Majestic manta rays are one of the ocean's most beautiful creatures. Being in their graceful presence is on every scuba diver's bucket list and those who have been fortunate enough to experience it claim it to be nothing short of magical. Completely harmless, peaceful, and gentle beings, mantas are truly fascinating, and their curious intelligence is apparent when they gaze into the soul with their large doe eyes.

These enormous pelagics have been roaming the seas for over five million years, but unfortunately as a result of pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, and alternative medicine, they're now listed as endangered. Thankfully, there are growing numbers of marine protected areas where they come to feed, be cleaned of parasites, and migrate. It's possible to spot mantas all over the world, however, these are some of the most reliable diving destinations where you can meet them for yourself.

12 Similan Islands, Koh Bon, Hin Daeng And Hin Muang, Thailand

It's not just perfect beaches that beckon travelers to Thailand - it's the rich underwater world that's the real draw for scuba divers. There are plenty of fascinating and colorful species to see, but those who love the big stuff will really be impressed if they dive the right places.

The globally famed Similan Islands and Koh Bon boast superb manta action, with the most impressive seen from February to April. December to May's oceanic currents deliver copious amounts of plankton, which is an irresistible buffet to the mantas who flock to chow down at the many cleaning stations whilst putting on a stunning show for divers at various sites - like Koh Tachai pinnacle.

Also in the Andaman Sea are the underwater pinnacles of Hin Daeng and Hin Muang - two colorful dive sites in the open ocean, where, from around December to May, there's a good chance of enjoying some beautiful manta diving.

11 Ishigaki Island, Japan

Ishigaki is one of Japan's southernmost islands in the tropical prefecture of Okinawa and is actually closer to Taiwan than mainland Japan. The waters around the island boast several cleaning stations that attract decent numbers of manta rays year-round. The best months to spot them are those between May and December, which is also the invitingly warm summer season. Ishigaki's northern side near Kabira Bay is where the manta action is, and iconic dive sites like Manta Point and Manta Scramble are playgrounds for these majestic creatures.

10 Komodo National Park And Flores, Indonesia

Over 17,000 islands make up the archipelago of Indonesia, where the Pacific and Indian oceans meet and are home to 25% of the planet's fish species. The nation is a world-class hotspot for scuba divers thanks to its incredible diversity. Komodo National Park and Flores Island are two of the most iconic manta diving regions where these gentle giants love to bottom feed on the sandy areas rampant with plankton. Sightings are frequent all year, but the most are reported from June to September.

9 Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia

Bali is another outstanding diving destination and is in fact Indonesia's most popular. Nearby Nusa Penida Island offers reliable sightings year-round, with the most mantas spotted from around August to October. Plus, this famous diving hotspot also offers good chances of encountering the elusive mola mola. But this bucket list-worthy dive zone does see wicked currents and difficult conditions depending on the season and weather, which may be too challenging for beginners.

Related: Want to Learn to Scuba Dive? Here Are The Best Places For Beginners To Take The Plunge

8 Raja Ampat, Indonesia

Indonesia's elite spot on the diving map is also secured by Raja Ampat - which is consistently cited as one of the best scuba diving destinations in the world. Divers here love the incredible soft corals, plentiful macro critter action, and epic underwater topography that blows the mind of even the most seasoned divers. Raja Ampat is also seeing an increase in manta sightings as more and more of this vast underwater region is explored.

Great sites for manta hunting include Manta Sandy, Eagle Rock, Manta Ridge, and Wayad Lagoon, as well as Magic Mountain and Blue Magic where both oceanic and reef manta species can be found. It's possible to experience reliable manta encounters from October to May, however, for those hoping to scout different kinds of mantas, December to March is a better period.

7 Fiji

The idyllic paradise of Fiji is a reliable place for year-round manta sightings, however, the most frequent encounters are from June to October. There are lots of thriving shallow reefs where mantas hang out, as well as plentiful cleaning stations where they gather to be cleaned of parasites. Overall, diving in Fiji is amazing, but if it's mantas specifically that brings you to this archipelago, make sure to check out Taveuni, Namena Marine Reserve, Kadavu, Yasawas, and Wakaya.

Related: A Travel Guide To Fiji: 11 Things To Know While Planning Your Trip

6 Lady Elliot Island, Ningaloo, And Coral Bay, Australia

Australia is pure heaven for divers thanks to its bustling and diverse waters. Lady Elliot Island on the Great Barrier Reef is quite rightly nicknamed the Home of the Manta Ray - a brand it has more than earned because of its jaw-dropping manta action year-round. The most prolific encounters here are during the winter months when around 100 mantas congregate.

Other equally superb manta-spotting destinations are Coral Bay in Western Australia and Ningaloo - they're not as famous but are just as worthy. Dive trips depart from the Coral Coast from June to November, but Coral Bay sees departures throughout the whole year.

Related: What You Need To Know Before You Go Scuba Diving In Australia

5 Baa Atoll, The Maldives

The Maldives is among the world's most unrivaled scuba diving destinations with its crystal clear water, diverse species, and mind-blowing underwater topography. And, thanks to its prime open ocean location, it's a magnet for large pelagics. The very tiny Baa Atoll is one of the most noteworthy areas for manta sightings due to its ideal geographical location and is home to a spectacular cyclone of mantas that congregate to consume large quantities of zooplankton that are funneled into the world-famous Hanifaru Bay - the only UNESCO Marine Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives. Between June and November, this incredible feeding frenzy takes place, and anyone lucky enough to witness the phenomenon is left utterly speechless.

4 Ari Atoll, The Maldives

One of the nation's most visited atolls is Ari Atoll, and its teeming inner reefs, pinnacles, and channels combine with large marine species to put this dive hub on the map. It's easy to spot mantas feeding on plankton drawn in through the atoll's channels, which also attract plenty of other big creatures.

Manta rays can be seen all over the atoll year-round, but the most frequent sightings occur at Panettone and Ukulhas Thila. For the best chances, it's a good idea to follow the manta's seasonal migration - from January to April, dive around the atoll's west side for more manta luck, and throughout June to November, the east side is where more of the action is.

Related: Things To Do In The Maldives (That Aren’t Swimming With The Mantas)

3 Yap, Federated States Of Micronesia

Yap is home to 150 islands and lots of coral atolls. The reefs here boast a wealth of diversity and several cleaning stations - which a sizeable manta population calls home. Manta sightings are almost guaranteed all year, but divers say that they're more abundant from around December to April when foreign mantas come to breed with the resident mantas.

2 Palau

Palau is renowned as one of the most consistent meccas for manta ray sightings. What makes this place even better is that 80% of the nation's surrounding waters were established as a Marine Protected Area in 2020, which protects the marine inhabitants - including mantas - from harmful practices. Sightings occur year-round and almost everywhere, however, German Channel and Devilfish City between October and May boast the most.

1 Socorro Island, Mexico

Mexico's famous volcanic island of Socorro hosts over 500 oceanic manta rays - many of which showcase the rare all-black color. From November to June (with May and June seeing the highest numbers of encounters), hundreds - some of which are over five meters wide - grace divers with their presence for a truly show-stopping experience. This tiny island is actually one of the best places on Earth to see giant oceanic manta rays.

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