Manta Conservation Experience connects divers with researchers to contribute to ocean conservation.

Every year, dozens of sicklefin devil rays and manta rays gather near the island of Santa Maria. Despite divers from all over the world traveling to the Azores to see these gentle fishes, there is still a lack of scientific knowledge about these populations. The Oceanário de Lisboa launch a programme to challenge the average diver to go deeper for a purpose: contribute to the protection of manta rays.

The Manta Conservation Experience is a unique conservation-tourism programme that widens environmental awareness and knowledge about mantas and other endangered marine life, while empowering participants to contribute directly to their conservation, even after their experience.

For one week, participants will be able to dive twice a day in the fantastic underwater world of the Azores, in the best diving spots off the coast of Santa Maria Island, in Natural Reserves and Marine Protected Areas which have a huge variety of underwater geological formations and extremely diverse and rich marine life – not only devil rays but, potentially, divers may also meet with sharks, whales, and dolphins. A very exclusive experience since in Santa Maria only a very limited number of divers per time slot in each place is allowed, to preserve and respect protected areas.

Learn more about the Manta Conservation Experience programme by Oceanário de Lisboa!

“Considered one of the European top diving destinations, the Azorean Sea is rich in biodiversity. Although there are plenty of diving options in the Azores, Manta Conservation Experience is the first conservation-orientated programme that offers divers the opportunity to work together with scientists and wider knowledge of the species, and this is completely distinctive”, says Núria Baylina, Oceanário the Lisboa’s Curator and Conservation director.

The small group will be led by researcher Ana Filipa Sobral, the Manta Catalog Azores conservation project leader, on a journey, to discover more about the sicklefin devil rays (Mobula tarapacana) and oceanic manta rays (Mobula birostris), to learn photo-identification techniques and, by so, help to collect valuable data and photos for scientific research.

“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 a dated location - since mobula rays are highly migratory - allow researchers to track individuals and their movements over time”, explains Ana Filipa Sobral. “We aim to ensure that participants leave this trip with an increased awareness of the fragility of these species and ecosystems and, more importantly, we want to empower average divers. Manta Conservation Experience aims to inspire new conservationists and give them tools to go deeper for a purpose”.

Manta Conservation Experience junta o turismo e a conservação na ilha de Santa Maria, nos Açores.

Be part of an exclusive experience to discover the enchanting Azorean marine ecosystems, with crystal clear waters (reaching up to 40 metres visibility) and nature in its purest state. Join the Manta Conservation Experience on a dive with manta rays and participate in scientific research that contributes to expanding knowledge about these species and their global conservation.

- 21 to 28 July 2024;
- 28 July to 4 August 2024;
- 25 August to 1 September 2024.

Registration are limited to a maximum of 6 participants per edition and cost of 3,600 euros (based on the occupancy of a single 4**** hotel room), a value that supports the financial sustainability of the Manta Catalog Azores project, allowing for a larger and full-time dedicated team to the study and continuous monitoring of the manta ray species present in the Eastern Atlantic.

Manta Conservation Experience is bookable online at oceanario.pt.

Watch the videos here and here.

About Oceanário de Lisboa

Recognized three times as "the best aquarium in the world" by Tripadvisor's Travellers' Choice, the Oceanário de Lisboa is a place that brings the ocean to the city through the nearly 500 marine species that inhabit it. The Oceanário's mission is to encourage visitors to learn more about the ocean, making them aware of their responsibility in conserving our natural heritage by changing their behaviour towards a more sustainable society.

Oceanário de Lisboa finances various conservation projects worldwide, 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 for conservation tourism, is tied to manta ray conservation and aims to ensure financial sustainability for 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.