hanifaru bay Maldives

Hanifaru Bay For Whale Shark And Manta

Hanifaru Bay is a sanctuary for people who love snorkeling with manta rays and whale sharks. This UNESCO biosphere reserve in the Maldives is legally designated as a Marine Protected Area. There are strict regulations are in place to protect and preserve this amazing wonder.
The reef at Hanifaru Bay is like a funnel that is about 1300 meters, the inner narrow part of the funnel is about 600 meters and that is where whale sharks and mantas are found more common. The whale shark season is from May to November. In this period, planktons gets trapped in the funnel-like reef and concentration of planktons attracts whale sharks and schools of manta rays. At any time there could be over a hundred mantas and several whale sharks feeding off the coral reef. This is the world’s largest feeding station known to exist.

Hanifaru Bay video

Hanifaru Bay is in Baa Atoll, about 115 km from Male’ International Airport. If you want to fly seaplane it takes about 25 minutes. Otherwise, Dharavandhoo (see Dharavandhoo on map) domestic airport is just 2 km from Hanifaru Bay.

Resorts near Hanifaru Bay:
• Kihaa Maldives – 4 km
• Royal Island – 9 km
• Soneva Fushi – 10 km
• Dusit Thani Maldives – 6 km
• Four Seasons Landaagiraavaru – less than 20 km

hanifaru bay manta 2019
Photo: A manta at Hanifaru Bay captured on 8 May 2019

The 2019 manta season has already begun. We have been there on 8 May 2019 and there were 2 mantas, expecting more flock there cover the coming weeks. To visit Hanifaru Bay you have to book a trip through a licensed guesthouse, resort or safari boat. Almost all the resorts in Baa Atoll have license and there are some guesthouses in Dharavandhoo that offer trips to this manta sanctuary. Every guest have to buy a token Hanifaru Bay Management Centre, resorts usually keep this token fee added to trip price, so guests need not buy it separately. From guesthouses and safari vessels the policy may be different.

hanifaru bay manta

At Hanifaru Bay you can do snorkeling, diving is not permitted any more. During your snorkeling you must keep proper distance from whale sharks and manta rays, a radius of 3 meters from head section of whale shark and 4 meters at its tail is minimum distance you must maintain.
You should not approach the creature from front or cross its path, stay at sides and swim with whale sharks. It is allowed to take pictures but without flash, you cannot use scooter or motorized devices to tow yourself. Touching, stroking or even getting that close is prohibited and there are trained rangers monitoring your moves.

hanifaru bay map

Prior to implementing these regulations the place was overcrowded with boats and tourists. At some point whale sharks and manta population in Hanifaru Bay went to a drastic drop. The creatures might have been disturbed by human intervention. Hence, the regulations are important to keep this amazing wonder preserved.

whale shark

The little island next marine protected area is Hanifaru, the island itself is preserved. It is not permitted to get on the island without written permission from Environment Protection Agency - EPA.
The lagoon and sea around Hanifaru is protected too, it is not permitted for boats (other than taxi vessel) to go there or do fishing or any other activity. Any boat permitted to enter the area must maintain speed limits in order to ensure whale sharks and mantas do not get disturbed in any way. There are Rangers from EPA monitoring the feeding station and surrounding areas.

hanifaru bay

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