The Manta rays of Bali
The Manta rays can be seen all year round on the Manta Point site located to the south of Nusa Penida. The chances of seeing them are excellent (95% chance of seeing them all year round), we must however check the swell forecast, on windguru for example, for the optimal conditions.
It is true that a swell coming directly from the Indian ocean comes to shatter on the limestone cliffs of the south of Nusa Penida. Manta Point is at the foot of these cliffs.
The cleaning station of Manta Bay
Manta Point is located in a small bay closed off by an island. It is the favorite cleaning station of the Manta rays of 3-5 meter of the region. This cleaning station can be found on a large rock, close to which numerous cleaning fish await these ocean giants. It is sometime preferable to back away from this cleaning station to observe these giant animals from the sides of the bay or in the open water.
These sites are the only areas where we regularly observe the Manta rays of Bali and Lombok. There are no Manta rays in the Gili islands of Lombok. This has not stopped the local operators from naming a dive site Manta Point.The skeptics can notice the little photos present on Google Images.
This is a cartilaginous fish which has two large « wings », a short tail, along with an almost flat head with on each side two extremities called cephalichornes, bringing to mind a horned animal, where its vernacular name of « sea devil » comes from. Its small eyes, found on the bottom sides of each extremity, in opposition to the mouth. The animal has on its front side 5 pairs of gills. The upper jaw is indented, but the lower jaw has several teeth which function is unknown; they could be vestigial parts.
The Manta ray feeds on planktonic animals and small nektonic animals (small fish). It digs the sandy bottom with its cephalic horns to force hiding pray to come out and then swallows them thanks to it wide open mouth, the cephalic horns directing the food towards its mouth. Then the water is filtered and exits via the gills. The smaller animals are kept to be eaten. This feeding habit is also found with whale sharks and basking sharks.
The Manta ray leads a deep sea existence but also frequents the superficial waters, close to the shores and in sheltered bays. It is an easily lead animal, living in gangs of several individuals or in couples, rarely alone. We can often see them jumping out of the water, particularly to give birth to their young.