Diving or swimming with manta rays is a must do if you come to Indonesia. Encountering these majestic giant bird-like creatures underwater is by far one of our favorite ocean experiences. What we love most about Manta rays is that they are genuinely inquisitive, and if treated with respect, will often come extremely close to you underwater and express an interest to play and interact with you.
In 2014, the Indonesian government declared full protected status to Manta Rays throughout the regions exclusive economic zone, creating the worlds largest manta ray sanctuary (YES!). As the worlds largest archipelagic nation, this is a huge step in manta ray conservation worldwide. Thanks to this, Indonesia is now one of the best places in the world to swim with Manta rays. Here is our list of the best places in Indonesia to swim with Manta Rays:
1.Manta Point, Nusa Penida Island, Bali
Easily accessible from Bali, Manta Point in Nusa Penida Island is your best manta experience option if you aren’t willing to venture too far out into the remote Indonesian archipelago. Reachable by day trip from either Bali or the neighboring island of Nusa Lembongan. Reef Manta rays congregate around a ‘cleaning station’ – an area where cleaner wrasse fish eat off the parasites from bigger fish. The main cleaning station is on top of two large boulders that are just 3 meters below the surface of the water. It is not necessary to scuba dive here to see the manta rays, though there are deeper cleaning stations in the area (18m ) where diving is more suitable. Make sure when snorkeling or swimming with the Manta rays here that you do not swim directly on top of the cleaning station. It is important to not disturb and interfere with the natural behavior of these animals. Best to swim on the surface just around the two large boulders and watch the manta’s circle around the cleaning station.
2.Manta Alley, Komodo National Park
Arguably the best dive site in Komodo National Park, Manta Alley offers a manta experience like nonother. At times, it is possible to encounter 20+ manta rays on a single dive, including the rare Oceanic Manta Ray species (Manta birostris). Manta Alley is a dive site located on the very southern tip of Komodo Island and is only reachable by liveaboard dive boat ( It is too far for day trip excursions from Labuan Bajo). This site is deep, and so is the manta action, so scuba diving is more suitable here than snorkeling. Despite saying this, we must admit that we have had some incredible manta ray tornadoes circling us a few times while freediving here in the past. (Insert Why You Should Start Freediving link here)
3.Karang Makassar, Komodo National Park
Karang Makassar, or Manta Reef, is a shallow dead coral bed characterized by a strong current and numerous manta cleaning stations. Despite its rather bland description, this site is the most popular place in Komodo to swim with Manta rays. It is relatively shallow (12m) and accessible via day trip from the main town of Labuan Bajo – only two hours by boat. Currents are strong, and when entering the water, you will need to just drift along with the current. The shoal is large, and thus we recommend snorkeling instead of diving here as you will be able to cover more ground and thus increase your chances of seeing the manta rays. Visibility is generally good, with the exception made during the rainy season (January-February).
Check out this video of Etoile playing with the local Manta rays of Manta Reef in Komodo!
4.Manta Ridge, Raja Ampat, West Papua
Due to its shallowness, Manta Ridge is an ideal spot for those in Raja Ampat that do not have a dive ticket, yet still, want to swim with the Manta Rays. At only 6 meters in depth, this site is well known for hosting a lot of manta rays. Located between the islands of Airborek and Mansuar, it is easy to get here via day trip excursion if you are staying at one of the local home-stays in the area (Liveaboard dive boat not necessary). Often you can spot the unusual all-black Manta rays here.
Note while interacting with Manta Rays:
Do not approach the manta rays, this will scare them, and they will likely dive and dash away. Allow them to keep their distance at first while you stay stationary. After a couple of passes, the mantas will get more confident and slowly make their way toward you. Most importantly, let them control the interaction. If your manta experience is based near a cleaning station, do not block or be on top of the cleaning station. For more info on how to best interact with these guys , have a look at this infographic from the people at MantaTrust.