Where to find manta rays

Manta rays are found in tropical and subtropical waters. In Australia they are distributed from Shark Bay in Western Australia across the Northern Territory and Queensland to central NSW in eastern Australia. There are a few known main aggregation sites for the reef manta ray including: Coral Bay and Ningaloo Reef in Western Australia; Lady Elliot Island in the southern Great Barrier Reef, Osprey Reef in the Coral Sea, North Stradbroke Island in southern Queensland and Julian Rocks in New South Wales. Oceanic manta rays are rarely sighted in Australian waters, but occasional sightings have occurred across Australia. Aggregation sites are a great place to photograph manta rays, as they are observed predictably at different times of the year and often in large numbers.

Good manners around mantas

Manta rays are curious animals and will often approach divers underwater. However, they tend to swim away if divers chase them or physically contact them. For the best opportunities to observe and photograph manta rays, divers should maintain good buoyancy and control, find a good position to stay in (such as kneeling on sand but not on living substrate such as coral) and wait for the manta rays to approach them. See the Code of Conduct for more details on how to get the best out of your dive with manta rays. 

View the Code of Conduct

Photography to identify manta rays

Each individual manta ray has unique markings on their ventral surfaces (bellies). Taking photographs of this region enables scientists to identify the individual ray and the photos provide a record of the time and location where the ray was sighted. This technique for tracking individuals is termed photo-identification (photo-ID) and is a fantastic tool used by many researchers to address questions including: how many individuals there are; movement patterns between sites; preferred sites and times of year; how long individuals live for; what behaviours are the individuals undertaking (cleaning, feeding, mating). 

Photo-ID is also a great way for public participation in research. Project Manta engages divers to contribute their ID photos of manta rays to the project. If the diver discovers a new manta ray for the database they get to name it!

How to photograph mantas for ID shots

The best photographs for manta identification show the ventral surface, the belly of the manta ray. If possible, aim to get the pelvic region in the frame so that we are able to identify the sex of the animal.

Manta ray ID shot

Submit photos to Project Manta

To submit your photos to Project Manta:

Please include your name, contact details, and the date and location of the sighting, plus any additional observations.  

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