Ever since I obtained my Open Water dive certification, I have been wanting to go diving with Manta Rays. The Manta Ray is the largest ray in the world. There are two types, oceanic Mantas, reaching up to 7 metres (23 ft) in width, and Reef Mantas, reaching up to about 5.5 metres (18 ft) in width.
Manta rays are circumglobal and are typically found in tropical and subtropical waters, although oceanic Manta rays can be found in temperate waters. The best place to encounter Manta Rays is at so called cleaning stations at seamounts and coastal reefs. The rays come here to have their skin cleaned by small fish, who eat the parasites off their skin.
Manta rays can be quite inquisitive and sometimes approach and solicit attention from divers. It seems like they enjoy the tactile stimulation provided by human contact as well as the bubbles from the scuba gear. Unlike the smaller sting rays, they don't have a sting and are completely harmless to divers.
Although I have dived at a few locations where Manta Ray sighting are common, unfortunately I haven't been lucky yet enough to spot one. My next attempt will take place in Malapascua Island, just off the coast of the Northern tip of Cebu Island in the Philippines.
Other places where diving with Manta Rays is possible are Koh Bon in Thailand, Komodo in Indonesia, the Maldives, Black Rock in Myanmar, Kadavu in Fiji and Cabo Marshall in the Galapagos Islands. Sightings are often seasonal, so if you want to have a Manta Ray encounter you should check what time of the year you'll have the best chance. Even if you go during the right season, you're never guaranteed to see one.