The reef manta ray (Mobula alfredi) is an iconic species of the Baa Atoll Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives. These huge fish gather in large groups to feed inside the lagoon. The interest and curiosity to learn more about these manta rays motivated the NGO Manta Trust to launch a project to research, collaborate and share knowledge about the conservation of these species, creating a safe space for the manta rays and for all other species in the reserve.
Want to know more about the fascinating manta ray? Listen to the interview with Beth Faulkner, project leader at Manta Trust and Malsha Abdul, student.
The word ‘atoll’ comes from the Dhivehi term for ‘reef’, a language which blends Malayalam, Sanskrit, Persian and Arabic, and constitutes living evidence of the Maldives as a maritime crossroads.
In the east of the Baa Atoll, a small bay is witness to some of the largest gatherings of manta rays in the world. These 7 m-wide 'flying' giants congregate to feed on microscopic plankton that come with the rising tide.
Super biodiversity hotspot
The bright warm shallows that surround the reef are ideal for rich habitats such as coral, sea grass beds and mangroves. The Baa Atoll harbours 250 species of corals and 1,200 species of fish.
The biosphere reserve is composed at 99% of sea. The only land to be found here is 5.5 km2 of micro-atolls, faros, patch reefs and knolls, lying low above sea level between a mere 0 to 3 metres.