Hanifaru Bay

Hanifaru Bay: Heaven for Manta Rays and Whale Sharks

Hanifaru Bay is a natural marine sanctuary nestled within the Baa Atoll UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in the Maldives.

What sets Hanifaru Bay apart from other travel destinations is its extraordinary concentration of manta rays and whale sharks, offering a once-in-a-lifetime experience for nature enthusiasts and marine life lovers. The bay’s pristine waters, vibrant coral reefs, and diverse marine life create a mesmerizing underwater world that will leave you with memories to cherish for a lifetime.

Recognized for its ecological significance, Hanifaru Bay was declared a Marine Protected Area in 2009 and later incorporated into the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve in 2011.

Snorkeling with manta rays

Hanifaru Bay Location, Wildlife, and Natural Beauty

Situated in the heart of the Baa Atoll, Hanifaru Bay is a small, crescent-shaped lagoon renowned for its vibrant marine life and unique underwater environment.

The Hanifaru bay’s nutrient-rich waters attract an abundance of sea creatures, most notably the world’s largest gathering of manta rays and whale sharks between June and November. This remarkable phenomenon occurs when the South-West Monsoon season pushes plankton into the bay, creating a feeding frenzy that draws these magnificent creatures in astonishing numbers.

Getting to Hanifaru Bay and Entry Fees

To reach Hanifaru Bay, you’ll first need to fly into Velana International Airport (MLE) near Male. From there, take a domestic flight to Dharavandhoo Airport (DRV) in Baa Atoll, followed by a speedboat or traditional Maldivian dhoni to the bay. Alternatively, some resorts in Baa Atoll offer direct seaplane transfers from Velana International Airport.

The ideal time to visit Hanifaru Bay is during the South-West Monsoon season, specifically between June and November when manta rays and whale sharks frequent the area. Keep in mind that visiting the bay requires a permit, which can be obtained through a licensed tour operator or your resort. The permit fee helps support the conservation efforts of the Baa Atoll Conservation Fund.

Practical Advice

Dress code: As the Maldives is a predominantly Muslim country, it’s essential to dress modestly when visiting public areas and local islands. Lightweight, breathable clothing that covers your shoulders and knees is recommended.

Bring essential gear: If you plan on snorkeling or diving in Hanifaru Bay, pack your mask, snorkel, and fins, as equipment rental options or sizes may be limited. Additionally, consider bringing an underwater camera or waterproof phone case to capture the incredible marine life.

Be aware of restrictions: To protect the fragile marine ecosystem, the use of scuba tanks is prohibited within the bay, and only snorkeling is allowed. Touching or feeding the marine life is strictly forbidden, and visitors must maintain a safe distance from the animals at all times

Activities and Local Cuisine

Snorkeling is the primary activity in Hanifaru Bay, providing an unparalleled opportunity to witness the majestic manta rays and whale sharks up close. Guided snorkeling tours led by experienced marine biologists are available through licensed operators, offering valuable insights into the bay’s unique ecosystem.

After a day of snorkeling, indulge in the flavors of Maldivian cuisine at local island or nearby resorts. You can sample some traditional dishes such as mas huni, roshi, garudhiya, gulha and bis keemiya at local islands nearby.

Preserving the Marine Environment

Preserving the marine environment is crucial to ensuring the continued survival of Hanifaru Bay’s unique wildlife. Follow all guidelines provided by your tour operator, and practice responsible tourism by minimizing your impact on the environment and respecting local customs and regulations.


Hanifaru Bay is a must-visit destination in the Maldives for anyone seeking an unforgettable marine adventure. With its unparalleled wildlife encounters, breathtaking natural beauty, and rich cultural heritage, the bay promises a truly unique and awe-inspiring experience.