How to Swim with Manta Rays in Fiji
Swimming with huge yet elegant manta rays in their natural environment is an enchanting experience. Each year, reef manta rays are seen in abundance gliding through the nutrient-rich waters of Fiji. But you can’t swim with manta rays on your own, as they are a safeguarded species in Fiji, and you can’t swim with manta rays just anywhere. We’ll guide you on how to swim with the rays, what the experience is like, as well as other things you’ll need to know for the experience with this guide to swimming with manta rays in Fiji.
When is the Manta Ray Season in Fiji?
Although there are rare sightings of manta rays in Fiji all year round, the best time to see manta rays is between May and October. Special snorkelling trips to see manta rays only typically take place between May and October when plankton is funnelled through narrow channels in the Yasawa Islands, which make for easy feeding grounds for the mantas.
In Kadavu, the season is typically a little shorter, ending in September.
Learn more about the climate of the seasons in Fiji here.
Where to Swim with Manta Rays in Fiji
While you might be lucky to encounter a stray manta ray while snorkelling or scuba diving in Fiji, if you want a more “guaranteed” viewing (or at least as guaranteed as you can get with wild animals) then you need to aim for two particular island groups. The Yasawa Islands and Kadavu are the best places for snorkelling with manta rays in Fiji.
The Yasawa Islands, an island group that is approximately a 2-5-hour ferry journey from Viti Levu or a 30-minute seaplane flight, is the most popular place to snorkel with manta rays in Fiji. During the manta ray season, manta rays are consistently seen in what is known as the “Manta Ray Passage” between the southern end of Naviti Island and Drawaqa Island. The closest resorts to this passage are Mantaray Island Resort, Barefoot Manta Resort and Botaira Resort, although other resorts in the Yasawa Islands offer trips to the passage too.
Resorts that offer swimming with manta ray tours include:
- Mantaray Island Resort
- Barefoot Manta Resort
- Paradise Cove Resort
- Boathouse Nanuya
- Nanuya Island Resort
- Barefoot Kuata Resort
- White Sandy Beach Lodge
- Korovou Eco-Tour Resort
- Botaira Beach Resort.
Learn more about visiting the Yasawa Islands in The Complete Guide to the Yasawa Islands.
A far less visited island in the southern reaches of Fiji, approximately a 1-hour flight from Viti Levu, is Kadavu. Some of the reefs around Kadavu attract manta rays in the right season.
Manta Reef is a submerged reef just outside of the Great Astrolabe Reef, about 40 minutes boat ride from the Matava Resort. This reef is best for seeing manta rays through scuba diving, but snorkellers in the area are sometimes lucky.
Alternatively, Stick Bomby Reef, which is a 10-minute boat ride from Kokomo Private Island, also attracts manta rays that can be seen through the resort’s snorkelling tours.
Learn more about visiting Kadavu in The Complete Guide to Kadavu. Plus, find out more about the resorts where you can do manta ray swimming in the 10 Resorts in Fiji Where You Can Swim with Manta Rays.
What to Expect on a Manta Ray Swimming Tour
Manta Ray tours aim to take place every day of the manta ray season, except Sunday in some resorts. However, bad weather conditions or the manta rays not visiting their usual feeding areas are reasons why trips might get cancelled. Manta rays tend to show up in the Yasawa Islands at high tide, so this is when snorkelling trips from outside of the immediate area will aim for. Resorts that are closer to the Manta Passage have the advantage of being able to see when the manta rays are there. When the manta rays are there, resorts will either beat their lali drum or sound a horn to get trip-goers ready to go!
What You Will See on the Tour
On manta ray swimming tours, you will most likely see Pacific reef manta rays, while Oceanic manta rays are also rarely spotted around Kadavu. The manta rays you typically see in Fiji are around 3m (10ft) across but can grow up to 5.5m (18ft) from wingtip to wingtip.
Water visibility is usually good enough to see the distinct chevron and black colouration differences between some rays, as well as their distinct features. You are also likely to see some manta rays with remoras attached to their underside, which are a type of fish that eat skin parasites. In return, they get free transport and food the manta might have missed.
What are Manta Rays Like to Swim with?
While manta rays can be intimidating to swim with due to their size, they are actually very gentle creatures. And don’t worry, manta rays don’t have teeth nor venomous barbs. They typically swim by snorkellers showing curiosity but will still generally keep their distance. Tour guides will inform you on how to behave around the manta rays and how close you can swim to them in order to not disturb their natural behaviours.
What to Bring
For trips from Mantaray Island Resort, Barefoot Manta Resort, Botaira Beach Resort and Kokomo Private Island, you don’t need to bring anything more than your snorkelling gear and fins (and an underwater camera), as the swimming areas are close to the resorts and only take only 30 minutes to an hour for the whole experience. Coming from elsewhere where you’ll be away from the resort a little longer, it’s a good idea to pack a small day pack with a towel, reef-safe sunscreen, a warmer layer for the boat journey, etc.
How to Increase Your Chances of a Successful Swim
Like any activity that involves seeing wild animals with minimal disturbance, a successful swim with manta rays is never a guarantee. However, there are a few ways to help increase your chances of the best swim possible.
Aside from visiting Fiji in the manta ray season (see the section at the beginning of this island), give yourself enough time at the resort where you’ve chosen to swim with manta rays. At least three days is usually enough to get at least one successful swim in. Bear in mind that there are loads of other activities you can be doing at resorts for the times you’re not swimming with the rays.
Conservation of manta rays is of significant importance in Fiji, which the resorts offering manta ray tours take very seriously. Be sure to listen to your tour guide’s briefing on how to behave around the rays. Scaring the manta rays off for unruly behaviour is a sure-fire way to ruin a swim for everyone.