This endangered species is the largest living fish in the world and known to reach lengths in excess of 14 metres (46 feet plus). Up close you can see markings of alternating thin white vertical bars, columns of white spots on a dark background and also long ridges on the upper side of the body.
The Whale Shark is an amazing animal to observe closely and you do not even need to be a qualified diver to swim with these gentle creatures from the deep. They have peaceful natures and are quite harmless. Humans appear to be their only predator with hunting practices now on the rise.
Whale Sharks have wide flat heads with mouths that extend from one side to the other. They eat small schooling fish and also tiny plants and algae while slowly swimming along near the surface. Whale Sharks take in massive amounts of sea water in steady gulps and use a filter-feeding method to trap food particles.
The Manta Ray is classified as a fish. It is one of the biggest and a great deal about its life continues to be a mystery. The largest known Manta Ray specimen is more than 7.6 metres (25 feet) across, with a weight of about 2 300kg (362 stones). Mantas are directly related to the Stingray but they donít have a stinging barb.
The anatomy of the Manta Ray is of great interest to researchers, as its design demonstrates an excellent ability to evolve and adapt for the survival of the species. Mantas mouths are lined with lots of sharp teeth and situated on top of their heads. The teeth are not for eating purposes but an efficient filter feeding system is used instead.
Mantas are very acrobatic despite their shape and can even jump completely out of the water. They are curious and will often surface to investigate stationary boats without their engines running. As they move through the water their swimming action is graceful and similar to the flapping of a birdís wings. Mantas are incredibly fast, swimming and darting away quicker than the human eye can follow.
Where to find Whale Sharks and Manta Rays in Mozambique
These marine animals can be spotted throughout the year in Mozambique waters, but they tend to be more often seen in the summer. Two hotspots for viewing them while on diving and snorkelling excursions are Praia do Tofo and the Bazaruto Archipelago.
In Tofo they are most concentrated between September and February and in the Bazaruto Archipelago they congregate between October and April. February is the month for cyclones though. You can swim and snorkel with them but you will need to be responsible and follow strict guidelines for interaction. Always enquire about the probability of seeing these creatures when booking your Mozambique holiday so you donít arrive out of season or in a bad season.