Scuba diving is a fantastic way to discover magic below the waves with moments that are nothing short of exhilarating. Every dive site offers its own unique features and hidden gems and avid divers can look forward to multiple opportunities for unforgettable, one-of-a-kind marine life encounters and whatever adventure that’s waiting right around the corner.
This is especially true when you’re diving in one of the world’s richest and most diverse locations – Indonesia’s very own Raja Ampat. Thanks to its splendid location in the Coral Triangle and unique position between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, it is home to the richest marine biodiversity on earth. Over 75% of the world’s marine species can be found here, as well as more than 500 types of corals, over 1000 species of fish and more than 700 types of molluscs. It’s no wonder that Raja Ampat is a favourite with divers and explorers from all over the world!
At Mikumba Diving, our guests have continuously and delightfully exclaimed over the astonishing varieties of marine creatures that they have come face-to-face with while diving in Raja Ampat, but the creatures that have won over hundreds of hearts are the manta rays and stingrays. These gentle & intelligent giants are a favourite with our guests due to their graceful and playful nature and stunning streamlined movement underwater.
5 Differences Between Manta Rays and Stingrays
While they may appear similar, manta rays are often confused with stingrays but it is important to remember that these are two separate, equally wonderful species with their own sets of physical traits and behaviour patterns. So let’s take a look at the major differences between a manta ray and a stingray:
Manta rays and stingrays may be relatives but they belong to two different “families”. They both have similar physical attributes, including flat body shapes and long tails. Both have cartilage instead of bones, which puts them in the same family group as sharks. Both species also give birth to live young instead of eggs. It’s important to note that there are only two species of manta rays, but more than 100 different stingray species.
Manta rays are much larger than stingrays. The largest manta ray in the world can grow anywhere from 4.5 to 9 metres and weigh up to 3000 kg. In comparison, the average-sized Atlantic stingray would grow up to 61 cm and weigh only 4.9 kg while a large short-tail stingray or a giant freshwater stingray can grow up to 2.2 metres and 2.2 metres wide.
Manta rays live in the open ocean and prefer tropical, subtropical, and warm temperate waters. Like manta rays, stingrays also like to live in warmer and subtropical waters. The difference here is that manta rays are often out in the open water while stingrays prefer to “hide” in the seafloor underneath mounds of sand. To avoid stepping on a stingray, it is recommended to shuffle in the sand to alert stingrays that you’re nearby!
Manta rays eat large quantities of zooplankton and tiny animals like mysid shrimps and arrow worms. Its mouth is located at the front of its body with lobes or fins on either side of its head that extend to help it feed. These fins are used to funnel large amounts of water into its mouth and the gills that line its throat. Stingrays, meanwhile, are purely carnivorous. Its mouth is located at the bottom of its body, which allows it to feed on sea creatures that live on or beneath the sand like crabs, worms, clams, oysters, snails, shrimp, clams and squid.
5. The Tail
The most significant trait that separates a manta ray from a stingray is its tail. Both have long tails, but stingrays possess venomous spines – also called barbs – at the base of their tails close to their bodies. A stingray’s venom could be fatal to humans but do remember that to be stung, one would actually have to be standing on top of its body. Do note that fatal stingray attacks on humans are extremely rare; these creatures are shy and gentle and would prefer to swim away than strike. It reserves its stinger for its predators – sharks and other large carnivorous fish.
Diving with Mikumba Liveaboard
Now that we know the differences between manta rays and stingrays, it’s time to book a diving trip to Raja Ampat with Mikumba Diving Liveaboard. While you cruise through the sea with our boat, Jelajahi Laut, you can swim, play and get up close to these gentle and incredible giants, including reef mantas and oceanic mantas.