Swimming with Manta Rays in Fiji: A Once in a Lifetime Experience

Drone shot swimming with manta rays in fiji

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It’s almost been a year since my trip to Fiji as a Protector of Paradise and I thought I’d share with you one of my favorite experiences there which was swimming with manta rays!

I have always wanted to see one up close and in the wild. The closest I’ve seen a ray was an eagle ray while diving in Caluya Island. And obviously those are not the same!

When we were told we were going to Mantaray Island Resort, where over 20 manta rays have been recorded at one given time, I knew it was going to be an amazing part of our trip.

I have never really heard of the island. But Atu who was part of the Protector of Paradise finalists used to work in the resort as a dive instructor. He told us all the amazing things to look forward to like the beautiful house reef as well as the manta rays to which the resort was named after.

Manta Ray Island Resort

We were based in Nadi at the time so to get to Mantaray Island Resort we took the high-speed catamaran of South Sea Cruises.

Mantaray is located on the Island of Nanuya Balavau in the Naviti group of the Yasawa Islands in Fiji. Some people can get to the island by helicopter or a sea plane. But we weren’t that fancy!

Like most arrivals in Fiji, we were warmly welcomed with a song and a refreshing beverage from the staff. We checked into our rooms soon after, which was amazing by the way. (But I’ll reserve that for another post.)

We quickly changed to our swimwear because the mantas have been spotted in the channel earlier that day.

Briefing and Safety Reminders

We rented out our snorkeling gears which included fins, masks and snorkel. Then, Atu briefed us on what to expect and what we should and shouldn’t do while swimming with the manta rays.

The manta rays that can be found in this parts of Fiji are the Manta alfredi commonly known as the reef manta ray. In the past, they have also spotted the giant oceanic manta rays (Manta birostris) in the cleaning stations.

He stressed the importance of not touching the mantas and not getting in their way while they were feeding in the channel. Apparently in the past a tourist touched the mantas! After the incident the mantas were not seen in the channel for months.

He also warned us that there will be a bit of a current. And should we get carried away to not panic. We just had to wave and the boat crew was going to rescue us. Yay!

Finally Swimming with Manta Rays

We boarded the boat and quickly made our way to the channel where the mantas fed. You can feel the excitement in all of us since most of us have never swum with mantas before, nor have seen one in the wild.

When we reached the spot, we quickly put on our snorkeling gears and jumped into the water. The water was a bit chilly. Thankfully, I wore my rash guard that day for added protection.

Within seconds of hitting the water, I spotted not just one but two mantas at a distance! I was so excited that I swam as fast as I could towards their direction. But of course my human legs, even with fins, cannot compete with the speed of these graceful underwater creatures.

Swimming with Manta Rays in Fiji
Dan getting close to the manta rays in Fiji.

They quickly disappeared from the view and so we swam in different directions trying our best to get a glimpse of the elusive mantas.

Swim with Manta Rays: The Cons

Unfortunately, while doing so, another snorkelling group from another resort joined in. Around 15 more people jumped in the water to look for the mantas.

It was absolutely chaotic. Fins and arms were everywhere and flopping around and making so much noise in the water. At one point I had to stop snorkeling and kept my head up above the water while they swam in my direction. I feared they were going to trample all over me.

From a distance, I could see a manta with a trail of humans chasing after it. The scene was absolutely dreadful to watch as I can only imagine that the manta ray was feeling stressed from the number of people chasing it while it was trying to feed in the channel.

The swim with manta rays in Fiji was not as peaceful as I thought.

The hoard of snorkelers chasing after the manta rays in Fiji
The hoard of snorkelers chasing after the manta.

A Magical Moment

I decided to stay put and simply enjoy being in the water. After all, I already had my few unforgettable seconds swimming with manta rays at the start. And did not have to deal with 15 pairs of fins hitting my face in the process.

I was about to flag the boat to get me when out of nowhere I saw a black and white figure heading towards my direction. The manta managed to lose the snorkelers by doing a somersault underwater and was now heading towards my direction!

I cannot even describe the excitement I felt having that extra time with this majestic creature. I held my breath and quickly dived down into the water to get a closer look. And soon enough it disappeared in the blue abyss once again.

Manta Ray Encounter in Fiji
My one-on-one moment with the manta.

It was only a few seconds but that moment was the highlight of my swim with manta rays experience.

Soon after, I noticed I was snorkeling over a beautiful coral reef and moving swiftly. I had entered the current and so I waved back to the boat to come and get me.

I clumsily climbed up the boat where I found some of my friends waiting. Despite the influx of snorkelers we were all very happy with the experience of swimming with manta rays.

I’m so happy I finally got to tick this off my bucket list! If you get the chance to visit Fiji, do this once in a lifetime experience to swim with the manta rays.

Here’s a video I made of my experience with the mantas in Fiji!

Frequently Asked Questions About Swimming with Manta Rays in Fiji

When is the best time to swim with manta rays in Fiji?

The best time to visit Mantaray Island Resort is from May to October. During this time the channel between Nanuya Balavu and Drawaqa has a strong current which the manta rays love. When tides are changing the plankton is abundant making it the perfect feeding spot for the manta rays.

Although this is the best time to go, it is not guaranteed that you will see the mantas all the time. After all, they are wild sea creatures who come and go at any time.

Sighting of manta rays has no set time of the day, but the resort staff does keep watch and when they are sighted they inform the guests to quickly suit up if they want to go snorkel with manta rays.

How much does it cost to swim with manta rays in Fiji?

Swimming with manta rays costs FJD65 per person.

This includes snorkeling gear (mask, snorkel, fins), experienced guide and boat transportation to and from the channel.

This is approximately USD30 or PHP1500. (Rough Conversion: FGD 1 = USD0.45 | FGD 1 = PHP23)

How much time do you get to swim with manta rays in Fiji?

The manta ray snorkelling experience can last from 30 to 60 minutes.

What experience level is needed to swim with manta rays?

If you want to swim with manta rays, you will have to have some basic level of swimming and snorkelling. It will be in the open ocean and you can expect some current. You should be comfortable in the water as the channel is deep and wide.

For your safety, do not do the manta swim unless you feel confident and relaxed in the water. While some people can free dive with the manta rays, you can wear a live jacket for your comfort.

If you have done neither in the past, Mantaray Island Resort has a beautiful house reef where you can practice swimming and snorkelling.

Can I snorkel with the manta rays on my own?

Even if you are an experienced swimmer you also cannot swim to the channel on your own to search for the mantas. The currents are strong and you can get tired easily. On top of that, it a protected area and visiting without a guide is not permitted. For your safety, do not swim with the mantas on your own.

Is it dangerous to swim with manta rays?

Manta rays are gentle and harmless creatures. While they can grow extremely large, they are not dangerous. They are very playful and smart. And if you see one swimming around you it’s usually out of curiosity.

Manta rays have a long whip like tail. But unlike their cousins, the stingray, their tails don’t have poisonous barbs that can harm you. To learn more about their differences, check out my post on stingrays vs manta rays.

Can you touch the manta rays?

There is absolutely no reason for you to touch a manta ray or any wildlife creature. Touching the manta rays can scare them away and can cause stress to the animal. You must absolutely not pet or attempt to ride a manta ray no matter how close it gets to you.

Manta rays have a mucus coating on their skin that and your human touch can cause bacteria infiltration and infection.

Where to Stay if You Want to Swim with Manta Rays in Fiji

Aerial view of Mantaray Resort in Fiji

Although there are other resorts where you can swim with manta rays in Fiji, I highly recommend Mantaray Island Resort. Not only was the experience awesome, the rooms were great, food was amazing and staff were exceptional!

Related Article: 15 of the Best Ways Eco-Resorts in Fiji are Helping Save Our Oceans

Bucket list Achievement: Swimming with Mantas
Guide to Swimming with Manta Rays in Fiji

The manta ray swim experience as well as our accommodations were sponsored by Mantaray Island Resort as part of the Protector of Paradise competition I was part of in 2019. I am not obligated to post about them, however, I genuinely had a great time and want to share the experience with you! All opinions are mine.

*Manta Drone shot is courtesy of Protector of Paradise.

The links above may be affiliate links. If you shop through them, I’ll earn a commission at no additional cost to you. For full information, please see my disclaimer here.

Ara Juan

Ara is the founder of DiverBliss.com and PhilippineDives.com. She is a PADI Rescue Diver with a goal to dive in all the best places around the Philippines.

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