Snorkeling or swimming with the majestic manta rays in their natural environment is absolutely one of the best water activities you can do in Fiji.
Swimming with manta rays is an unforgettable once-in-a-lifetime experience and something you should definitely do when you come to Fiji!
Experiencing the gentle giant creatures gliding past you is really incredible and the special feeling will stay with you for a long time.
There aren’t many places in the world where you can get to swim with manta rays in their natural environment, but Fiji is one of those places. In fact, there are several spots in Fiji where you can swim with manta rays!
From May to October is when you’ll have a much higher chance of seeing manta rays, so try to time your Fiji trip during those months!
What To Expect When Swimming With Manta Rays In Fiji
The manta rays in Fiji are known as Reef Mantas and their average wing span is 4 metres!
When you first see a manta ray in the water it might feel a bit intimidating as they are so big. However, they are harmless as they have no barbs in their tail to sting you with or teeth to bite you.
Manta rays are very curious and gentle animals, so interactions with them are safe and intimate.
Providing you don’t make sudden movements or splash when you are in the water, the manta rays will often come over to you and can get really close! If you are quiet and calm the manta rays will feel safe and stay feeding in the channel.
Sometimes if the manta rays are in a big feeding frenzy and there is a lot of plankton around, the manta rays will just keep doing somersault after somersault in the water, to try and get as much food as they can – it is really something special to see!
Of course never reach out to touch a manta ray as the oils on our hands can actually harm the manta ray by making their immune system less protective.
Manta rays are listed as on the ‘vulnerable’ list (IUCN Red List) so we want to do all we can to protect them.
Where To Go Swimming with Manta Rays in the Yasawa Islands, Fiji
One of the best places to swim with manta rays in Fiji is the Drawaqa Channel – a shallow channel between Naviti Island and Drawaqa Island in the Yasawa Islands.
Between the months of May to October when it is a high tide, easterly winds means phytoplankton gets funnelled through this narrow channel. Zooplankton go after the phytoplankton, which then attracts the manta rays as they feed on zooplankton.
This channel is also called the ‘Manta Ray Passage’ due to the high amount of manta rays that come to the channel.
There are 126 mantas in the Yasawa Islands, and around 400 in total in Fiji.
To swim with the manta rays, you can go on the Manta Ray Day Trip with South Sea Cruises – it’s a 3 hour boat ride each way from Denarau, or you can stay overnight at Mantaray Island Resort if you want to enjoy the experience more than once!
Best conditions for manta ray sightings at Drawaqa Channel in Fiji:
- High tide
- Easterly wind direction but not windy
When you are swimming with the manta rays in Fiji, the water clarity won’t be crystal clear – the water sometimes might seem a little bit murky.
The plankton is what gives the water this appearance, and as the plankton is what the mantas eat, if the water isn’t like this then the mantas won’t be there!
The water is absolutely still clear enough to be able to see the details and markings on the manta rays well though and take great pictures!
Manta rays don’t like it when it is windy as it makes the sand mix with the plankton. They obviously don’t want to eat sand, so if it’s quite windy there is less chance of seeing them in the channel.
Fun Facts About Manta Rays:
A manta bigger than 2.5 metres can out swim any shark!
Manta rays can dive down 700m deep.
Female mantas are much larger than males as they have to carry their babies for 13 months on their back.
Each manta ray has a unique spot pattern marking on their belly which is how they can be identified (like our fingerprints are all different).
When Is The Best Time To Visit Fiji Yasawa Islands To Swim With Manta Rays?
Manta rays visit the Drawaqa Channel between May and October. If swimming with mantas is high on your list of things to do in Fiji then you should definitely plan your trip between these months.
Outside of these months it may still be possible to see the odd manta ray but boat trips out to the channel do not regularly run as they aren’t seen frequently enough.
How Many Manta Rays Can You Expect To See When You Go Swimming With Them?
Of course the exact number of manta rays can’t be predicted and it will vary each time as they are wild animals in their natural environment.
You can however, when the conditions are good (high tide, correct season, slight easterly wind) expect to see several manta rays in Drawaqa Channel.
We have swam with manta rays at the Drawaqa Channel several times and each time we probably saw around 8 manta rays.
What Time Of Day Is The Best To Swim With Manta Rays?
There isn’t a set time of day eg: morning or afternoon where you’ll have a higher chance of seeing manta rays. What’s far more important is the tide. The mantas typically come into Drawaqa Channel at high tide to feed.
What Do I Need To Go Snorkelling With Manta Rays?
To go swimming with manta rays you will just need a snorkel mask, fins and your swimming costume. It’s also definitely advisable to bring your underwater camera if you have one as you can get some fantastic shots!
How To Swim With The Manta Rays In The Current
I don’t advise anyone who can’t swim to go on a day trip to snorkel with manta rays.
You’ll be swimming in the open water and there is a strong current, and so if someone isn’t a confident swimmer they won’t be as relaxed and therefore the experience won’t be as enjoyable.
Whilst there is a current, you won’t need to swim against it, you can simply glide along with it. The boat drops you off at one end of the current and it takes you down to the other end where the boat will be waiting.
The manta rays will be swimming against the current, so by gliding with the current you will get to see the manta rays coming towards you and gliding past you which is amazing!
Once you reach the boat, you get back on and they take you back to the top of the channel and you repeat the process several times over 30-45 minutes so you’ll have plenty chance to encounter the manta rays!
If you aren’t a confident swimmer but know the basics, tell one of the staff beforehand as they can hold your hand snorkeling if you prefer, stay close to you if you need assistance or provide you with a buoyancy aid.
How Much Does A Swimming with Manta Rays Trip Cost?
If you are staying overnight on Mantaray Island Resort, the swimming with manta rays trip costs FJ$65 per person, which includes the use of snorkelling equipment.
If you are doing the day trip from Denarau with South Sea Cruises, the trip costs $375 for adults and $295 for children (must be accompanied with an adult if under 16 years old), which includes the return boat ride from Denarau, lunch at Mantaray Island Resort and use of snorkelling equipment.
Even though children are allowed on the manta ray trip, if you are in Fiji with young children, I personally don’t advise to bring them on this day trip – even if they can swim well.
There were a couple of 10 year olds on our trip that were confident swimmers, but they felt really intimidated and scared by the sheer size of the manta rays and so stayed in the boat for the majority of the day trip!
The day trip from Denarau is from 8.45am until 6pm so it is a long day with most of it spent on the boat getting there, but it is absolutely worth it if you aren’t able to stay overnight at the Mantaray Island Resort.
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