Swimming with Manta Rays

I have been fortunate enough to swim with Manta Rays half a dozen times and you never get used to it. Every time you see them you are blown away by their size and grace.

Lady Elliot Island and North Stradbroke Island on the southern Great Barrier Reef and Coral Bay in Western Australia are reliable and beautiful locations for snorkelling and diving with Manta Rays in Australia.

In this short guide we’ll let you know where, when and how you can swim with Manta Rays in Australia and what to expect on a Manta Ray snorkel.

Disclosure: Please Note That Some Links In This Post May Be Affiliate Links, And At No Additional Cost To You, We Earn A Small Commission If You Make A Purchase. Commissions Go Toward Maintaining The Snorkel Spots Website.

Swimming with Manta Rays

Do you have to be a good swimmer to Snorkel with Manta Rays?

You will need to have some water confidence and snorkelling ability to swim with manta rays. You should be able to float/tread water and swim a short distance. You should also be comfortable using snorkelling gear.

Manta Ray swims take place in open water so there might be sea swells to deal with. In some cases, you also need to be able to follow a guide who is tracking down a manta ray and you’ll need to be able to get in and out of the water back onto a boat so you’ll need to be of average health and fitness.

It is also important to have the confidence to stay relaxed and calm in the water. If you can do this, you are much more likely to have a manta ray approach you – they are curious creatures!

Manta Ray

Is Swimming with Manta Rays Safe?

Despite their great size, manta rays are not a threat to people. They are gentle and surprisingly curious creatures that have been know to approach divers and snorkellers.

Manta rays are filter feeders, so you certainly don’t have to worry about them nibbling on your toes! Read more manta ray fun facts here.

What Equipment do you Need?

Tour providers will have wetsuits and snorkelling gear which you can use, we still use our own face mask and snorkels.

You will want some kind of underwater camera. Because manta rays are so big, you can great some great images and video. You can hire a GoPro from some tour providers.

While some manta ray tours are in sheltered water, conditions can still get bumpy so take the necessary precautions if you get seasick.

What to Expect

What you see on a manta ray snorkel will depend on what the manta rays are up to. They could be feeding or relaxing on the surface, cruising, or lining up at a cleaning station.

Sometimes you just catch a glimpse of the manta ray as they glide past. If you are lucky, you might see them performing their underwater acrobatics as they feed which is an amazing sight

No matter what your experience, their size – they can be 7m across – and grace are something you’ll never forget!

Where to Swim with Manta Rays in Australia

Manta Ray


Manta rays can be seen throughout the year on the southern Great Barrier Reef however there are peak seasons which vary depending on the location.

Lady Elliott Island

Known as the Home of the Manta Ray, there isn’t a better spot on the Great Barrier Reef to have a manta ray encounter. Peak manta ray season at Lady Elliot island is May to August.

There are four ways to swim with manta rays on Lady Elliot Island. If you are a diver, you can go to one of the many sites around the island.

From the surface you can go on the glass bottom boat and snorkelling tour. This is also a great chance for non- swimmers to see manta rays.

More advanced snorkellers go can further offshore on the Snorkel Safari Tour. And if you want to explore on your own, there are several snorkel trails where you can also see manta rays if they are swimming near t he surface.

Manta Ray

Lady Musgrave Island

Located off the coast of the township of 1770, Lady Musgrave Island is another fantastic Great Barrier Reef manta ray site. The peak manta ray season here is the same as Lady Elliot Island – May to August.

Famous for their Manta Bommies that divers can explore, Lady Musgrave also offers snorkelling tour to the outer lagoon where you are an excellent chance of seeing a manta ray.

There are also glass bottom boat tours for non-swimmers.

You can do a day trip to Lady Musgrave Island for the township of 1770.

North Stradbroke Island

Closer to Brisbane, North Stradbroke Island is another manta ray snorkelling hotspot.

Peak manta ray season here from October to March.

If you can get yourself to North Stradbroke Island, tours take you out to sites in Moreton Bay Marine Park. Local guides know the reef here like the back of their hand and in manta ray season you are a great chance of seeing a manta ray.

Coral Bay Eco Tours
Coral Bay Eco Tours © Daniel Browne

Western Australia – Ningaloo Reef

While Ningaloo Reef, 1200km north of Perth, takes more effort to get to than the Great Barrier Reef, it is worth the effort. As well as whale sharks, humpback whales and turtles, Ningaloo is also home to a resident population of Manta Rays.

Coral Bay

The small beachside holiday town of Coral Bay not only provides easy access to the wonders of Ningaloo Reef, but it is also the best year round location to swim with Manta Rays.

Multiple operators run tours into the bay where spotters find the manta rays and put you on top of them.

We were fortunate enough to have three manta rays barrel roll below us as they fed n plankton rich water. It is one of the best snorkels we have ever done. Watching their acrobatics is mesmerizing.

Ningaloo Reef

Ningaloo Reef is known as a place where you get to swim with big things. While there is not manta ray specific tours to the outer reef, if you go on a snorkelling tour from Exmouth you are a chance to see all sorts of things.

On our whale shark tour, we also spotted a manta ray on one of our warmup snorkels. From the boat we also saw turtles, dugongs and whales – as well as swimming with whale sharks.

But if you want a high probability sighting, go for the tour form Coral Bay.

Steve Klein
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