COVER PHOTO-- July 2020: Mantas at Hanifaru Bay (@br.ranger/INSTAGRAM)

Ever witnessed a swarm of Manta rays feeding? Although it is a somewhat common occurrence here in the Maldives, it is not something that is often seen in other parts of the world. 

A special sight not many get to see, the graceful Mantas often steal the show Hanifaru bay often described as the centerpiece of the Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.

This was the case on October 11, 2020, when sea goers and rangers of Hanifaru Bay witnessed what they call "cyclone feeding" of these gentle and timid mobulids.

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Around 150 enigmatic mantas swarmed in what resembled a cyclone to feed on krills and plankton in the bay, leaving those above water mesmerized.

Mantas gathering in hundreds for such "cyclone feeding" sessions is seen almost every month at the bay. 

Shaafee Ali, an outreach officer of the Biosphere Reserve Office said that cyclone swarming is not something that is often seen outside of Hanifaru bay, which is why it is so special. 

"Yes, it is very common here, happens almost every month during the full moon. However, it's not very often seen elsewhere in the world," said Shaafee.

Cyclone feeding is a "crazy" sight to behold, said Shaafee who described it as a must-see event. If everything happens right, sea goers could witness around hundreds of Manta rays feeding. 

"They feed like a cyclone, all the Mantas are swirling around. it is quite a sight. on that day around 150 Mantas were seen. However, there have been instances of far bigger numbers back in 2018-19." said Shaafee who added that this was most likely based on the wind direction, high tide, current, and full moon. 

Hanifaru Bay map.

Hanifaru Bay in Baa Atoll is the pinnacle of the biosphere reserve and is famous for the unique ecosystem and marine species often sighted. A location where grey sharks and stingrays are often seen the bay is also one of the very few places in the world where whale sharks congregate to mate.