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Manta Trust Expeditions with Scuba Travel

A UK registered charity, the Trust`s mission is to advance the worldwide conservation of manta rays and their habitat through robust science and research, by raising awareness and providing education, influence and action. The Manta Trust was formed in 2011 to co-ordinate global research and conservation efforts for these amazing animals, their close relatives and their habitat.

Data Collection: The Manta Trust has a number of research projects worldwide, incorporating population data, research on manta movements, and genetic analyses - to name a few - in order to better understand the general ecology of manta and mobula rays.


Mexican Caribbean Manta Ray Project from Karen Fuentes (Manza) on Vimeo.

Manta Trust Expeditions

As part of our mission to raise awareness and provide education on manta ray conservation, the Manta Trust has teamed up with regional eco-minded tourism operators to provide ‘Manta Expeditions’. This is our newest venture in raising vital awareness for these animals, a series of liveaboard dive and snorkel trips that focus specifically on getting our guests in close proximity to manta rays, whale sharks and other ‘wish list’ marine species, while imparting expert knowledge and skills….

Our Expeditions Provide:
  • World’s leading manta experts as expedition leaders.
  • Expert knowledge to maximise close encounters with manta rays and other marine megafauna.
  • Informative presentations on the marine life and research initiatives.
  • Ability for guests to become actively involved in, and contribute directly to, meaningful research.
  • High end liveaboards with guest capacity reduced; ensuring exclusive, enriched experiences.
  • World class opportunities for underwater photography.

A core focus of the expeditions is to not only to provide close encounters with manta rays but to enthuse and educate divers in marine conservation issues and the environment surrounding them. Through a series of presentations on topics covering local marine species and habitats, The Manta Trust trips ensure that divers leave with an increased awareness of the threats these graceful creatures are facing and, perhaps more importantly, how they can help.

Workshops in collecting and recording manta ID images cements the theoretical and practical aspects of the research being conducted by giving divers the tools to get involved, knowing that they are contributing meaningful data to the project.  Divers are then able to continue this work on future dive trips by submitting  their ID shots on-line to the Manta Trust's global database.

The Manta Trust has ongoing research and conservation projects located all around the world at many of the ocean’s top manta ray dive destinations.  At each of these locations our project leaders expertise and local knowledge of the manta ray population and the natural history of their region ensures our guests receive a genuinely enriched and educational experience.  We are currently working with a number of worldwide tour operators to offer the best opportunities to interact with and learn more about manta rays. If you are interested in joining a manta expert on one of their trips, please contact us at


Manta Trust Expedition - Mexico

Manta Trust Mexico

Snorkelling amidst a number of whale sharks and manta rays, in the clear blue, warm ocean is an experience of a lifetime, and a unique opportunity for photographers to capture one of nature’s most spectacular more here


ID the Manta Initiative

If you have seen a manta anywhere in the world you can contribute directly to the global research and conservation of manta rays by submitting your images and sighting encounters through our sightings upload form. Alternatively you can email us your images directly to but please don’t forget to let us know where and when you saw your manta!

Ideally we are looking for images which best show the spots on the underside (ventral surface) of the manta rays. These spots are unique to each and every manta ray, just like a fingerprint they can be used to identify every single individual. Other images which show the top (dorsal surface) of the manta rays, or the tail (ventral) area, can also be used to identify the specific species you encountered and/or the sex of the individual. The more information you provide, the more feedback we can give you on your encounter, so please take a few minutes to send us your sightings.

By cataloguing photo IDs of manta rays, we can develop a better understanding of how large populations are and how the individuals within populations are utilising certain sites in particular areas and where they travel...

IDtheManta uses automated animal recognition technology to match the unique spot patterns on every manta entered into the global database.

With tens of thousands of images entering into the manta database each year, the next step is to match the new images to the existing database and see if we have encountered the pictured mantas before. To do this the Manta Trust, University of Bristol and the not-for-profit company, IDtheAnimal Ltd have come together to produce a piece of software called IDtheManta. Our objective is to create a fully-automated visual biometric photo-ID technology for manta rays which will interface with a global photo-ID database accessible to manta scientists and the general public around the world.

Every manta has its own unique pattern of black spots and shaded patches on its belly.

This resource will serve as a massive data source for scientists, enabling research organisations around the world to monitor the migratory patterns of the oceanic manta rays as they roam across the open oceans, and to monitor the smaller scale movement patterns of the more resident reef manta ray populations.

IDtheManta will also help to raise awareness and drive the conservation of manta rays and their habitats globally by providing in-depth feedback to every individual who uploads a sighting encounter to the mainframe database via the Manta Trust website. The mission of the Manta Trust is to use research and awareness campaigning to drive the global conservation of manta rays and their habitat.

How does IDtheManta Work?

IDtheManta's technology uses “Visual Animal Biometrics” and is based on research which established that each animal’s coat pattern is unique. ART potentially can be used to individually recognise 70%+ of all species on earth.

Using complex mathematical algorithms, the system automatically locates manta rays within digital images. The computer uses artificial intelligence to learn the features of manta rays so that it becomes better and better at recognising individuals with every new image which is added to the database. Once a positive ID is made, the automated animal recognition technology (ART) generates a biometric-ID from the spot patterns on the manta’s underside. The biometric-ID is then matched against other manta rays in the global database. Where there is a match, the time, date and location are added to the manta’s history file. If there is no match, then a new manta ray history file is created along with its movement data.

If you’d like to know, or do, more check out our Volunteer page and email us to find out how you can teach our database to learn our animals!

How to Take a Manta Identification Photo

Every manta ray has its own pattern of spots on its belly, or ventral surface, take a look at our Seeing Spots section for more information. These spot patterns can be used to identify individual manta rays much in the same way fingerprints can be used to identify humans.

A photograph of the ventral surface is the most important, as it reveals the individual’s identity, and also shows the sex of the animal, which can be used to calculate proportions of males and females in the population. The best photo ID captures the entire underside of the manta, but sometimes manta encounters can be short, so it’s important to photograph the most indicative portion of the animal in a pinch. These areas are different in the two species:

Oceanic Manta Ray - Manta birostris
On an oceanic manta the ventral surface is almost absent of spots except for a small central cluster which is usually present near the tail on the oceanic mantas belly. We use this small area below the gill slits and above the tail as the primary ID area for this species.

Reef Manta Ray - Manta alfredi
On reef mantas, unique spot patterning can be found all over the ventral surface. Some individuals are almost completely covered in spots and in others there is almost a complete absence of spots. We use the area in between the two rows of gill slits as the primary ID area for this species.

As mentioned above a good ID photo will tell us much more about the manta than just showing us the spot pattern.

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