Speak with anyone about diving in Indonesia and you’ll see their eyes light up as they reminisce about interacting with the majestic Manta Ray of the Komodo Islands. The Komodo National Park offers sanctuary to more of these beautiful creatures than most other places in the world and is truly unmissable for the intrepid traveller.
In 2014 Indonesia outlawed the fishing and export of manta ray to protect the species and since then Komodo dive sites like Manta Alley in the South and the famed Manta Point Komodo have found a place high on the wish lists of travellers wishing to experience close contact with these curious, intelligent underwater giants.
A Channel Between Two Oceans
Manta Point Komodo is a divesite rich with bottom based plankton making it an alluring spot – attracting dozens of Manta Ray for feeding and cleaning. Accessible by chartered liveaboard, the dive site sits between the islands of Komodo and Rinca within the Komodo National Park.
Geographically the site is directly on the channel connecting the Indian and the South West Pacific oceans, each hosting distinct underwater climates that come together to create an ideal environment for Manta Ray.
You can expect to drop down just ten metres or so to find a sandy bottom not heavy with coral but blessed with excellent visibility for most of the year and a reasonable current to nourish the nutrient rich arena for the Manta Ray.
Gentle Giants Of The Underworld
In Indonesia you can hope to find both reef and oceanic Manta Ray, but Manta Point Komodo is usually home to the more dominant species, the Reef Manta. They’re a long living species, with a life expectancy of up to fifty years, but they’re slow to breed, giving birth to as few as ten Manta Ray pups in their lives.
This is why they’ve been included on the red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The organisation classifies the Manta’s conservation status as vulnerable. While safe in Indonesia, in other parts of Asia they are hunted for their plankton filtering gills, which are used to produce medicinal concoctions.
They’re incredibly smart marine animals with large brain capacities and no barbs. This makes them harmless to humans. Divers who get lucky at Manta Point Komodo can expect interactions of as long as 30 minutes in the right conditions and will be thrilled by their gentle curiosity
Diving Manta Point in the Komodos
At Manta Point Komodo you’re likely to find small groups of Manta, often traveling in packs of two or three. Some groups base themselves in the tropical water of the Flores and Komodo area, while others are mid migration. Each manta has distinguishable spots on its belly and while these beautiful marine animals are capable of travelling up to 1000 Kilometres, many hang around and have become known by dive masters in Komodo for their distinct personalities.
The South end of Manta Point Komodo is marked by a little green island. Dive groups access the site by dropping in about 400 metres away, then take advantage of the current to drift dive into the shoal area which ranges from just 5 metres to 15 metres deep. The current in the area is rated as mild to strong but your divemaster is most likely to carry reef hooks with which to secure each team of divers.
In Indonesia, Manta Point Komodo is known as Karang Makassar and while the focus for most divers is the manta, there have been sitings of turtles, reef sharks, hump back rays, sweetlips, giant trevallies, huge clams, cuttle fish, sponges and many other types of micro marine life.
Intimate Manta Ray Encounters
Diving with the Manta Ray is truly a life-changing experience. Upon entering Manta Point keep an eye out above you for the tell tale shadows of Manta as they cruise past to check you out. They’re already aware that you’re in their territory but don’t feel threatened, these creatures are notoriously friendly and curious.
Upon siting it’s likely your divemaster will find a suitable spot on the flat sandy bottom and signal you to join them. This means it’s time to relax, adjust your buoyancy and sink down in preparation. By basing yourself on the bottom and not displaying any aggressive behaviour or sudden movements you’ll signal to the Manta that you’re safe and invite them in to your space.
After a couple of passes the Manta get more confident and begin circling above you, flapping their giant wings and even dropping down to greet you. Their huge bodies seem unaffected by the current and when relaxed they don’t hesitate to come so close you could touch them.
Looking directly in to the eyes of a friendly Manta Ray is a photographer’s dream but be discreet. Let them control the interaction and you’ll find yourself buzzing with excitement in a one on one intimate encounter with a giant marine animal unlike any other.
More Info on Diving the Komodos
Divers who wish to visit the Komodos should plan to fly in to Labuan Bajo. Flights leave regularly from Denpasar or Jakarta. We offer private liveaboard charters to the area should you be travelling as a group. There’s also the option of taking a cabin on one of the exciting pre-planned Dive Intensive liveaboard trips that we run. Find itineraries, photographs here and take the time to read our other articles on diving in the Komodos.