While Manta Rays are found off both the western and eastern coasts of Australia, this time of the year is particularly good for scuba diving or freediving/snorkeling with Manta Rays off the east coast. Many popular dive and holiday locations are frequented by Manta Rays, so you can get an up close and personal experience with these charismatic ocean giants.
Early data from Project Manta shows that rays travel a distance of at least 500km between Lady Elliot Island in Queensland and Byron Bay in New South Wales within a few months.The research that has been collected by Project Manta over many years has allowed them to identify several predictable aggregation sites for the Manta Rays of eastern Australia.
In the far north, 350km east of Cairns, is the spectacular Osprey Reef. Osprey Reef is a popular dive location with an abundance of sharks and fish life, and coral reef walls that shoot up from 2000m to 2m! It is a bucket list destination for many scuba divers, many of who enjoy the shark feeding tours while out there. But divers to the reef are also treated to regular sitings of Manta Rays throughout the year.
Heron Island is a small coral cay island and popular tourist destination located on the southern GBR, 80 km northeast of Gladstone. Turtles, sharks and other marine life attracts keen scuba divers from all over the world to this protected marine park, but divers can also encounter Manta Rays. They are most regularly seen around the outer reef of Heron Island.
Lady Musgrave Island
A short distance from Heron Island is the less well-known location of Lady Musgrave Island. Unlike Heron Island, Lady Musgrave is a camping site only so it is not as frequented as some other dive locations. Nevertheless, those who do venture there will almost always find Manta Rays, often in very large numbers sun baking on the surface and occasionally leaping out of the water! The best spot that we have found on Lady Musgrave for Manta Rays is the Southern side of the island where the reef drops away to about 15m.
Lady Elliot Island
Lady Elliot Island is another popular dive location. It is located off the coast of Bundaberg, and isn't too far from Heron Island and Lady Musgrave Island on the southern Great Barrier Reef. Many scuba divers travel to Lady Elliot Island for Manta Ray and Turtle encounters. Manta Rays are particularly prolific here in the winter months where they can be seen aggregating by the hundreds!
North Stradbroke Island
Local to Adreno Scuba Diving, North Stradbroke Island is located off the Brisbane coast. Many dive operators run trips to popular dive sites including 'Manta Bombie' where tens of mantas can be observed daily during summer months, from October until March or April. They can often be seen here displaying signs of 'courting' where multiple male mantas will follow a female manta around. A spectacular site which makes this one of the most frequented scuba locations for those hoping for an up close and personal experience with Manta Rays. Be sure to drop in and see us while you're in town, we would love to hear about your upcoming or recent manta dive!
Byron Bay is a 4 hour car dive south of Brisbane and a fantastically laid back weekend or holiday destination. Manta Rays are often encountered by scuba divers here during summer months.
The Solitary Islands is a sanctuary zone located off the Coffs Harbour coast. Around January to May each year Manta Rays aggregate putting on a fantastic display for scuba divers.
Feel free to call, email or Facebook message us if you're thinking of heading out for a dive with Manta Rays and are looking for advice on where to go, who to contact and what to take. Most of all, enjoy the experience!