Manta Sandy Ranger Station

Manta Sandy is a well-known cleaning station in the Dampier Strait region. Known for its regular sightings of mantas during the season, it has become a ‘must see’ dive site for all operators, and a location suitable for scientists and film-makers to observe these stunning creatures. However, this high and ever increasing level of human traffic can see up to 9 boats drop up to 50 divers at a time at this location. Whilst some effort has been made to moderate diver behavior (a “do not cross” rubble line) this moderation is not always adhered to, or enforced. Poor diver and/or operator behavior such as entering the cleaning station or dropping divers right on top of mantas, as well as the sheer volume of divers and boat traffic was noted to be having a direct impact upon the number of mantas in the area.

The dable above displays data from our Orang Laut Raja Ampat monitoring project and shows a correlation between the number of boats onsite and manta ray sightings (more boats >> less mantas!)

The Challenge

To increase tourism regulation to minimise the impact of tourism on mantas and the reef environment

In collaboration with Conservation International, Marine Megafauna Foundation, local government, villages and local homestays, Papua Diving, Raja4Divers, Papua Explorers, Raja Ampat Liveaboard Association (Jangkar), a permanent ranger station was established to manage the site.

A team of four rangers was selected from villages of Arborek and Kapisawor due to their close proximity to Manta Sandy, and the understanding that by selecting rangers from the local community we could foster a strong sense of ownership with a natural inclination to protect local waters. Selecting local rangers also enabled us to improve livelihoods through the creation of jobs funded directly by the marine park entry fee.

This Ranger station is staffed by four rangers who are mandated to:

  • enforce an upper limit (max 20 people) to the number of divers and snorkellers onsite at any given time, via a booking system
  • designate a clear entry and exit for the site with a ‘no-go’ zone for boats over and around the cleaning station
  • establish a clear and enforceable code of conduct for human / manta interaction
  • serve as a checkpoint for all operators, whereby marine park tags of all divers and snorkelers can be checked.

All operators accessing the site are required to make a booking, report to the rangers on arrival, show marine park tags, then dive/snorkel the site as per the official Code of Conduct.

Code of Conduct for Scuba Divers at Manta Sandy  – Click Here
Code of Conduct for Snorkelers at Manta Sandy – Click Here
SOP for any visitor or tourism operator to  Manta Sandy – Click Here

These regulations help to ensure that tourism around the site is kept sustainable, impact on manta behaviour and aggregations are minimised, whilst still offering visitors a wonderful opportunity to view the manta rays cleaning and feeding.

Preliminary signs showing positive impact

Preliminary signs are showing a positive effect of the Ranger Station at Manta Sandy. After the 2017/18 manta season, we now have preliminary data that indicates that since the implementation of the Ranger Station, and subsequent regulation around the number of divers and boat behaviour, there is a correlation with a higher number of mantas aggregating on the site. This data needs further analysis, however preliminary signs suggest that the Ranger Station is having a positive effect.

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