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Adventurous live aboards in the Maldives



Hanifaru Bay

Hanifaru Bay is a marine protected uninhabited island located in the Baa Atoll of the Maldives. Its size is no greater than that of a football field and yet it has become the hottest spots on the planet for underwater photographers and videographers. The reason for this modern day phenomenon of underwater diversity is because plankton is trapped in the funnel like lagoon during the West monsoon from May until November. If the plankton stays at the surface, it would wash over the bay's coral walls and out to the safety of the open sea. But instinct forces them to dive away from daylight. When they do, they get trapped in the lagune. In just a few hours a massive concentration of plankton builds up attracting manta rays by the hundreds. At any one time 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.

Known are the videoclips from National Geographic, below our own clip from our 2010 safaris and a clip from our colleagues on the MV Sea Spirit.

National Geographic

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.

National Geographic >

Protected status

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. 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.

Latest news

In autumn 2011 Hanifaru Bay was no success. In the months of July untill November there were in total only 1 or 2 gatherings of large groups of mantas. It is not clear whether this is because of the enormous attention of the safariboats or whether the currents came from a slightly different angle so the bay was not filled with the plankton. Last year Hanifaru Bay is declared a UNESCO site and protected measures came into place. Under pressure of the Liveaboard Association Maldives these protected measures were cancelled for the 2011 season to let the liveaboards deliver what they promised their guests but in 2012 access to the site will be regulated. As it looks now people who want to snorkle at Hanifaru Bay have to buy a special coin on the island of Dharavandhoo (next to Hanifaru). The people will then be transported with a watertaxi to the bay where they can snorkle for a maximum of 45 minutes. To make photographs and videos you need a special permit which is probably also available at Dharavandhoo. Diving is prohibited.

The extensive description of the new rules and regulations can be found here: Hanifaru Management Plan >

For trips to Hanifaru Bay check out our Periods & Bookings page. Periods & Bookings >