Spotting Manta rays in the Whitsundays


Seeing a majestic Manta is an encounter you will never forget. Here are tips on how you might find one in the Whitsundays.

Manta rays are found in warm temperate, subtropical and tropical waters. They are a migratory species, visiting the Southern Great Barrier Reef to feast on plankton and breed.

In winter, Reef Manta rays (Manta alfredi) can be seen around the Whitsunday Islands. They are incredibly curious and often come up to boats, snorkelers and divers.

Seeing a majestic Manta is an encounter you will never forget. Here are tips on how you might find one in the Whitsundays.

Manta ray

About Manta rays

Manta rays are the largest ray in the ocean. Like Whale Sharks, they’re filter feeders and have a sizeable toothless mouth which they use like a sieve to scoop up plankton and krill.

They have triangular pectoral fins, horn-shaped cephalic fins and a large, forward-facing mouth. Their large wingspans enable them to swim at rapid speeds, occasionally leaping out of the water and landing with a slap.

Mantas can grow up to 8m across. However, in the Whitsundays, they are usually smaller, around 5m wide.

These majestic gentle giants feed on plankton and are pelagic, meaning they aren’t bottom, shore or reef dwellers. It is possible to see them from a boat as they swim close to the surface.

It’s believed that mantas are incredibly smart, rivalling dolphins with their body-to-brain ratio.

Can you swim with Manta rays?

Manta rays are safe to swim, snorkel or dive with. They don’t have a barb on their tail, making them harmless to humans. Manta rays are very interactive and curious, so if you swim with them, expect some close encounters.

Please note that those in the water with Manta rays must allow the rays to lead the interaction. Don’t grab onto them or touch them, stay as still as you can and let them put on a show.

Where to see Manta rays in the Whitsundays

Mantaray Bay on Hook Island is a famous habitat for Manta rays in the Whitsundays, especially in Winter.

A fantastic site for snorkelers and divers, the Mantaray Bay reef comprises underwater valleys, caves and swim-throughs.

Mantaray Bay Whitsundays

Mantaray Bay, Whitsunday Islands. Photo C/O Queensland Tourism and Events

Underwater Artwork in Mantaray Bay

As part of the Government funded Ngaro Underwater Sculpture Trail, divers and snorkelers can see two underwater sculptures in Mantaray Bay on Hook Island.

  • “Manta Ray”, a 4m aluminium sculpture by local Adriaan Vanderlugt in collaboration with traditional owner Arthur Gabey.
    GPS Coordinates:  20°3.658″S, 148°57.358″E.
  • “Migration of the Manta Ray” is a concrete and stainless steel sculpture by Brian Robinson. Robinson collaborated with traditional owner Nicky Bidu Prior, embossing the traditional patterns seen on the surface.
    GPS Coordinates: 20° 3.6503′ South, 148° 57.3541′ East

Citizen Science and Research on the Reef

If you are diving or snorkelling with a camera and spot the underbelly of a manta ray, take a picture! Eye on the Reef is asking visitors to send photos of Mantas to contribute to their ongoing research and monitoring program.

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