Watching a manta ray in its natural environment is an awe-inspiring experience, and top of the list for many divers. While tourism can bring increased awareness and protection for threatened species, it can also bring its own impacts and effects.
By adopting responsible interaction guidelines, divers and operators can take positive steps to minimise these potential impacts, and enjoy longer and more spectacular encounters.
Manta Ray Code of Conduct
- LISTEN – Listen carefully to the briefing provided by your guide. It will help you minimize your impacts, ensure your safety, and help you enjoy a longer and more spectacular encounter.
- WATCH – Watch and enjoy the show. For the best encounter, do not approach closer than 3 metres, and allow the manta to approach closer of its own free will. Refrain from touching or riding mantas, which can remove protective mucous coatings and cause injury.
- WAIT – Avoid restricting the manta’s normal movement or behaviour. Approach the manta slowly. Do not chase mantas; longer and closer encounters normally result from waiting patiently and allowing the manta to approach you.
- MOVE – Divers should stay on or near to the rubble, sand or boulder sea floor. Mantas need an open water column to manoeuvre, and will approach closer if given space. Form a semi-circle with your group, allowing the manta a clear escape path.
- BREATHE – Be aware that exhaled bubbles can startle mantas swimming overhead.
- THINK – Be aware of your buoyancy, avoid accidentally knocking or kicking corals, and do not touch the reef unnecessarily. Do not take anything from the underwater environment.
- PHOTOGRAPHERS – If taking photos or videos, do not overlook these rules or other divers in order to get a good picture. Avoid excessive flash photography. For great shots, allow the manta to come to you.
Operators can take additional steps to minimise stress to the manta by restricting encounters with a single animal to a maximum of 10 minutes, and limiting group sizes to 8 divers.
Under some circumstances the following recommendations may apply:
- During night dives, shining torches upwards into the water column will attract plankton and feeding mantas, and will avoid dazzling mantas and other divers.
- The use of motorised diver propulsion vehicles is not recommended around mantas.
- In locations subject to strong currents, snorkelers and divers can maximise their encounter by entering the water up-current and drifting toward the manta or aggregation. A signaling device such as an SMB is recommended, and your guide may recommend using a reef hook.
Download and print these guidelines for your next diving trip.
MantaWatch: Briefing Guidelines
We gratefully acknowledge PADI’s Project AWARE, the Shark Trust, and the Ocean Recreation Council of Hawaii whose published information and recommendations have been incorporated into these guidelines.