Lankanfinolhu Faru; the Manta ray Cleaning station
Lankanfinolhu Faru, a dive site located on North Male’ Atoll, roughly the South East corner of Paradise Island Resort, an hour-long boat ride from the capital, Male’, is a famous Manta ray ray“ ‘Cleaning station”’ (ie. location where fish and other marine life congregate to be cleaned). This spectacular site is a favorite spot to a lot of scuba divers visiting the Maldives every year. The best time to dive at the site is during the Southwest monsoon (end of April to end of October). The reef top is about 12 meters from surface and it gradually slopes down to a depth of 40 meters. The reef is interspersed with huge coral formations that are home to colonies of several cleaner-fish.
Manta Rays, also known as Manta Birostris, along with the Whale Shark, Grey Reef Shark, Moray Eels and Turtles are among the “Big Five” underwater attractions of the Maldives. Manta Ray is the largest of the ray family; it can weigh up to 5000 pounds and grow a fin span ranging from about 17 feet to some 25 feet long. They have a diamond shaped body with smooth black colored back and its posterior surface is marked with a set of gills. Due to its enormous size, grace and peacefulness in the water, Manta Rays have become one of the most popular underwater attractions to scuba divers exploring the Maldives.
The Manta Rays come from deep waters and gather themselves around the cleaning station to get old skin parasites and plankton removed off of their gills and to feed on plankton. Usually these encounters will last around half an hour to an hour. However, depending on the diver’s air usage, if you can stay underwater longer than the above mentioned duration, the best view of the activity is from a depth of 15 meters. It is an exhilarating experience and the best way to enjoy the dive is, upon reaching the dive-station, find a good viewing spot of the station, relax and enjoy the cleaning ritual of the Manta rays right in front of you!
On rare occasions if you are unable to see any Manta rays, this popular dive site has other attractions such as Oriental sweetlips, Bullseye fish, Napoleon wrasse, Moray eels and Turtles. To the western edge of the reef you can find an array of beautiful table corals as well as a few caves to explore.
This amazing point, today is a protected marine site in the Maldives. However, despite being protected from the fishing industry, it is now being subjected to excessive scuba diving and rather more frequent snorkeling, which disturbs the balanced environment of the Manta ray community that feed on this spot and other marine species that inhabit this reef. Measures need to be taken to ensure that the recreational dive community does not become a threat for the existence of this very spectacular Cleaning station at Lankanfinolhu Faru.
*Photo story by Lubaab Ali, Member ECOCARE Maldives. He is also a recreational diver at Dive Club Maldives.