Enter the mystical underwater world of the manta ray and you’ll find yourself truly captivated by these graceful creatures of the ocean.
Manta Rays fly silently through the water with the utmost of grace, the gentle swoop of their wings propelling them forward with seemingly effortless ease. Watching them summersault while feeding is just as captivating as they tumble in elegant turns, the flash of white of their underside in contrast with their grey upper bodies.
An eye to eye encounter with a manta ray is indeed a magical experience to treasure forever. And it’s an experience you can have at any time of the year in the dazzling blue waters off Coral Bay.
Several tour operators offer you the chance to don a snorkel and mask and view these elegant creatures in their natural habitat. Most operators use a spotter plane to ensure you travel directly to a manta ray and while sightings re never guaranteed, it’s rare for a Coral Bay charter operator to return to shore without sighting these graceful creatures.
Once you’ve reached a ray, a trained guide will enter the water to ensure the manta is not overwhelmed. If the ray seems relaxed, the guide will signal for snorkellers to enter the water. You can’t go too close to the animals, for fear of disturbing them or scaring them away, but you’ll be close enough to be truly blown away by the encounter. You may see scars and scratches on the ray’s back and you’ll truly appreciate their huge size – some have wingspans measuring up to four metres across. You may remain with a ray for anything from between five minutes and an hour before leaving it alone for the day.
Coral Bay Adventures’ June Hunt says people are enthralled by the experience. “It’s a wonderful interactive tour,” she says. “You can see the rays do backwards summersaults while feeding and people are amazed at their grace – we call them the ballerinas of the sea.”
You may also learn a thing or two about these magnificent creatures. For example, did you that manta rays are the world’s largest ray and are closely related to the shark? They are renowned for their acrobatic action and can even leap from the ocean as though in full flight.
While manta rays are encountered on the sandy ocean floor, many Coral Bay manta ray tour operators will also allow you to snorkel amongst the dazzling coral gardens of the Ningaloo Reef on your tour. The reef is truly astounding – a wonder world of coral castles and vibrantly coloured fish. Most tour operators provide their guests with a snorkel, mask and wetsuit for the tour, but this can vary with different tours so make sure you check when you book.
The tours usually last around half a day and cost between $120 and $140