Get creative in the naming of a Ningaloo manta ray and win a swim with these graceful giants.
Just like human finger prints, the dot pattern found on the belly of a manta ray are unique which comes in handy for researchers who study the ocean beauties.
Exmouth Visitor Centre and Project Manta are asking the public to name the 50th manta ray identified as part of Project Manta. The winning entry receives two tour tickets to swim alongside Ningaloo manta rays with Coral Bay Eco Tours.
The 50th ray was a female that was part of a large feeding mass of mantas in the Exmouth Gulf in October last year. During the aggregation, spotter plane pilots reported seeing more than 100 manta rays swimming and feeding within an area of just a few kilometres of coast, close to shore near the Exmouth township.
To date, more than 800 individual mantas have been identified in and around Coral Bay using their belly dot patterns.
Now the project has been expanded to include the northern part of the Ningaloo Reef, around Exmouth.
The research examines how environmental factors affect the movements of manta rays, both within known hot spots such as Ningaloo Reef and right throughout northern Australia.
Project Manta state understanding why manta rays occupy particular sites at particular times is important, especially in the face of climate change.
Project Manta also asks people to contribute to its research by submitting any photos taken of the underside of manta rays in the Ningaloo region. The team can then cross reference its database and determine if it is a new or previously identified Ningaloo manta ray.
For those looking to swim with mantas, Exmouth Visitor Centre manager Kristy Bryan-Smith said tours were available every day out of Coral Bay to swim with these huge but completely harmless and playful creatures.
“Snorkelling with a Ningaloo Reef manta ray is an unforgettable experience, as these rays are known for their love of interacting with swimmers,” Ms Bryan-Smith said.
Top picture: Project Manta, by Aimee Jan.