These graceful rays were filmed with a GoPro from a small boat and then our guide dived with the rays taking the GoPro with him.
In 2014, Indonesia brought in a fishing and export ban as it realised that Manta Ray tourism was more economically beneficial than allowing the fish to be killed. A dead manta is worth $40 to $500 while Manta Ray tourism can bring in $1 million during the life of a single ray. Indonesia has 5.8 million square kilometers (2.2 million square miles) of ocean and this is now the world’s largest sanctuary for Manta Rays.
The rays we saw off Flores are Reef Mantas, Manta alfredi, which can reach up to 5.5 m (18 ft). They have triangular pectoral fins, horn-shaped cephalic fins and large, forward-facing mouths. Mantas can be found in temperate, subtropical and tropical waters and M. alfredi tend to be resident and coastal. They are filter feeders and eat large quantities of zooplankton, which they swallow with their open mouths as they swim. Gestation lasts over a year, producing live pups. Mantas may visit cleaning stations for the removal of parasites. Like whales they breach, for unknown reasons. Both species of ray which are found in Indonesia are listed as Vulnerable by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. Anthropogenic threats include pollution, entanglement in fishing nets, and direct harvesting for their gill rakers for use in Chinese medicine. Their slow reproductive rate exacerbates these threats. They are protected in international waters by the Convention on Migratory Species of Wild Animals, but are more vulnerable closer to shore. Areas where mantas congregate are popular with tourists. Only a few aquaria are large enough to house them. In general, these large fish are seldom seen and difficult to study.