Swimming with Manta Rays

We stayed in Nusa Lembongan, one of three islands off of the south east coast of Bali, and took a fabulous snorkeling trip over to Manta Point on Nusa Penida.

As soon as we arrived at Penida, after a particularly scenic route by boat, we could see the shape of one of these huge sea creatures swimming close to the surface of the sparkling water not too far away.  I say swimming but really the image was of a giant fish ‘flying’ gracefully through the ocean.

Manta Ray

Manta Ray - over 2 meters wide!

Can you really say they are flapping their ‘fins’ when they look so much like wings?

We quickly put on our snorkels and flippers and jumped off the boat into the warm blue ocean hoping to catch a closer look before it swam away… we needn’t have worried.

Very soon there were three Manta Rays, one after the other, swimming directly towards us.  The sight was almost scary because these big creatures, with a ‘wingspan’ of over 2 meters, looked like they were not going to stop in time and we instinctively started back-peddling in the water to get out of their way.  Again, we needn’t have worried.

Just before they were about to ‘run us over’ they effortlessly and elegantly dived beneath us and surfaced again on the other side of us.  They continued swimming/flying and then just 10 meters away they turned, one by one, in a stylish military fashion, and swam back towards us, once again ducking under us, just in the nick of time.

This game was repeated again and again and I’m not sure who enjoyed it most, us or them!

We felt so lucky to experience this, particularly as this was not even the season for Manta.  There was no guarantee that we would see one, let alone three of them, and on the surface as well.  In fact, some way below us were a number of divers and I couldn’t help wondering if, for all the expense of diving, they had seen a single manta down there.

I subsequently found out, via Wikipedia, that “Copulation occurs near the surface, no deeper than one metre below. It begins with the male chasing the female, for up to half an hour, both often closely followed by a train of hopeful suitors” – ahha, so that was their game – and we were literally in the middle of it.

Two of our huge swimming buddies were completely black, but the third one had a white underbelly and this one also had a relatively small fish that constantly swam just underneath it, in its slip stream.  As you can see they have two, well, what would you call them… ‘scoops’ perhaps, which scoop up the 20–30 kilograms (44–66 lb) of plankton that they munch on each day.  Their tails are very long and thin, and look similar to Sting Rays tails, however Manta Rays are not dangerous.

Apparently the largest Manta grows up to 7.6 meters wide – that is a whopping 25ft across, makes the 2 meter ones that we saw look like mere babes!

Like a secret doorway to another world

Like a secret doorway to another world

There is much more to tell about our weekend away, both on land and sea, but I will save that for my next post and just leave you with these jaw dropping images.

A pretty big splash!

A pretty big splash!

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  1. Hannah Payne

     /  23/01/2014

    Hi Julie, What a beautiful writer you are! Would you please let me know who you booked through and what month you went in. This is right up the top of my bucket list and we are off to Bali next month.

    • Hi Hannah
      Thanks for checking out my blog and for your comments.

      It was at the end of February when we were in Nusa Lembongan, which is one of three islands just off the south east coast of Bali (boats go there from Sanur).

      We stayed at our favourite place ‘Yogi Beach. It’s a small place – cheap, clean, friendly and well located.

      I seem to think that Yogi himself probably booked the boat trip out to Manta Point for us, or maybe it was one of the guys at the nearest bar. Whoever it was, it was very easy… we booked one afternoon and went the next morning.

      If you stay in Lembongan for more than one night then there are some other things to do on that island, snorkelling/mangroves etc. Type in Lembongan on my blog’s search bar…

      Also, if you stay in Ubud on your travels around Bali mainland, then maybe consider staying with us here at Rumah Jepun.

      Wherever you stay, have a great time!

  2. Katelyn

     /  16/09/2013

    Hi can you please tell me how much this cost you approx? thx

  3. Well Julie, the word that comes to mind, although I’m trying to tamp it down, is envious. So much beauty, so much excitement, and the magic of swimming with those magnificent mantas.

    • Hi Shane, why not go yourself… Penida is only a hop, skip and a jump away. I could give suggestions about where to stay etc.

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