How to dive with the world’s biggest mantas

Diver with oceanic manta
Diver meets manta in Ecuador (Manta Expeditions)

A chance to encounter some of the world’s biggest manta rays for a week off the coast of Ecuador is the latest proposition for scuba divers from Manta Expeditions. 

Although scheduled way ahead for the summer of 2023, the originally planned week has filled up so quickly that a second week’s trip is about to be added straight after it – from 2-9 September. 

The action will take place on daily boat trips to Isla de la Plata (Silver Island) in the Machalilla national park off mainland Ecuador. The world’s largest oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris) population can be found off this small island, including what are said to be some of the biggest individuals ever measured.

“It is in fact not uncommon to record 30-40 individuals during a single day of diving,” says Manta Expeditions. 

Humpback whales with their calves are often seen on the way to the dive sites, they add, and the island also hosts a large population of green turtles, along with moray eels, sting rays and sometimes sunfish.

diver with oceanic manta
Vertical encounter with an oceanic manta ray (Michel Guerrero)

This is a citizen-science expedition, and guests can expect to learn a great deal about oceanic mantas, their environment and conservation by spending the week alongside not only a scientist from the UK-registered charity Manta Trust, with which Manta Expeditions is closely affiliated, but also an expert from Projecto Mantas Ecuador (PME).

PME is said to have been instrumental in securing greater protection for mantas in the region, and is continuing its research to develop further conservation plans in collaboration with Ecuador’s Ministry of the Environment and Department of Fisheries.

Ultrasound

The scientists will be collecting measurements and photo-ID images as well as carrying out ultrasound examinations of the mantas during the week, with guests encouraged to participate. New mantas will be added to the regional database, with the divers invited to name them. 

Accommodation is at the Hosteria Nantu lodge in Puerto Lopez and diving is with 5* PADI dive centre Exploramar, which Manta Expeditions describes as “the most experienced and trusted diving company in Ecuador”. 

Running for seven nights from 2 September 2023, the trip costs US $2,590pp (about £1,990). This includes transfers between Guayachil airport and Puerto Lopez, six full-day private boat trips to Isla de la Plata, two guided dives a day, full dive-gear rental, B&B accommodation in a twin/double room (two sharing) and lunches on diving days. The PADI Manta Distinctive Speciality qualification and municipality tax are also included. 

“Due to the high demand we are also considering scheduling a one-week expedition this year in early September,” expeditions manager Niv Froman told Divernet. Email him at info@mantaexpeditions.com to explore the possibilities, and for more information about the trips visit Manta Expeditions.

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