• Hannah Moloney

Be a Starfish in a Sea of Mantas

Updated: May 10

Meet Dorka the manta, a 1.8m juvenile female from Ari Atoll. She was first sighted in the northern parts of the atoll in 2017 but this little-miss traveller was recently seen 50km’s south of there! Nowadays, Dorka can been seen indulging on plankton in Dhangethi Lagoon! I had an inquisitive but hungry Dorka line-feeding through a blanket of thick plankton in the shallow lagoon waters.

With snorkelers in the water, this encounter could go two ways – a) guests chase the manta, manta stops feeding and disappears into the blue, OR b) ask your guests to lay at the surface like “starfish” keeping calm and not moving, letting the manta take control of the situation.

My guests all played quietly and still at the surface like “starfish”. We were rewarded for our good behaviour! Again and again Dorka swam in front of us with her mouth wide open, her back exposed at the surface and her wings dancing around us. Every movement by Dorka was close to the group but controlled by her. Putting on an elegant display, she continued to feed on the abundance of plankton in the water and dance around everyone for over 1 hour.

This encounter with Dorka is one that I still remember vividly. Once the snorkelers returned to the boat, a lady from Germany expressed her gratitude for this experience to me. Her eyes welled with tears “I expected that swimming with mantas would be good, but this was magical.”

The manta ray research is conducted with permits with the Maldivian Manta Ray Project and Manta Trust.

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