Scuba Diving in Raja Ampat
With a name like 'Manta Ridge' you'd really only be expecting to see one creature here, and you'd not be disappointed. Every dive at this popular cleaning station is blessed by the appearance of from 5 up to 30 manta rays. You can see manta rays at several of the Raja Ampat sites, but this is the premiere place to see them reliably and in large numbers.
Manta Ridge is located equidistant from Mansuar Island and Airborei Island to the west northwest, to the south of Waigeo Island. You enter the water to the southwest of the smallest island imaginable - a few metres of sand protruding just centimetres above the open ocean's calm surface. You then follow the reef slope west until you hit the 'S' bend in the reef, and this is where the real action starts.
Strong currents attract large groupings of mantas daily into this cleaning station. Find a suitable spot on the reef to hook up to and watch the games begin. The powerful manta rays circle and queue in a seemingly orderly fashion for an appointment at the station. Blacklip butterflyfish display their availability and willingness to work by fluttering high above the reef. The mantas swoop in low over the slope to the attendant cleaners. Moon wrasse, leopard wrasse, black eye thicklips and cleaner wrasse all get in on the action, nibbling and chewing away parasitic growth and life from the mantas' mouths, bodies and gill cavities.
The mantas can be up to 4 metres wide, from wing tip to wing tip, and many arrive with their long-term allies - golden trevallies and remoras - with the larger mantas sometimes having attendant cobias. Most manta rays worldwide have dark upper sides and white lower sides. But one quite novel feature of the Raja Ampat mantas is that some of them are completely black. They are relatively unperturbed by divers watching in close attendance, and will often perform 'loop-the-loops' for patient viewers.
Almost ignored by most visitors to this reef is the school of 30 or so bumphead parrotfish that graze on the reef slopes at around 20 metres. They must be quite relieved not to be the centre of attention here, as would be the occasional turtle that visits the reef.
As the cleaning station is located only 6 metres deep in the water and 5 hours cruising distance from the port of Sorong, it is an ideal place to visit on the last day of a Raja Ampat liveaboard trip, as the shallow profile of the dive makes flying after diving less of a risk.
Manta Ridge Reef Basics: Mantas
Depth: 5 - >40m
Visibility: 10 - 30m
Currents: Very strong
Surface conditions: Calm
Water temperature: 28 - 30°C
Experience level: Advanced only
Number of dive sites: 1
Diving season: All year round
Distance: ~80 km west northwest of Sorong (5 hours)
Access: Raja Ampat liveaboard diving
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