Like the whale shark, manta rays are filter feeders that feast on the large amounts of zooplankton and coral spawn found along the Ningaloo Reef. These imposing yet totally harmless rays can grow up to 5.5m wide, making them amongst the largest creatures in the ocean.
The Ningaloo is one of very few places on the planet where manta rays can be reliably located year round, providing visitors the opportunity to swim with these very inquisitive and playful creatures. Coral Bay in particular is a manta ray hot spot, with a resident population of mantas, many of which are so well known they’ve been given names. Isobel, Grace, Ouch and Whoopi are just a few of the local Coral Bay mantas. The waters off Exmouth also play host to manta rays, with numbers at their highest between May to November.
One of the major reasons Coral Bay is such a magnet for manta rays is the number of cleaner fish stations found along this section of the Ningaloo Reef. Manta rays visit these natural stations to allow small cleaner wrasse to feed on and remove parasites and dead skin from their bodies; a symbiotic relationship benefiting both creatures. Hence, the manta rays return time and again to these special places and often gather in large numbers.
Visitors have the chance to swim and interact with manta rays on dedicated manta ray snorkel tours which operate out of Coral Bay right throughout the year. Coral Bay manta rays are generally found and swum with in the Ningaloo Lagoon, inside the Ningaloo Reef, in water depths below ten metres.