Manta Ray Cleaning Stations in Palau, What are They and Where to Find Them?
Manta Ray Cleaning Stations are certain locations where fish, mantas and sharks come to get their skin, gills and teeth cleaned by parasitic copepods and a variety of small cleaner wrasse species. Mantas spend many hours every day getting cleaned and can even wait in line for their turn.
In Palau, mantas are a big attraction
German Channel is one of the most visited manta ray cleaning stations in the islands. Clusters of rocks on the northern side of German Channel give shelter to an abundance of tropical fish. Butterfly fish and cleaner wrasse living amongst the cable corals and whip corals here. These fish are integral in the cleaning process of the majestic mantas.
The mantas in German Channel typically come up a deep sandy slope to an isolated coral head at 50 feet deep where they hover over a rock outcrop and allow the fish to clean their bodies. Even the sharks sneak in line and hover, opening thier mouths to let the fish clean their rows of teeth. It can become a regular manta and shark “car” wash.
Book a front row seat at one of the Manta Ray Cleaning Stations
Scuba divers position themselves on the ocean floor kneeling near the rock outcrop and simply wait. The mantas glide in against the current and hover just above the rock outcrop. Their bodies remain still, allowing the fish to do thier job, meanwhile photographers have a field day snapping away for the perfect shot. One a good day, one manta swoops in right after another and sharks make there way in the line up for a little teeth cleaning action as well.
Next stop German Channel
German Channel also serves as one of the manta Ray Cleaning Stations in Palau. After the manta rays are well manicured they often swoop above to the shallower depths above the cleaning station and open their cephalic lobes and take in all the plankton the tide brought in through the channel.
Seldom do the mantas visit German Channel during low tide when the water is warm and murky. They often come in on an incoming tide and divers typically follow during slack high tide to avoid uncomfortably strong currents.
Manta movements and the plankton they feed upon are intricately tied to the lunar cycles. During the full moon and the half moon manta activity usually increases at cleaning and feeding stations. Guides and researchers have noticed the mantas are moving deeper along the reef- perhaps to get away from all the divers and strobes. They are finding other popular manta ray cleaning stations to hangout.
Other prominent coral heads/reefs that get a significant current are seeing more and more of these creatures. Places like Develfish City in Ngardmau and Ulong Sandbar are becoming more frequently visited by these beautiful creatures.
Would you like to book a front row seat at one of the Manta ray cleaning stations in Palau with us?
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