A date with massed rays in the Azores

Manta ray in the Azores (Nuno Sa)

Fancy some Atlantic diving with manta and sicklefin devil rays, just 1300 miles from the UK? Every summer, dozens of these species gather near the island of Santa Maria in the Azores, one of the few known locations in the world where the sicklefins (Mobula tarapacana) gather in large groups.

For the past 10 years scientists with the Manta Catalog Azores conservation project have been tracking the rays to learn more about their movements, and to see which individuals return annually.

From 20-27 August a maximum of six divers are invited to join and help the researchers, with 10 dives guided by project leader Ana Filipa Sobral off the Ambrosio seamount, Formigas Islet and spots along Santa Maria’s coast. She can be seen talking about the project here.

Open Water Diver or equivalent is a minimum qualification, and included to get participants up to speed with ray photo ID is a conservation photography workshop. The trip is organised by Portugal Dive, with accommodation at the 4* Santa Maria Hotel. Including meals, refreshments, airport transfers and on-island activities the price is 4,450 euros pp (about £3,760) plus international flights.

(Ocean Image Bank / Simon Hilbourne)
Freediving with rays in the Azores (Nuno Sa)


Portugal Dive, which also offers standard Azores eight-day/10-dive trips from 949 euros pp, has meanwhile announced that a second DIVING Talks international dive congress is due to take place on mainland Portugal from 8-10 October.

Twenty-two “world-leading divers, explorers, scientists and researchers” are promised as speakers, with names confirmed to date including Bill Stone, Gareth Lock, Leigh Bishop, Simon Mitchell and Stef Panis. The first hybrid event last year was said to have attracted more than 200 attendees from 11 countries and 15,400 online viewers – this year the aim is for 450 attendees and 50,000 online viewers.

DIVING Talks is held at the Aqualuz Troia Mar e Rio hotel near Lisbon, with accommodation there or at the Troia Design hotel. B&B accommodation for two sharing, with congress and exhibition tickets, daily lunches and refreshments and one dive each costs less than the previous year at 380 euros (about £320), with discounts also promised on TAP Portugal flights.


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