Diving in the crystalline waters off Denis Private Island is a terrific underwater experience no matter the month, but catching glimpses of massive manta rays can be an extra special treat at certain times of the year, as two couples visiting the island discovered recently.
The guests were able to take some impressive shots of these giant migratory creatures, as part of a dive to one of the many underwater sites teeming with marine life around Denis, which operates its own PADI-affiliated dive centre.
According to Werner du Preez, the Resident Manager of Denis Private Island, manta rays are most common around Denis’ waters in August and September, to feed in plankton-rich waters.
In the pictured encounter, the manta rays were found near the island’s “Aquarium Reef” dive site, feeding with their mouths wide open at a depth of just one metre. After an enjoyable dive in which the guests also saw turtles, a hump-head wrasse and a grey reef shark, a few more mantas near the surface were visible once back on the boat.
“During this period when manta rays tend to be more frequent in our waters, guests arriving and departing the island by plane may also be lucky enough to see manta rays swimming near the shore,” says Denis Private Island’s PR, Branding and Communication Manager, Nicole St Ange. “One of the couples who encountered the manta rays on their dive, spotted three additional mantas when they were flying out from the island, and that provides some perspective on the sheer size of these giant but gentle creatures.
”Apart from the enjoyment of swimming with manta rays, guests may also have the opportunity to put their own touch on the island’s conservation efforts.”
The GIF team on Denis sent photos of the encounter to the Manta Trust, a partner of the Save Our Seas Foundation, which keeps a database of all known manta rays in Seychelles, each identified by the unique speckled patterns on their bellies. The manta in the photo had not been discovered yet, and thus gave Denis’ guests the opportunity to name her.
“Princess Denis has been added as the 123rd entry into the database for Seychelles, and this is a great example of how tourism can help fund conservation efforts when the right infrastructure is in place,” St Ange says. “Without our guests going on that dive, maybe there’s no record of that particular individual having journeyed to Seychelles, and greater understanding about the migratory patterns of manta rays will hopefully translate into better protection for the species.”