It is already well known that the biodiversity of Raja Ampat is out of this world with more than 1,300 species of coral fish inhabiting the area. If that is not enough to impress you, they also have 600 species of hard coral, which represents 75% of the entire world! There is one fish species that particularly stands out the most due to its dance ritual: manta rays.
These giant beauties are mesmerizing to look at due to its sheer size that can reach a tip to tip width of more than 7 meters! That’s longer than the height of a two storey building! There are different types of manta rays that are often seen in Raja Ampat: Mobula Alfredi (reef manta ray), Mobula Birostris (oceanic manta ray) and Mobula eregoodootenkee (pygmy devil ray). The biggest one is the oceanic manta ray and the smallest one is the pygmy devil ray.
The reason why the biodiversity in Raja Ampat is mind-blowing is mainly because of the conservation effort put forth by the local government and also the local communities in the region who have established 20 marine protected areas in West Papua. In these areas the fishes strive and actually increase in population! There are currently about 1500 reef mantas and this number keeps growing every year. This number is second only to the Maldives .
Reef mantas are known to congregate in large numbers and this is especially true for Raja Ampat. There has been a sighting of up to 112 reef mantas at one spot during a feeding aggregation. That is more mantas at one spot than the number of people who attended my last 10 birthday parties combined!
Here is our own video of experiencing close encounters with the various mantas. If you notice a wall of small fish surrounding us, those are anchovies schooling in order to make themselves look big and (fail) to scare away predators. You’ll also see one of the manta rays hanging out with us near a cleaning station. If you come to Raja Ampat, It’s almost impossible to not see them.
Liveaboard is one of the favourite alternatives to explore Raja Ampat. You can check out our trip package here and plan your next vacation in the Last Paradise.
Reference: Setyawan et. al. 2020. “Natural history of manta rays in the Bird’s Head Seascape, Indonesia, with an analysis of the demography and spatial ecology of Mobula alfredi (Elasmobranchii: Mobulidae)”. Journal of the Ocean Science Foundation Volume 30. (https://bit.ly/2WxLDKP).