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Hanifaru Bay, in Baa Atoll, is a unique snorkeling site. It is famous for its spectacular congregation of manta rays and massive feeding events, considered the largest in the world. In addition to the mantas, snorkelers will enjoy the frequent presence of whale sharks, also attracted by the plankton-filled waters of the bay.

Manta ray at Hanifaru Bay
A Manta ray at Hanifaru Bay.

How to get to Hanifaru Bay snorkeling spot?

Hanifaru Bay is located at the south-east corner of Baa Atoll, North Maldives. It is within easy reach from several inhabited islands, including Dharavandhoo (the largest, equipped with an airstrip), just across Hanifaru Bay, and Dhonfanu, only separated from Hanifaru by a 200-metre-wide channel.

There are also several resort islands in the area, such as Kihaa Maldives (Kihaaduffaru Island), Dusit Thani Maldives (Mudhdhoo Island) and Dreamland Maldives (Hirundhoo Island).

To reach Hanifaru Bay, you’ll need to book a tour with an independent dive club (if you’re staying on an inhabited island) or with your hotel’s dive club (if you’re staying on a resort island). Most offered tours are half-day.

Hanifaru Bay snorkeling map.
Hanifaru Bay snorkeling map.

Water entrance for snorkeling Hanifaru Bay

The water entrance is from the tour boat, usually at the northern edge of Hanifaru Bay.

Snorkeling with the Mantas (and Whale Sharks) at Hanifaru Bay

The Manta season in Hanifaru runs from May to November, during the southwest monsoon, but the largest gatherings are observed between July and October. It is also during this season that Whale Sharks are commonly seen in the bay.

Snorkeling boat at Hanifaru Bay
Tour boats and snorkelers observing Mantas at Hanifaru Bay.

The unique shape and orientation of Hanifaru Bay plays a key role in the presence of the Manta rays. This long and narrow bay, with a dead end to the east, causes the plankton carried up by the southwest currents to get trapped in. The high concentration of plankton, sometimes described as a “plankton soup”, leads to huge mantas aggregations.

Snorkeling sessions usually start along the northern edge of the bay (atoll side). Depending on the day, the mantas can be seen on the reef top – sometimes in just 3 to 6 feet/1 or 2 meters of water – or in the deeper areas in the center of the bay.

Manta ray at Hanifaru Bay
Feeding Manta ray at Hanifaru Bay.

During the Manta season, sightings are almost guaranteed. While there are usually a few dozen rays feeding independently in the bay, lucky snorkelers might witness mass feeding events, which can involve over 200 Mantas. Chain feeding (Mantas forming a line) or cyclone feeding (Mantas forming a large circle) are among the most spectacular.

In addition to Manta rays, Whale sharks, also feeding on plankton, are a frequent sight in Hanifaru Bay. It is not uncommon to spot whale sharks feeding alongside the mantas.

School of fusiliers at Hanifaru Bay
A school of fusiliers at Hanifaru Bay.

Manta rays and Whale Sharks are protected species in the Maldives. It is forbidden to chase them, touch them, or get too close to them. Your guide will brief you when you arrive at the location.

Restaurants and accommodations nearby

Hanifaru is a tiny, uninhabited island. Most tours last less than 4 hours and do not include lunch. Inquire before booking.


  • Level required Intermediate
  • Protected areaBaa Atoll Biosphere Reserve
  • Maximum depth50 ft/15 m
  • Water entranceFrom a boat
  • Visitor numbersMedium to high
  • Access costsCost of a snorkeling tour
  • Restaurants nearbyNo

MAP Spot

These spots are accessible to anyone with basic snorkeling skills, and feeling comfortable in the water and with his snorkeling gear. You will enter the water from the shore (beach, pontoon, ladder, rocks) or from a boat. The water height in the sea entrance area is reasonable, but you will not necessarily be within your depth. Moderate currents can occur in the area, even when the sea conditions are good. The distance to swim to reach the most interesting snorkeling areas of the spot does not exceed 200 meters.

This level only apply when the spot experiences optimal sea and/or weather conditions. It is not applicable if the sea and/or weather conditions deteriorate, in particular in the presence of rough sea, rain, strong wind, unusual current, large tides, waves and/or swell. You can find more details about the definition of our snorkeling levels on our snorkeling safety page.