Manta ray bay

  • Rays & Skates
Years funded
  • 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013
  • Archived
Project type
  • Research

Guy has found paradise: the world’s largest known population of manta rays. He has been studying Maldivian mantas since 2005, providing critical insights on what he believes to be the most intelligent fish in the sea.

Manta ray bay

Guy Stevens

Project leader
About the project leader

I have been fascinated by the natural world all my life and growing up on a farm in south-western UK provided me with a seemingly limitless supply of weird and wonderful creatures to discover. I always knew that I wanted to make studying animals my career, but it was only when I was given a tropical fish tank at the age of 11 that my passion for the underwater world began. From that moment forward I would say ‘I want to study fish!’ when asked what I planned to do when I grew up. True to my word, I progressed...

PROJECT LOCATION : Hanifaru, Maldives
Related Blogs
By Hannah Moloney, 14th December 2022
The recipe for manta mass-feeding
In an unsuspecting small reef inlet in the Maldives hosts the world’s largest aggregation of manta rays. With the perfect recipe of winds, current, tide and moon phase, Hanifaru Bay becomes a melting pot for large megafauna to feast on tiny nutrient-rich zooplankton. Think 150…
By Guy Stevens, 2nd December 2013
Manta Rays’ reproduction is back in the Maldives!
For the past four years we have observed an alarming lack reproductive activity; very little courtship behaviour and no pregnant mantas have been recorded since Nov 2009. The slow growing rate of these creatures coupled with the production of few offspring (collectively referred to as…
By Guy Stevens, 17th November 2013
Sunny Maldivian Hulhangu season
It’s the end of September…a beautiful sunny day in the Maldives, and the ocean is dead calm. Wait a moment! It’s September, the heart of the Hulhangu, the stormy southwest monsoon, where are the storms!? This sentence encapsulates what’s been happening in the Maldives for…
By Guy Stevens, 14th November 2013
Education: the key to success in environmental conservation
“In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we have been taught” – Baba Dioum’s famous quote emphasises the importance of education in achieving environmental conservation; we try take his…
By Guy Stevens, 22nd February 2013
Southern Maldives Expedition 4
Although we might be the Manta Trust that doesn’t stop us from trying to incorporate the collection of data for protection of other species into our work too. Since Guy began his manta sightings database, he has also collected similar information for whale sharks, an…
By Guy Stevens, 21st February 2013
Southern Maldives Expedition 3
Historically, humans have exploited marine megafauna for centuries, whether it be for their skins, blubber, oils or meat, but always primarily for consumptive use. In recent decades, our appreciation of wildlife for economic, social and ecological reasons has led to a shift in attitudes towards…
By Guy Stevens, 20th February 2013
Southern Maldives Expedition 2
I first found my way into marine conservation and research through a very convoluted route, discovering a passion for the oceans through diving that left me asking endless questions and desperate to know more. Having graduated with a BSc degree in Psychology but not quite…
By Guy Stevens, 19th February 2013
Southern Maldives Expedition 1
Having completed a three month research project on the effects of tourism on manta rays for my Master’s thesis in Marine Environmental Management last summer for the Manta Trust, I now join Save Our Seas Foundation Project Leader Guy Stevens again to learn more about…
By Guy Stevens, 12th March 2012
Manta Week at the SEA LIFE London Aquarium
The SEA LIFE London Aquarium has teamed up with the Manta Trust and the Maldivian Manta Ray Project to celebrate all things MANTA to raise money and awareness during Manta Week from the 24th March – 1st April 2012. The SEA LIFE London Aquarium is…
By Guy Stevens, 30th January 2012
Working with the MMRP: Bec Atkins MSc
Over the years the MMRP have formed a close relationship with the University of York offering a placement for a master’s student to work alongside our main projects and take on a project of their own. The work done by these students is an important…
By Guy Stevens, 1st December 2011
The End of the Season….
The end of November 2011 marks the end of another manta season for the MMRP, our sixth season researching the manta rays of Baa Atoll. As seasons go this is the worst yet for manta ray sightings, but we have achieved a lot this year,…
By Guy Stevens, 9th November 2011
Measuring Mantas
Following the 60 Minute Australia shoot Dr. Mark Meekan was kind enough to leave with us the stereo cameras he had brought to help us get accurate measurements of our manta rays so we could gather even more data. Armed with an in depth briefing…
By Guy Stevens, 28th October 2011
60 Minutes Maldives – Day 5 – Last but not Least!
This is our last day at sea, we will be returning to Male shortly. We have all had a good time on this excellent boat, with great manta viewings, a lot of good interaction and footage and photo opportunities. I will be sorry to have…
By Guy Stevens, 28th October 2011
60 Minutes on the Maldives: Day 4 – Rain and Rays over the Reefs
The fourth morning of our trip brought rain again. The film crew was busy interviewing star presenter Allison Langdon under a cover of dark clouds. Every now and then, the sun managed to break through the clouds. Although conditions were far from ideal, we went…
By Guy Stevens, 27th October 2011
60 Minutes in the Maldives – Day 3 – Manta Mania!
The third day of our expedition started with heavy rains. We had no high hopes to see mantas on these high seas, but weather improved considerably during the morning. Wind and currents brought plankton into the lagoon and… finally manta rays! Visibility was reasonable. The…
By Guy Stevens, 26th October 2011
60 Minutes and Manta Rays – Day 2 of an Exciting Adventure
The team spent all hours on day 2 of our adventure looking for manta rays. We dived as many times as we could, searching the wonderful Maldivian reefs for these graceful creatures. Scientist Mark Meekan brough his measuring device, that he can use for in-water…
By Guy Stevens, 25th October 2011
Mantas in the Maldives: 60 minutes Australia!
Being a CEO of Save Our Seas is a fantastic job! I still feel honored that I have the opportunity to do this. Right now, I am in the Maldives, together with Guy Stevens, Save Our Seas supported project leader of the Maldivian Manta Ray…
By Guy Stevens, 18th October 2011
Working with the MMRP: A Volunteer’s Persepective
Each year the Maldivian Manta Ray Project is joined by volunteers from around the world who participate in the research activities to gain valuable experience or to work towards a project of their own. This blog tells the story of one of our 2011 volunteers…
By Guy Stevens, 7th October 2011
Maldivian Ray Project Update 2011
The 2011 manta ray season has been one of the most interesting yet for the MMRP. We’ve seen a lot less mantas than we have in previous years, but we’ve made some interesting discoveries about why this might be, correlating our manta sightings with the…
By Guy Stevens, 19th July 2011
Baa Atoll, Maldives – A UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve
Last month at the 40th anniversary of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation’s (UNESCO’s) ‘Man and the Biosphere Program’ in Dresden, Germany the entirety of Baa Atoll in the Republic of Maldives was declared a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve. World Biosphere Reserves are…
By Guy Stevens, 15th February 2009
Feeding Giants
You might think that feeding for a manta ray is a pretty straight forward process; simply find the plankton, unfurl your cephalic fins and open your mouth! But it’s not quite that simple, in fact my research has shed new light on the wide variety…
By Guy Stevens, 9th February 2009
Whale Shark Encounters
For most divers seeing a whale shark is at the top of their ‘must see’ list, a once in a lifetime experience to swim with the biggest fish on our planet. I will always remember the first time I saw a whale shark; it was…
Project details

Conservation management of Maldivian manta rays and their habitat

Key objective

The key objective of this project is to research the life cycle and habitat use of the Maldivian manta population, while also working with the country’s government, resort guests, local communities and other visitors to create greater awareness and understanding of these graceful rays.

Why is this important

Its abundance of marine life has made the Maldives one of the top dive destinations in the world, and manta rays continue to be one of the ‘must-see’ highlights for most of the country’s visitors. Manta rays are therefore extremely important for tourism, which is by far the largest source of revenue for the Maldives. Despite this, Maldivian law does not yet protect manta rays specifically, and as natural resources continue to be stretched, the associated negative impacts are increasingly affecting the country’s mantas.


The Maldives has a massive population of manta rays. The total manta population for this small country in the middle of the Indian Ocean is estimated to exceed 10,000 individuals. In three years of data collection, the Maldivian Manta Ray Project has already built a comprehensive database of over 5,000 manta sightings and identified more than 1,500 different mantas with new individuals being sighted on a regular basis.

Maldivian mantas are year-round residents, migrating across the country’s 26 atolls with the changing monsoons as they follow seasonal shifts in their planktonic food source. These nutrient-rich waters support huge quantities of marine life and it’s not uncommon to find more than 150 manta rays feeding in surface waters together with half a dozen whale sharks at one of the project’s key study sites. These amazing feeding aggregations are one of the world’s natural underwater spectacles, attracting increasing numbers of tourists each year. The Maldivian Manta Ray Project and SOSF are working hard with local stakeholders and the Maldivian government to put in place management plans to protect this site for the future.

Aims & objectives

This project aims to continually expand the current manta ray sightings database. However, although the photo-ID database is a simple and very useful tool for studying manta rays, it does have limitations as it can only tell researchers where the mantas are at the time of the sighting. To collect data on the large and fine scale movements of individuals, one has to tag manta rays, and this project plans to continue its passive and active acoustic tagging in the coming year, as well as experiment with the new Fastloc GPS systems, which will hopefully be the key to successfully satellite tagging of manta rays in the Maldives.

Documenting the mating behaviour and reproductive cycle of the resident mantas is another area where the project is particularly keen to expand its research. Courtship rituals and pregnancies are regularly documented in the Maldives and matings have been recorded on several occasions. Furthermore, mating occurs at distinct times of the year at specific locations in the Maldives and it is possible to follow the matings and pregnancies of individuals within the population from one year to the next. This is extremely important data because virtually nothing is known about the reproductive strategies of manta rays and the Maldivian Manta Ray Project is in a unique position to document this.

The project also aims to undertake several fieldtrips in the coming year. The first will be to discover new manta feeding and cleaning sites in the Northern Atolls of the Maldives, which are still relatively untouched and unexplored. The hope is that some of the individuals seen at the project’s current study sites will be sighted so that links can be made between seasonal feeding grounds. The second trip will be to the Sea of Cortez with Dr Robert Rubin to document the giant manta rays congregating at the isolated sea mounts of the Revillagigedos Islands.