Six Senses Home Office, Bangkok – 4 December 2013:
Six Sense Laamu, in collaboration with Ocean Dimensions, is very pleased to become a regional partner of the Manta Trust and a supporter of the Maldivian Manta Ray Project.
Six Senses Laamu is fully committed to the environment and developing sustainable, marine-related, guest activities. As a result of this commitment, Six Senses Laamu is responsible for improving its methods of sustainability; preserving and restoring the surrounding marine environment; and protecting sensitive marine ecosystems and species.
Six Senses Laamu and its partner Ocean Dimensions had the privilege of hosting Guy Stevens, chief executive and founder of the Manta Trust, for a week at the end October to explore our Manta Point and to discuss future research and conservation opportunities.
Manta rays are large, enigmatic, cartilaginous elasmobranch fishes, which mean that they are closely related to sharks. Two species of manta ray have been identified; the giant oceanic manta (Manta birostris), reaching a disc-width of up to 7 m; and the resident reef manta (Manta alfredi), with an average disc-width of up to 3.5 m. These gentle giants feed on zooplankton, some of the smallest animals in the sea by using their cephalic fins to create a funnel to allow litres of water to pass over their gill rakers which filter out the plankton. It is the demand for these gill rakers for use in Traditional Asian Medicines which resulted in manta rays being listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in 2011.
The Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP) was established in 2005 and is one of the longest running manta ray research projects in the world. The aim of the MMRP is to collect long-term, robust data on the distribution, biology and ecology of manta rays throughout the Maldivian archipelago to aid in their conservation. The MMRP is the founding project of the Manta Trust; a U.K. registered charity, whose vision is “a sustainable future for the oceans where manta rays thrive in healthy, diverse marine ecosystems.” The Manta Trust currently has research projects in over 16 different countries worldwide and the results of these conservations efforts were instrumental in the listing of manta rays on Appendix II of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in March 2013.
Using the unique pattern of black spots on the white belly of the manta ray, the Maldivian Manta Ray Project (MMRP) has identified over 3,000 individual manta rays in the Maldives. Since 2012 Six Senses Laamu and Ocean Dimensions have been submitting photographs of the undersides of manta rays to the MMRP. 22 individual manta rays had been identified using the cleaning stations at our local dive site Hithadhoo Corner, more fondly known as Manta Point. At 20 m deep, off the end of the Ying Yang surf break, an extension of reef sticks out into the Hithadhoo Kandu channel. It is on this platform where we find multiple blocks of corals which host dozens of cleaner wrasse and attract manta rays for their daily cleaning.
Avid diver and keen underwater photographer, Marteyne Van Well, general manager at Six Senses Laamu, is delighted with the partnership and said, “Six Senses Laamu continually strives towards conserving the environment and protecting vulnerable marine species. This exciting new partnership allows the resort to be part of and support the research of the Manta Trust.”
Marc Zaalberg, owner and manager of Ocean Dimensions, acknowledges the importance of our local site and said, “Upon discovery of Hithadhoo Corner we knew that it was a unique and exceptional dive site. Cleaning stations are often regarded as one of the best locations to observe manta rays and our site certainly does not disappoint.”
The continual year round sightings of manta rays at Hithadhoo Corner and the identification of manta rays which had not previously been observed elsewhere in the Maldives, led to the invitation of Guy Stevens to Six Senses Laamu. After just five days of diving at Hithadhoo Corner, our humble number of 22 individual manta rays increased to 52 individuals. In only a short space of time, 28 of the newly sighted individuals were identified as completely new to the Maldives database. The Laamu atoll database now contains 50 individuals which have only been sighted in our atoll.
What was particularly interesting and exciting news for Guy Stevens was the identification of two individuals which had previously been sighted in other atolls. Manta ray M35, named Bananarama, was first identified in the Baa atoll in 2005 and observed most years since. Her last sighting in the Baa atoll was in June 2012 and since then she travelled almost 350 km south to the Laamu atoll. The second individual M1446, named Trident, has only been sighted once before, in November 2007 in Addu atoll. Again, this manta ray has travelled almost 400 km across open ocean to Hithadhoo Corner. These extraordinary feats of travel indicate connectivity between the atolls and add to the mystery of these charismatic giants.
Ocean Dimensions and Rachel Lambert, our resident Marine Biologist, will be responsible for continuing to collect manta ray photo-identification images and promoting awareness about manta rays and the Manta Trust throughout the resort. Six Senses Laamu and Ocean Dimensions look forward to furthering the research of the manta rays found at Hithadhoo Corner and working together with the Manta Trust to ensure a vibrant, sustainable future for our local manta ray population.
In addition to our ongoing weekly talks on Mantas hosted by Rachel, the team of dive professionals at Ocean Dimensions will also be sharing insights and interesting facts on the majestic Mantas with our guests joining regular dives to Hithadhoo Corner. As a partner of the Manta Trust and a supporter of the Maldivian Manta Ray Project, the resort will also be able to provide a new array of educational tools to better educate our neighbouring local communities on the importance, and vulnerability of, our Laamu Atoll manta ray population.
Dive Jetty at Diving School, Six Senses Laamu
Manta ray at Six Senses Laamu
Manta ray at Six Senses Laamu
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Benjawan Sudhikam (Ms)
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