Thanks to the ongoing research of the Manta Trust and the Prodivers Team, the waters around Hurawalhi have been identified as one of the Maldives’ hot spots for Manta Ray sightings – one of the Ocean’s largest and gentlest inhabitants.
With an average wingspan of 2.5-3 meters, Manta Rays are incredibly graceful and elegant and seeing one in its natural environment is a life-enriching experience.
Over 400 individual Manta Rays have been identified around Hurawalhi and the Lhaviyani Atoll, with almost a quarter of these having first been recorded just a few meters away from the Resort at a submerged sandbank where the Manta Rays come to feed on the nutrient-rich water being brought into the Atoll.
Through 10 years of ongoing research and countless images of the spot pattern on the underside of the Manta, the Manta Trust and Prodivers have been able to build up the following profiles of 2 of the identified individuals that frequent the waters around Hurawalhi.
Meet Crusty and Veleron!
Crusty loves the Lhaviyani and is one of the most seen Manta Rays in the Atoll. With a wingspan of 2.54 meters, Crusty is a female sub-adult that was first identified in July of 2008. Since then, she has been spotted a staggering 28 times in the Lhaviyani Atoll, with almost half of these sightings at the Hurawalhi Sandbank. At the time of writing, Crusty was last seen in January where she was feasting on the plankton-rich water that accumulates close to Hurawalhi at this time of the year.
Veleron is a male Manta Ray that was also first recorded in 2008 with sightings in both the Baa and Lhaviyani Atolls. Since then, Veleron has been travelling extensively around the Maldives and been spotted in a total of 4 different Atolls. A male Manta Ray, with a wingspan of almost 3 meters, Veleron’s behaviour has been very different to that of Crusty covering vast distances, possibly suggesting that Veleron has been searching for something?
In addition to spending long parts of their day feeding, Manta Rays like to keep themselves well groomed and can also be seen on designated ‘cleaning stations’. Manta Rays are social creatures and following on from such extensive grooming routines, it makes sense that Manta Rays seek out the company of potential partners. Cleaning stations have been seen to double up as mating areas and indeed, it appears that Veleron’s extensive searching for a partner around the various Atolls brought success in November last year as he was observed in a courtship ritual.
The Lhaviyani Atoll is home to such a cleaning station at Fushivaru Thila, which has been officially recognised as a Marine Protected Area to allow such behaviour to continue to thrive.
Watch this space for more news about Hurawalhi’s fascinating gentle giants – the manta ray.