Hanifaru Bay Snorkelling Adventure
Mantas and Whale Sharks in Baa Atoll
Baa Atoll is one of the best places in the Maldives – if not the world - to spot manta rays. The Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve was created in recognition of the incredible biodiversity and importance of the underwater ecosystem in this area.
Reef mantas can have a wingspan of up to 3.3m and whale sharks – technically not sharks but actually the largest fish in the ocean – can grow up to 12m long. Both mantas and whale sharks are generally elusive creatures and are vulnerable to extinction, which makes Baa Atoll – and Hanifaru Bay - even more special.
Mantas typically grace the waters of Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve between May and November. Peak times for spotting them during this period is during the full moon and the new moon. Whale sharks are also found year-round in the Maldives and from May to November they migrate to Baa Atoll.
Our water-sports team at H.U.B. are pros at tracking mantas and whale sharks. Join them for a thrilling snorkel excursion where we’ll go in search of mantas or whale sharks.
Hanifaru Bay is a world-famous snorkelling site, renowned for attracting exceptionally high numbers of magnificent manta rays and gentle whale sharks.
The incredible site is only 4.8 miles (7.8km) from Amilla Fushi so we’re in a prime location for easy access to Hanifaru Bay. The best season to visit Hanifaru is between May and November.
Why Hanifaru Bay is World-Famous
Mantas and whale sharks aggregate here in extraordinarily large numbers to feed on the zooplankton that becomes trapped in Hanifaru Bay, making for an amazing spectacle if you’re lucky enough to witness it. At its peak there could be as many as 100 mantas plus several whale sharks feeding there at the same time.
Hanifaru is one of the only places in the world where so many mantas and whale sharks aggregate in such unusually high numbers, which has led to international recognition and it being celebrated in major publications including National Geographic.
As the jewel in the crown of the Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, Hanifaru Bay has been a Marine Protected Area since 2009. This means the creatures frequenting the area are protected and there are rules in place that protect the environment and limit the number of visitors allowed in the area at the same time.
Book a snorkel excursion with our H.U.B. Water Sports centre and if you’re lucky you might be able to see this amazing spectacle with your own eyes. The team will whisk you away on the short boat journey to Hanifaru Bay where they’ll help you spot mantas and hopefully whale sharks too. As soon as they see them (and as long as it’s not too crowded) you can then plunge into the bay with a snorkel and fins.
Under whale shark and manta ray encounter guidelines, you must stay at least 3m away from them at all times and never attempt to touch them. Touching these amazing creatures can disrupt the protective mucous layer they’re coated with, which can give them lesions. Stay 5m away from the whale shark’s tail to avoid getting accidentally whacked by it. You also shouldn’t attempt to block their path as it could scare them (they’re gentle giants!). So always approach from the side.
Hanifaru Fast Facts
Hanifaru Bay has a unique dynamic water circulation system due to the funnel-like reef shape – it’s about 1,300m long and 600m wide at the narrowest point. During the north-western monsoon (May-Nov) huge quantities of zooplankton become trapped in the bay, creating a kind of zooplankton ‘soup’ which in turn attracts large numbers of zooplankton-loving ‘megafauna’ like whale sharks and manta rays.
Hanifaru is also a nesting site for green and hawksbill turtles.
Please note that since mantas and whale sharks are wild, we cannot guarantee any sightings, but our team are experts at spotting them and tracking recent sightings so will try their best to ensure you have this once-in-a-lifetime experience.