Giant mantas are fabulous creatures… and from july to early october, these migrating species make their journey to Ecuadorian waters. Giant manta rays visit the Ecuadorian coastline to feed on plankton that accumulates near the shores during this time, after being dragged by the Humboldt current and deposited in the north of Peru and the south of Ecuador.
While there are two species of mantas that you can spot in Isla de La Plata, including the Reef Manta Ray (Manta alfredi) which is a resident to the area, Giant Mantas (Manta Birostris) are exceptional: they are the largest living ray! Giant Manta Rays live in sub-tropical, temperate waters in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans and they can reach up to 7 meters in width. These regular visitors travel in large numbers to Ecuador in order to mate, feed and clean during this specific season (july-oct).
Giant Manta Rays are listed as vulnerable in the IUCN Red List because they have been targeted for international trade (food and medicine) and taken as bycatch from large fisheries through the years.
The overall population size for Giant Manta Rays is unknown but subpopulations are normally composed 100-1000 individuals, which is rather small. There is no data to account for the degree of interchange between subpopulations- which contributes to the assumption that it is very low. This means that the decline of these small subpopulations could cause regional depletions. Also, because of their distinctive low reproduction behavior which sometimes means a pup per litter, chances to recover lost populations are improbable.
Gladly, on August 2010, Ecuador passed a law that prohibits fishing Mantas in Ecuador. This law also declares that any individuals that have been caught unintentionally need to be released back into their natural environment and that Mantas, dead or alive, cannot be owned, transported, sold or kept for consumption.
Diving: An extraordinary experience!
The opportunity to dive with a such a majestic and vulnerable creature in Isla de la Plata is undoubtedly an extraordinary and unique experience with nature. When diving in the area, tourists have had encounters that last up to 15 minutes with these giant, gentle animals.
Get your diving certificate and dive into this immersive adventure! If you already have it, what are you waiting for? These rare giants await!
Reference: IUCN Red List Giant Mantas