What happens if you touch a manta ray?

by | Jan 25, 2019 | Protecting Manta Rays

One of the most frequently asked questions we get is “Can we touch the mantas?” and the short answer is NO, but today I want to dive a little deeper into this.

Have you ever touched a fish?

And we don’t mean the ones that are already prepared in Sushi or “fish and chips”- LOL.

Fish feel slimy because of a mucus coating which makes it hard to hold and easily slip through the fingers.

As a fish, manta rays also have this slime coating on their bodies. It protects them from bacteria and if it is removed, it can expose the mantas to infection. As a general rule, our belief is that we should not touch anything that lives in the ocean like dolphins, turtles, coral, etc.

The usual follow-up question is:

Why do the Mantas have red sores on their underbelly or cephalic fins?

We think there are two reasons for these abrasions:

1. Natural-rubbing against rock and coral or during the mating ritual
2. Human impact-touching

Check out the following comparison of Curly Ray and Koie Ray.

Both mantas were identified over 18 years ago. As long as we remember, Curly Ray has had redness and sores on his cephalic fins and underside. Koie Ray has always been “clean”.

Statistics from 2012 and 2013 show that we saw Curly 60-100 times at the night feeding grounds, whereas Koie Ray as one of the top “performers” was seen 218 and 245 times. While Curly comes less often, he has more abrasions than Koie Ray. Why is that? We think that once the slime coating is gone, Curly has not been able to recover (from it) so the affected areas stay red.


We have also seen Manta Rays with black spiny sea urchins sticking out of their body (mouth or cephalic fins), which would indicate that they get too close to the reef and seem to run into “stuff” and contributes naturally to lose the protective coating. Who would have thought mantas are clumsy? 🙂

The good news is that they survive even with the redness and abrasions but it does not mean humans should touch them.

Many of the Kona mantas come very close to participants during the manta experience, and our philosophy is to enter their environment as guests showing respect, appreciation and to DO NO HARM!

Aiden’s Motto: “Nothing I Can’t Do!”


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With Aloha


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