Manta Ray Facts
The world of Ichthyology (the study of fish) recognizes two species of manta rays. Manta Birostris (giant oceanic manta) and Manta Alfredi (reef manta). To the untrained eye the two often look indistinguishable. As the name might suggest to you the giant ocean mantas can grow to a larger size, with some individuals reaching a pectoral fin span up to 7 meters and weighing up to 2,000 kg. These ocean giants are thought to regularly do large open ocean migrations. The reef mantas have slightly small growth averages, with up to a possible maximum 4.5 meter wing span and a weight of 1,400 kg. This species is thought to have much smaller migration ranges. Our guests that visit us during manta season are often lucky have a chance to see the reef mantas that aggregate here.
Barefoot Manta is a very unique location for manta rays as it is one of the few places in the world where both types of manta ray colour morphs can be seen, black (ventral side is black with white colour markings) and chevron (ventral side is white with black markings). The Yasawa manta population is also one of the few where there are currently more black morphs than chevron morph manta rays. Very special to see both morphs in one snorkel!
Mantas are unique to other rays for a few reasons. One interesting characteristic that is different is the lack of a barb (or stinger) that most other rays have. Manta rays have no barb, so therefore there is no threat to us when snorkeling with them. The main defining feature of manta rays are their cephalic fins. These modified fins are on either side of the mouth and are used to funnel the plankton straight into their mouth more efficiently. When the mantas are finished feeding, they roll these cephalic fins up to point straight forward while swimming in an effort to reduce drag.
There are three reasons why the mantas have chosen to aggregate to the channel next to Barefoot Manta: Feeding, cleaning, and mating.
Manta rays are listed as vulnerable on the IUCN red list.