Manta Rays & Mola Mola

The gentle giants of the sea and the largest bony fish in the sea can both be found here!

Manta rays

One of the main attractions of Nusa Penida is the year round manta rays. The dive sites where we see them are on the South side of the island - Manta Bay and Manta Point.

The boat ride to get here passes Nusa Penida's stunning cliffs with towering white limestone rising up above the rocks and crashing waves at the bottom.

The manta sites rarely have currents, as they are in sheltered bays, however they can have surge.
For all trips to the South side of the island to visit our flappy friends we need to check the swell report and wind predictions - When the swell is too high the boat ride there can be unsafe, so we only go to these sites when the conditions are good.
Diving them when there's high swell also means that there would be reduced the visibility in the area.

Manta Seasons and site conditions

Manta rays can be spotted all year round at Nusa Penida!! We will aim to get everyone to the manta sites at least once during their stay, as long as the conditions allow.

Water temperatures at the manta sites can vary throughout the year. From June to late October we can have cooler temperatures ranging from 18-25 degrees, and from November to May the temperatures would be 25-28 degrees.

Visibility at the manta sites can range from 5m-20m, but on average the vis is around 10m - A little lower than the other sites around Penida, but this is due to plankton, which is what attracts mantas to the area.

Manta Behaviour

At Manta Bay dive site mostly observe mantas feeding - so this is a great site for both snorkeling and diving as they are often close to the surface. Mantas some times roll to funnel more plankton into their mouths - this is called barrel rolling and it looks like they're doing a loop-the-loop!

At Manta Point there is a cleaning station, so we often get to see manta rays being cleaned here. Mantas clean for up to eight hours per day, so sometimes we get lucky and see multiple manta rays at the cleaning station!

Mating trains can also be witnessed at Manta Point - This is where a female manta is pursued by several males, often for a long period of time... She swims along and the last male to be following her after the others have tired out is the lucky suitor!

Manta rays, ahem (!) were re-classified as Mobula rays in 2017, and there are two types of these majestic beauties that frequent our sites: M.Alfredi - a.k.a the reef manta and M.Birostris - a.k.a the oceanic or giant manta Reef mantas can grow up to 5m across from wing tip to wing tip while oceanic mantas can grow up to 7m across. Both species are harmless filter feeders who cruise around the sites on the South side of Nusa Penida all year round.

Most of the manta rays that we see are M.Alfredi (reef mantas). Nusa Penida has a recorded population of almost 700 mantas, thanks to the citizen science database; Manta Matcher. Manta rays each have a unique spot pattern on their underside, so divers are encouraged to take photos of the manta's bellies and share them on mantamatcher.org. Once the pics are uploaded, one of their team can "match" them - if they are already in the database then this valuable information is added to what they already know about the individual (you're encouraged to give as much information about the encounter as possible). It helps experts to recognise any patterns in the mantas behaviour, and ultimately counts towards their protection in our oceans. If you're lucky you may have a snap of a new manta!

Most of Nusa Penida's mantas are spotted on average 4 times, many are logged only once. The most frequently sighted manta "Little Nipper" has had over 100 sightings.


Mola Mola

Another of Nusa Penida's top attractions is the mola-mola (Mola Alexandrini), or ocean sunfish.

Why is it called a sunfish when it looks more like the moon than the sun? Well, one of the behaviours of this odd looking fish is to bask in the sun at the surface! It's not known exactly why they do this, but some think that it's their way to warm up as they spend a long time in colder, deeper water.

Mola mola frequent Nusa Penida's sites most commonly from June to October, when the cooler water comes up from the Lombok Strait. These cooler temperatures bring the mola's shallower, and we can often observe them being cleaned.

They're the largest bony fish in the sea and although they like to hang out in the deep, they come up shallower to clean and to bask in the sun, if you're lucky you may even see one leaping out of the water!

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