An immersive and unique experience which contributes to ocean conservation. Dive into a one-of-a-kind holiday! Go deeper for a purpose.

manta conservation

© Nuno Sá

An immersive and unique experience which contributes to ocean conservation. Dive into a one-of-a-kind holiday! Go deeper for a purpose.

Every year, dozens of sicklefin devil rays and manta rays gather in the Azorean Sea, near the island of Santa Maria. Where do they come from? Where do they go? Do the same individuals return every year?

These are some of the questions that arise from the curiosity of scientists and all those who are passionate about these mysterious animals.

For one week, you will be able to swim in the fantastic underwater world of the Azores, join the team leading the Manta Catalog Azores conservation project, discover more about the devil rays, learn about techniques of photo-identification and contribute to the protection of these threatened species.

manta conservation

© Nuno Sá


  • Swim in the unique and amazing underwater world of the Azores and learn more about the sicklefin devil rays and manta rays that gather near the Island of Santa Maria.
  • Experience an 8-day programme to discover the best diving spots and explore the unique beauty of Santa Maria Island.
  • Learn and get hands-on experience in conservation research guided by researcher Ana Filipa Sobral, the Manta Catalog Azores conservation project leader.
  • Learn Photo-ID techniques and upload your work on the Manta Catalog Azores database, contributing to the wider knowledge of these species and ultimately to their conservation globally.
  • Discover some of the most authentic and iconic spots of the Santa Maria with a trip around the island.
  • Experience genuine local culture - and authentic local Food.
  • Be a part of an exclusive experience (maximum of 6 participants).
  • Join local communities in the protection of nature, raising awareness not only for these threatened species but also for the urgency to ensure a sustainable future for these ecosystems.


  • Considered one of the European top diving destinations, the Azorean Sea has an extremely diverse and rich marine life. Dive with the manta rays in Azorean waters; you may meet with sharks, whales, and dolphins.
  • Two dives per day in the Atlantic Ocean: a daily dive at the Ambrosio seamount with a second dive in a variety of spots in Natural Reserves and Marine Protected Areas such as the islets of Formigas.
  • Crystal-clear waters (reaching up to 40 meters visibility), untouched nature and a huge variety of underwater geological formations and amazing diving sites.
  • Diving in Santa Maria is a very exclusive experience. Diving companies are committed to preserving protected areas and respect a strict diving schedule, so there is only one company and limited number of divers per time slot in each place.
manta conservation

© Nuno Sá


Participants will have a unique, immersive experience and a deep connection with the ocean. They will experience unforgettable moments of personal fulfilment while contributing directly to ocean conservation.

In addition to the lifelong memories that become stories to relive and share, participants will also gain knowledge that they can hopefully apply in the future. They will also leave the experience with the certainty that they have strongly contributed to the sustainability of this conservation project. Curiosity and a desire to make a difference are the main requirements for participation in this experience. Come aboard on one-of-a-kind holiday for experienced divers.


manta conservation

Unforgettable moments of personal fulfilment while,at the same time, contributing to ocean conservation.

manta conservation

© Pepe Brix


Located in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, just a few hours from both mainland Europe and North America, the Azores archipelago has a unique natural heritage and historic relationship with the ocean. Comprised of nine islands and extending from the coastline to the depths of the open sea are important marine ecosystems such as seamounts, hydrothermal vents and deep coral gardens.

The volcanic origin of the Azores archipelago, its remote location and the strong influence of the Gulf stream make the islands and surrounding waters an oasis for Atlantic species. The Azores’ temperate waters are home to an incredible biodiversity! Swimming in this unique deep blue world, manta and devil rays are charismatic species that capture the imagination of island visitors.

Santa Maria is the oldest island of the Azores, existing for over 6 million years. It is a small island, measuring approximately 17 kilometres long by nine kilometres wide and boasts a population of close to 5500 people. Together with the Island of São Miguel, they form the Eastern Group of the Azores archipelago. Being the most southerly and easterly island in the Azores, Santa Maria has a warmer and drier climate and is known as the Sunshine Island.

Despite its importance and richness, the Azorean natural patrimony is fragile and needs to be protected.

Engaging local and tourist communities in the protection of these habitats and raising awareness of the urgency to protect them are top priorities for conservation projects in order to ensure a sustainable future for the ocean.

Santa Maria, Azores - Map
manta conservation

© Nuno Sá


Oceanário’s mission is to encourage people to learn more about the ocean and make all citizens aware of their responsibility to conserve their natural heritage by changing human behaviour. Oceanário de Lisboa finances various conservation projects around the world, including in the Azores, where it helps to raise awareness of the natural value of the archipelago.

The Manta Conservation Experience, founded in 2021, as a programme promoting manta ray conservation projects as well as to create economic opportunities for local parties.

This unique experience is helping to raise awareness of environmental issues and, at the same time, invites participants to contribute directly to manta and devil ray conservation, even after their experience ends.
The primary partner of this programme is Manta Catalog Azores, a project documenting the occurrence and aggregations of sicklefin devil ray (Mobula tarapacana) and the oceanic manta ray (Mobula birostris) in the Azores. Its objective is to increase knowledge on the behaviour of these species and to identify necessary actions for their protection.


© Nuno Sá

manta conservation

© Nuno Sá


Founded in 2012, Manta Catalog Azores is a conservation project that has been dedicated to the study of the population dynamics and temporal patterns of occurrence of mobula rays in the Azores and the Eastern Atlantic - a region where little information has been collected to understand these elusive rays.

The Azores is one of the few places on earth where sicklefin devil rays (Mobula tarapacana) gather in large groups. These aggregations occur every year in the summer months at shallow, diveable seamounts in the region.
Worldwide research on manta rays has focussed on the collection of ID photos (images that capture the unique patterns found on the ventral side of each animal). These images, along with the location and date when they were taken, allow researchers to track individuals and their movements over time.
Because mobula rays are highly migratory and currently extremely vulnerable, understanding their ecology and behaviour is crucial to support effective management and conservation actions.

manta conservation

© Nuno Sá


Manta Conservation Experience is an experience focussed on mobula rays that also aims to set the ground for more conscientious and sustainable dive practices in the region. Awareness of the importance of responsible dive practices, scientific data collection and conservation will drive change through better and more informed conservation and management measures and more involved stakeholders. By participating in this experience, you will be:

  • Collecting valuable data that will contribute to the wider knowledge of these species, their populations, the unique ecosystems and ultimately to manta conservation, not only locally but globally;
  • Raising the number of IDed animals and contributing to Manta Catalog Azores’ growing database, image analyses and data publications;
  • Supporting the project’s research efforts by boosting financial sustainability, which will allow for a larger and full-time dedicated team and continuous long-term study of these species and ecosystems;
  • Helping to grow a wider community of ambassadors for the conservation of these animals.


manta conservation

© Nuno Sá


30 July to 6 August 2023

6 to 13 August 2023

3 to 10 September 2023

21 to 28 July 2024

28 July to 4 August 2024

25 August to 1 September 2024


  • 8 days / 7 nights
  • 10 dives - 2 daily dives, subject to weather and sailing conditions
  • Dive with the manta rays at the Ambrosio Seamount, Formigas Islet, and in several spots along the coast of the Island of Santa Maria
  • Daily guidance by Ana Filipa Sobral (Manta Catalog Azores project leader)
  • Diving boats are semi-rigid inflatable ribs, with twin four-stroke engines, accommodating up to six divers plus project team members
  • Equipment: 12L steel tanks (DIN or INT) and weight belts
  • Conservation Photography (Photo-ID) workshop with photographer Nuno Vasco Rodrigues
  • Accommodation in a 4**** Hotel, Santa Maria Hotel
  • Meals and drinks (soft drinks, tea and coffee)
  • Leisure activities in Santa Maria inland
  • Transportation to and from Santa Maria Airport
  • Taxes and service fees

Prices are in euros per guest and based on single hotel room occupancy. Maximum of 6 participants.

This amazing adventure requires an Advanced Open Water certification level
(Open Water certification might be accepted in cases of proven extensive diving)

©Nuno Vasco Rodrigues

manta conservation

© Nuno Vasco Rodrigues


  • Flights
  • Dive courses
  • Wet suit rental *
  • Add-on excursions **
    (for example hiking/BTT tour, birdwatching, canyoning …)
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Travel insurance ***

* Price depends on equipment needed
** We can help you arrange these extras
*** Dive insurance is required and general travel insurance is highly recommended

manta conservation

© Ana Filipa Sobral

Other useful information:

  • Water temperature usually is 19-24 ºC
  • Air temperature 18-26 ºC
  • 5mm or 7 mm wet suit recommended
  • Sea and weather conditions may vary a lot and the program may need to be adjusted accordingly

For more information, please contact us:

Payment conditions

50% at the time of booking and the remaining 50% up to 4 weeks before the beginning of the programme.

Cancellation Policy

Cancellations up to 4 weeks before the start of the programme: fee of 30% of total cost will be deducted and the remainder will be refunded. Cancellations less than 4 weeks before the programme starts: no refund.


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manta conservation