Located to the north of the Aliwal Shoal reef system on the eastern side of the Pinnacles, Manta Point is undoubtedly one of the reef’s best-kept secrets. It doesn’t share the iconic status bestowed upon better-known sites like Raggies Cave and Cathedral, but it is nevertheless a firm favourite amongst those that have explored the Shoal beyond its most obvious highlights. Although Manta Point has a maximum depth of 22 metres, it is a multi-level dive with plenty to see as shallow as 12 metres. Thanks to the diversity of its topography, it is a site with something for everyone – from the newest Open Water diver to the veteran Divemaster.
Maximum Depth: 22 metres
Minimum Qualification: Open Water diver
A Cleaning Station
Dives on Manta Point typically begin on the shallow point that gives the site its name. Thereafter, the reef tapers into deeper water on one side, and follows the spine of the Pinnacles southwards on the other. Home to a profusion of both hard and soft coral, this site is one of the most colourful on the Shoal, and as such provides a particularly photogenic backdrop for amateur and professional underwater photographers. There’s no lack of subject matter either, as Manta Point’s dramatic topography acts as a natural magnet for a wealth of tropical fish life. Often, the reef itself is all but obscured behind technicolor clouds of pale pink and orange anthias.
The reef wall is a veritable maze of gullies, potholes, overhangs and swim throughs, and each one of these recesses provides a potential home for exciting marine life. During the cool winter months, the dive site is often patrolled by ragged-tooth sharks, who congregate on the Shoal every winter to mate. Adorned with rows of razor-sharp teeth and sometimes exceeding three metres in length, the sharks cut a fearsome figure – and yet, they are known for their placid nature. They are nocturnal hunters and spend their daylight hours conserving energy by hanging motionless above the reef. To encounter one whilst exploring Manta Point’s nooks and crannies is truly an unforgettable experience.
Out of shark season, the reef’s hidden spaces are far from bereft. They provide a treasure trove of sightings, some predictable, others of which change on a day-to- day basis. The larger caverns and hollows provide a convenient resting place for green turtles, sleeping round-ribbontail rays and enormous, petulant-looking potato bass.
The smaller crevices are a macro photographer’s paradise, offering refuge for a plethora of commensal shrimp species, as well as nudibranch, octopus, crabs and moray eels. Manta Point is also rich in painted rock lobster, and slender feelers waving from beneath hidden ledges are a common sight at this dive site.
Of course, Manta Point was so named for a reason, and it is also well-known as one of the best places to see the giant rays during the summer months. Perhaps they are drawn to the nutrient-rich upwellings created by the nearby Pinnacles, or perhaps they employ the services of the reef’s cleaner species to help rid them of unwanted parasites. Whatever the reason for their patronage, watching from the seafloor as these incredible animals eclipse the sun above is certainly a bucket-list experience for any discerning diver. On days with a slight north to south current, Manta Point is also the perfect starting point for a scenic drift dive to Raggies Cave.
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