If you’re reading this, you may already be aware that it’s a policy of mine to celebrate working with a new organisation by adopting a marine animal on their behalf (in the form of a charity donation). Today, I’m sharing why I have chosen manta rays as one of my chosen species for this adoption programme. Enjoy!
Manta ray fact file
- Common name: Giant manta ray
- Scientific name: Mobula birostris
- Alternate animal name: Majestic sea flap flap
- Conservation status: Endangered
- Diet: Plankton
- Average life span: 50 years
- Reaches sexual reproduction at: 8-10 years
- Pregnancy lasts: around one year
- Largest recorded individual: 9.1m
- Weight: up to 2 tonnes
- Fun fact: These extremely intelligent creatures have the largest brain-to-body ratio of all fish and scientists believe they can recognise themselves in mirrors, which suggests they have self-awareness!
Why do you love manta rays?
It’s hard to explain how amazing it is to share the water with these incredible creatures.
Marine conservation often has an something of an image-problem (maybe because people think fish are less cute than pandas). When people think of the ocean, they often don’t imagine the animals that live there are being sentient, intelligent or engaging. If any experience could change that, I’d put my money on swimming with manta rays.
I’ve always been fascinated by these enigmatic animals, known fondly by ocean-lovers as ‘majestic sea flap flaps’. A pretty apt description, I would say. When I first started diving over 12 years ago, seeing manta rays in the water was my dream.
I was, seemingly, cursed for a long time. I was lucky enough to go diving in locations all around the world (some places even in manta season). Yet, dive after dive, year after year, I never saw a manta ray. When I first visited Mozambique (known for being home to both reef and giant manta rays) years ago, I was unlucky. Whichever dive boat I went out on, you could bet the other boat would have seen a manta and we would not. The diving was nonetheless amazing but I must admit I was disappointed.
My first manta ray
It wasn’t until 2018, when I was back in Mozambique volunteering with Marine Megafauna Foundation (MMF) that I finally – a decade after certifying as a diver – saw my first majestic sea flap flap. I was out on an ocean safari (snorkelling trip) with Peri Peri Divers when we saw something break the surface of the ocean. And then, all of a sudden, someone shouted “manta, manta!” I don’t think I’ve ever got into the water so quickly!
It was magical to swim alongside this enormous animal and see a glint of curiosity, or perhaps recognition, in its eye. That snorkelling trip, thankfully, broke my curse. Since then, I’ve been incredibly lucky to share the water with both reef and giant mantas while diving and snorkelling. Whether they’re swimming alongside you, barrel rolling above you like an aquatic ballerina or slowly ambling over to check you out, the experience simply doesn’t get old.
Sadly, they are a threatened species (the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists reef manta as vulnerable to extinction and giant mantas as endangered). I hope my donations will play a small part in helping to protect these elegant and enigmatic animals.
Which charity will the manta ray adoption support?
Manta ray adoptions will support the Manta Trust. The charity’s mission is to create a sustainable future for the oceans where manta rays thrive in healthy marine ecosystems. Formed in 2011, the Manta Trust is a UK registered charity that co-ordinates global mobulid research and conservation efforts.