Snorkelling or diving or with a manta ray is an incredible experience which people treasure and retell. The Manta Trust know that responsible manta tourism can be part of the solution to combating the issue of global manta fisheries, encouraging many countries and governments with a strong incentive to protect these animals.
However, manta rays are very sensitive to disturbances and occasionally uncontrolled human interactions have negatively impact local manta populations, driving them away from important areas where they clean, feed or breed.
There have been cases of tour operators driving boats over aggregations of surface-feeding manta rays, injuring them with boat propellors, and divers clustering over manta clean stations, which prevents mantas from accessing them.
To help combat this, the Manta Trust are working with growing numbers of responsible manta tourism operators worldwide who are committed to sustainable manta conservation. These operators follow the Manta Trust's Swim with Mantas guidelines, which show divers and snorkellers how they should behave in the water around manta rays, and get the most from their experience.
As the tourism industry opens up again in 2021, the Manta Trust are urging divers to choose a responsible manta tourism operator and ensure their trip doesn't impact negatively on local manta populations.
The Swim with Mantas guidelines have been validated by scientific studies, following several years of marine research conducted in the Maldives and provide the Best Practice Code of Conduct for Manta Ray Tourism. In addition, they include recommendations for tourism operators on how best to approach and depart manta aggregation sites, and how to help their crew manage a manta excursion with guests.
Photo credit: Guy Stevens / Manta Trust