth Gulf and Coral Bay have year-round populations of Mantas. There is usually a big aggregation/feeding event here in the Exmouth Gulf around September every year, and this year was no exception. Recently (leading up to and around the last full moon) large groups of up to 50 Mantas were observed feeding in current lines just offshore near Bundegi Sanctuary (part of the Ningaloo Marine Park).

This is quite a sight to behold and we were alerted to the concentrated pockets of Manta Rays in the Exmouth Gulf by our spotter planes, charter boats, and recreational fishermen. We were very excited as we loaded up our boats with underwater camera gear and snorkelling equipment because we knew we would soon be immersed in a soup of feeding Mantas!

As we approached the area where the Mantas were gathered, we could see them surface feeding following the plankton-rich current lines. They will exhibit a behaviour we call “line-feeding” in this situation, where they swim back and forth on the surface in a line – scooping up huge mouthfuls of water which contains their food. Mantas are filter feeders and they will swim around with their cephalic lobes (flaps at the side of their mouth) unfurled, directing water and zooplankton into their open mouths. The plankton are caught in gill rakers as the water is passed through their gills and are then swallowed.

Even though the Mantas are usually not bothered by human presence when feeding in large numbers and heavy concentrations of food, it is important to keep a respectful distance and try not to get in their way while swimming with them or disturb the current lines with boat traffic.

As we approached the area where the Mantas were gathered, we could see them surface feeding following the plankton-rich current lines. They will exhibit a behaviour we call “line-feeding” in this situation, where they swim back and forth on the surface in a line – scooping up huge mouthfuls of water which contains their food. Mantas are filter feeders and they will swim around with their cephalic lobes (flaps at the side of their mouth) unfurled, directing water and zooplankton into their open mouths. The plankton are caught in gill rakers as the water is passed through their gills and are then swallowed.

This event is an underwater photographer’s paradise, and we all got lots of great photos and footage of these beautiful animals. It was one of those moments that will be remembered forever, along with many other special memories that we have after decades of working in this industry with so many amazing experiences happening almost daily.

We went back a couple of times over the week or so that they were there in numbers. They have dissipated now, but there are still plenty of Mantas out in the Exmouth Gulf which are easy to come across if you just go out in a boat and look around. It’s even easier when we use a spotter plane!

Our Eco/Wildlife tours and Manta Ray interaction tours both use planes to locate Mantas and other wildlife to make sure our guests have the best chance to see all the cool stuff!!

Send us an email if you are interested in seeing Manta Rays in their natural environment, we can get you out there on one of our boats to experience it for yourselves. Give it a try, you’ll love it!!

Underwater photos courtesy of Sara Barbieri.
Aerial photo courtesy of Ningaloo Aviation.

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