Berths: Two to four
Duration/timing: First quarter of 2022 for oceanic manta rays, all year-round for Reef manta rays
Necessary equipment: None, but a manned submersible and crew would be a plus
The project is an extension of research on mantas in the Maldives that has been going on for more than 17 years. A lot is known about the smaller reef manta rays in the more accessible areas of the Maldives but the team also wants to understand migration and habitat use of oceanic mantas in the more remote regions of this huge archipelago. Yacht owners will be able to dive, snorkel and free dive to observe the work of the scientists.
A two-week period of two to four berths in the first quarter of 2021/22 for oceanic manta rays and year-round for reef manta rays. A diving compressor, dive tanks and a suitable support vessel to dive/free-dive from is required. Availability of a manned submersible and crew would be extremely beneficial, but not necessary.
The Manta Trust is at the early stages of understanding newly discovered oceanic manta ray population in the Maldives. As well as ongoing studies of reef mantas, this expedition will explore remote and hard-to-access areas of the vast Maldives archipelago to discover and document these new populations. For effective protection of these vulnerable species, it is essential to have accurate estimates of their population size, structure, habitat use and connectivity. The research will be used to inform conservation management decisions throughout the Indian Ocean with additional support from Conservation International.
Dr Guy Stevens is the founder and CEO of the Manta Trust, a charity that works to advance the worldwide conservation of manta rays and their close relatives.
“The way reef and oceanic mantas move through their different habitats is very different and we want to understand why huge numbers of oceanic mantas congregate around remote atolls for just a few weeks a year and then disappear. Oceanic manta rays are even more vulnerable than reef mantas and we know very little about this population. They are also an indicator species. If the population is suffering through climate change, for example, it might be an indication that other species will also be threatened.”