Published: July 2009

Manta Rays

Manta rays

Feeding Frenzy

When tide and current turn a tiny bay into a bowl of plankton, manta rays in the Maldives gather for a roiling, whirling feast.

By Bruce Barcott
Photograph by Thomas P. Peschak

Four hundred forty miles off the southern coast of India, in the archipelago nation of the Maldives, there is an uninhabited island named Hanifaru. It's not much to see from the air: a spray of tropical shrubs on what appears to be a truckload of sand. Hanifaru is so small a child could walk its entire scimitar-shaped coastline in a ten-minute stroll. The island's size isn't unusual for the Maldives, a collection of 1,192 tiny islands clumped in 26 atolls encompassed by the vastness of the Indian Ocean. But several times a year, when time and tide align, manta rays from throughout the Maldives converge here to feed in a spectacular coral-reef ballet.

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