Manta Ray & Whale Shark Expedition to Baa Atoll / Blog

Manta Ray & Whale Shark Expedition to Baa Atoll

Manta Ray & Whale Shark Expedition to Baa Atoll With World Leading Manta Ray Expert Guy Stevens:

31st August – 7th September 2013

The Expedition

This expedition has been specifically timed to coincidence with the most productive monsoon winds and lunar currents which strongly influence the movements and feeding habits of the world’s largest population of reef manta rays which in habit the productive tropical waters of the Maldives.  At this time of year large aggregations of as many as 150 individual manta rays can be seen feeding together in the surface waters of Baa Atoll, a spectacle which is one of nature’s most awe inspiring and truly amazing experiences. The aim of this trip is to use the knowledge of world leading manta expert, Guy Stevens, to find these feeding aggregations and allow the guests to experience for themselves the wonder of immersing yourself amongst a feeding frenzy of these gentle giants. Guy has lived in the Maldives for a decade and has been studying the population of manta rays in Baa Atoll since 2006.

Baa Atoll is off the main route for the majority of dive liveaboards and we will venture into this more northern atoll specifically to seek out the feeding mantas and hopefully a few whale sharks as well.  The peak months for sighting whale sharks in Baa Atoll are also August and September and to see several of the world’s largest fish feeding amongst dozens of the world’s largest rays is something most people will never forget.

While the weather in the Maldives at this time of the year is likely to be more changeable, these monsoonal conditions are exactly what creates the planktonic blooms upon which the mantas and whale sharks aggregate to feed. Furthermore, we can never guarantee these natural events, but we have put together a trip which maximises our chances of being in the right place at the right time, guided by the expertise of Guy Stevens gained from a decade of living in the Maldives.

Guy Stevens – Chief Executive & Founder of The Manta Trust

In 2005 Guy founded the Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP) with the aim of helping to conserve the Maldives manta population through active research and education.  In 2011, Guy went on to form The Manta Trust along with a collaboration of scientists, conservationists, photographers, filmmakers and communicators. His work with manta rays now takes him to other corners of the world, but the Maldives for him will always be the best place to see and study these amazing animals. The research that Guy has conducted on the manta rays of the Maldives, especially in the famous Hanifaru Bay, has been featured in dozens of articles—including a National Geographic Magazine feature—and numerous television documentaries (BBC, ITV, National Geographic, Animal Planet, ABC, etc). Guy’s research at Hanifaru and his work with The Manta Trust contributed to the declaration of the Maldives’ Baa Atoll as a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2011.  In March 2013 Guy and the rest of the Manta Trust team were key players in coalition of NGO’s which were instrumental in the successful campaign which resulted in Manta Rays being listed on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), greatly improving the global protection for these vulnerable species.

Guy is now working towards the completion of his PhD focusing on manta rays at the University of York in the United Kingdom. Throughout the expedition, Guy will be providing lectures and informal talks on manta ray and whale shark research & conservation, and general marine biology, highlighting the diverse and productive marine ecosystems of the Maldives.

The Manta Trust

A UK registered charity, the trust’s mission is to advance the worldwide conservation of manta rays and their habitat through robust science and research, raising awareness and providing education, influence and action. Our vision is a world where manta rays thrive within a globally healthy marine ecosystem.  The Manta Trust was formed in 2011 to co-ordinate global research and conservation efforts for these amazing animals, their close relatives and their habitat. As charismatic megafauna manta rays act as flagship species, helping to promote and engage the general public in the wider message of marine ecosystem conservation. Through this top down approach to conservation the manta ray becomes the catalyst for change, engaging and motivating the general public, governments and local communities alike. For more information, please visit www.mantatrust.org

Citizen Science – Get Involved

On this expedition, you’ll have the opportunity to experience and participate in cutting-edge conservation research to protect one of the ocean’s most majestic animals. The Manta Trust has research and conservation projects in over 15 different countries around the world, incorporating population data, research on manta movements, and genetic analyses—to name a few—in order to better understand the general ecology of manta and mobula rays. While a decade ago this would have been considered pure scientific curiosity, in light of growing demand for manta and mobula gill plates in Traditional Chinese Medicine, and the resulting unsustainable fisheries developing around the world, understanding migratory routes, population structure and other basic traits of mantas has never been more important.

Guy and Manta Trust scientists will be collecting photographic identification images of all mantas encountered throughout the expedition—a task that guests are welcome and encouraged to participate in.  All new manta rays will be added to the database and guests will be invited to name these new mantas. Every manta sighting, whether it’s a new mantas or a re-sighting of an individual which is already known, is an important piece of a huge jigsaw puzzle, enabling the manta team to better understand the population size, composition, migratory routes, reproductive output, native ranges, and areas of critical habitats—all of which is crucial information in developing effective management and conservation strategies for the increasingly vulnerable animals.

 

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