Want to swim with dolphins or meet some manta rays on your next diving holiday? Risa Merl reveals the best destinations and dive sites to visit for unforgettable encounters with marine animals.
Koh Bon Island, Thailand
There are few sights more serene than the enormous wings of a manta ray swooping through the water. Unlike stingrays, manta rays are filter feeders and don’t have a defence mechanism that can inadvertently harm humans. A particularly lovely spot to observe these gentle creatures is within the paradisiacal Similan Islands National Park in Thailand’s Andaman Sea.
“Frequent spotting and a long season make this the ideal place to dive with manta rays,” says Sylvain Chevreton, co-founder and co-owner of Khao Lak Explorer Dive Center. As many as 20 manta rays congregate at the “cleaning station” off Koh Bon island, where small fish come to pick at their skin, allowing divers to sit on the sandy bottom and simply watch the rays dance overhead. “Mid-October to mid-March is the best time to visit,” Chevreton says. “Private guides can be arranged, on request, to lead trips from on board a yacht’s tender.”