Rays identification guide

Rays are majestic fish, which can be distinguished by their flattened bodies and their winglike fins. There are as many as 500 ray species in the world. While some rays, such as the oceanic manta ray (the largest ray species, which can reach 7m in wingspan) generally “fly” in open water, some others are bottom swimmers. This is particularly the case for stingrays, which also have one or more poisonous stings at the base of the tail, which can cause serious injuries. Some other species, like torpedo rays (however much rarer), can produce and electric discharge in case of danger.

Where are rays found?

It is relatively easy for snorkelers to spot rays. The reef manta ray, which lives in all tropical seas of the world, is common in the Maldives reef drop offs, in the Tuamotu Islands passes, or on some specific spots in Big Island and Indonesia. Aetobatus ocellatus (found in the Indopacific, and really abundant in the Seychelles), Aetobatus laticeps (which occurs in the Eastern Pacific) and Aetobatus narinari (found in the Caribbean), the spotted eagle rays, are almost indistinguishable from each other. The Southern stingray is the most common ray in the Caribbean. You can see it randomly almost everywhere in the archipelago. In some snorkeling sites in Cayman Islands, Belize or Antigua, they are even tamed and fed by local tour operators. In Tahiti and Moorea, the pink whipray is common in the lagoons. Finally, recognizable by its colorful pattern, the bluespotted ribbontail ray is common at reef in Southeast Asia and the Great Barrier Reef.

Circumtropical rays

Caribbean and Atlantic Ocean rays

Indian and Pacific Oceans rays

Eastern Pacific rays

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Check out our top10 snorkeling spots to swim with rays!

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