In early 2014, Six Senses Laamu, in collaboration with Ocean Dimensions, launched a partnership with The Manta Trust and became a valuable supporter of its flagship program – the Maldivian Manta Ray Project. The Manta Trust was formed in 2011 to coordinate global research and conservation efforts for mantas, their close relatives and their habitat.
While on site at Six Senses Laamu, The Manta Trust team dives twice daily at the nearby dive site – Hithadhoo Corner – where they monitor the atoll’s unique reef manta ray (Manta alfredi) population’s cleaning, courtship and mating behavior. By simply photographing black and white spot patterns found on the belly of every manta, the team can identify each individual – just as we do with fingerprints.
Since surveys began, 100 different mantas have been found and identified in Laamu Atoll – and the number is still growing. Even more exciting news is the recent discovery of Laamu’s first ever oceanic manta ray (Manta birostris) that was named William by a lucky Six Senses guest who spotted this gentle giant during his dive.
Resident reef manta rays can be found regularly at Hithadhoo Corner, or commonly known as Manta Point. Less than a ten minute boat ride from the resort, this site can give divers the unique opportunity to see these majestic creatures almost all year round – something that cannot be offered by any other seasonal dive sites around the Maldives.
Since diving at Hithadhoo Corner can be challenging, it is recommended that guests visiting this site are experienced divers. Prior to each dive, The Manta Trust team gives a briefing on how to dive sustainably with mantas, how to photograph them, and how to ID each individual. For those wishing for a full day experience, these guests have the opportunity to join The Manta Trust team for all their dives and become a “Researcher for the Day”. Guests fortunate to ID a new manta ray are invited to name their newly found mantas – another distinctive experience offered by Six Senses Laamu.
Falafel, one of the most frequently seen manta rays in the Laamu Atoll
Beth Taylor, manager of The Manta Trust’s Laamu project, says, “Reaching 100 identified individuals is a very exciting milestone for the Laamu project. During the ten months of research, we have encountered many amazing sightings including plenty of courtship behavior, nine pregnancies, Laamu’s first baby manta, Baby Maya and now William, the first ever oceanic manta ray. As the season continues, we are excited to see what new discoveries we can make with guests here at Six Senses Laamu and how many new members we can record in the Laamu population.”
Moving forward, the Manta Trust’s Annie Murray has designed a brand new PADI specialty course, The Maldivian Manta Ray Conservation Specialty, which will be offered at Six Senses Laamu. This specialty course is made up of two dives at Hithadhoo Corner, following in-depth training in manta biology, global threats, behavior, photo-identifying and image cataloging, while directly contributing to The Manta Trust research.
“This unique new specialty course provides divers with a fantastic opportunity to learn in detail about the lives of these majestic animals in an ideal and beautiful location. With the largest recorded population of manta rays in the world, the Maldives really is a manta sanctuary providing divers with some of the best encounters they can find. The skills which they will gain through the course can be applied when diving all over the world and will provide divers with the tools needed to contribute directly to the science being conducted by the Manta Trust,” said Adam Thol’hath, assistant manager of The Manta Trust’s Laamu project.