Hanifaru Bay - Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve, Maldives

Hanifaru Bay
Hanifaru Bay is a marine protected uninhabited island located in the Baa Atoll of the Maldives Islands. Its size is no greater than that of a football field and yet it has become one of the hottest spots on the planet for underwater photographers. The reason for this modern day phenomenon of underwater diversity is because plankton blooms between the months of May and November – a very unusual phenomenon – attracting manta rays by the hundreds. At any one time at Hanifaru Bay, there can be up to 200 manta rays feeding off the coral reefs as well as plenty of whale sharks which do the same. Hanifaru Bay has become the world’s largest Manta Ray feeding destination.
Hanifaru Bay gets International Recognition

This phenomenon has made Hanifaru Bay one of the greatest attractions for snorkelers and divers in the world today as no marine life enthusiast would want to miss the opportunity of watching hundreds of manta rays and whale sharks feed in their natural environment. National Geographic recently made some video and photo documentaries about Hanifaru Bay that have caught the attention of underwater enthusiasts around the world by showing the incredible sights that can be discovered at Hanifaru Bay.

Hanifaru Bay Phenomenon is the Result of a Whirlwind of Plankton
From May to November, the lunar tide pushes against the Indian Oceans south western monsoon current, which creates a suction effect that pulls plankton from deep water up to the surface at Hanifaru Bay. Meanwhile, close to the surface, the plankton dives away from daylight and gets trapped amid the current. In just a few short hours, a massive concentration of plankton builds up and as the water turns cloudy with plankton, the huge manta rays and the gigantic whale sharks take advantage of this sensational feeding opportunity. And divers and snorkelers from around the world take advantage of this unique natural phenomenon.

Hanifaru Bay Hosts Unique Manta Ray Feeding Frenzy
Manta rays are known, on occasion, to chain feed. This is when the manta rays gather together in a long line, with the tail of each manta ray touching the head of the manta behind him. It is said that when 50 or more fish chain fee, something truly remarkable happens: The manta ray at the head of the line catches the tail of the last manta ray in the chain, and the chain spins into a vortex; this is called usually cyclone feeding; one of the most dramatic manta may feeding behaviours. However, at Hanifaru Bay, there can be more than 100 hundred manta rays in the chain so they start to spiral out. When the chain breaks down you get chaotic feeding, described by National Geographic as a “Feeding Frenzy”, and hundreds of manta rays start bumping into each other from left, right and centre. As well as this manta ray madness, whale sharks also get in on the action, sometimes up to 12, each as large as a 40-foot shipping container. Needless to say, the supply of plankton runs out within hours.

Hanifaru Bay to be protected by Maldivian Government
The Maldivian government believes that the excess of divers and snorkelers observing the spectacular scenario at Hanifaru Bay could cause the feeding behaviour of these manta rays to change. So, it has made a pledge to protect the underwater creatures by enforcing guidelines for both divers and snorkelers. The goal is to make it possible for both the manta rays to feed as they usually do at Hanifaru Bay and for people to enjoy this natural activity at the same time. The Hanifaru Bay has become a unique and critically important place for the long-term sustainable development of the Baa Atoll, the Maldives and the whole global underwater ecosystem.


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