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Manta Tour Operator Standards


Manta Tour Guides and Operators, these are a voluntary set of standards created in 2013 by manta tour operators.  Please consult your company's policy in regards to these standards. These standards are NOT in rule or law through the State of Hawaii at this time.



The purpose of the Manta Tour Operator Standards is to increase the safety of manta rays and their habitat as well as the safety of the users and participants of the manta tour experience.  The goal is to establish community practices and to educate those people involved.



Users include but are not limited to: owners of manta tour operations, boat captains and crew, snorkel or scuba diving guides, professional videographers or photographers, etc.



Participants include but are not limited to: passengers, kayakers, paddle boarders, snorkelers, scuba divers, recreational videographers or photographers, etc. 


1) Manta Tour Conduct
  • All users and participants are expected to work cooperatively as a community at the manta viewing sites with the existing best practices for the area.


  • Improving existing practices are encouraged, but should be a cooperative effort.  


  • Professional and courteous conduct expected among all users and participants.


2) Boat Procedures and Mooring Use


  • When approaching or departing the manta viewing area, make safe speed with no wake and post a look out.  Watch for snorkelers, divers, mantas, and other marine life.  Avoid driving through area of human and marine life activity.


  • Captains must monitor marine radio channel 16 per United States Coast Guard requirements and should use channel 14 for manta site communication. 


  • Work cooperatively with other boaters when using moorings to safely maximize utilization of the site.  Choose a mooring that will enhance the safety and experience of all participants at the site.


  • Mooring ball located subsurface.  Boat crew expected to enter water with a line from the boat, dive down to the ball, thread the line through the eye on the mooring ball, and swim the line back up to boat where it will be secured.


  • The crew must check that the mooring is adequate and usable.  Moorings in need of repair must be reported immediately.


  • Although discouraged, if anchoring, observe State rules and regulations.  Have a crew member in the water when deploying the anchor to avoid people, coral, and other marine life.


  • Avoid live boating, but when necessary avoid driving though the area of human and marine life activity. 


  • All vessels (boats, kayaks, paddle boards, surf boards, etc.) must display required navigation lights.  Please reference USCG rules.


  • All boats must comply with applicable federal and state rules and regulations.  All commercial operators must have a commercial operating permit from the State of Hawaii. 


3) To prevent manta injury or entanglement


  • Lights from boats must be used in a manner to be safe for manta rays and other marine life.


  • All operators/users must eliminate in-water light use near boat ladders, rudders, propellers, or other harmful boat apparatus where manta contact may occur.  This includes, but is not limited to: hull lights, snorkel raft lights, or lights from videographers.


  • Subsurface lights from boats may only be used if lights are more than 30 feet from boat ladders, rudders, propellers, or other harmful boat apparatus where manta contact may occur.


  • Operators must not attract mantas near their boats if other users and participants are at the site.


  • Boat operators may use deck lighting.  Topside lights used to shine into the water must have a beam aimed at a minimum distance of 30 feet from the boat.  Topside lights such as this may be used only if it’s conducive to cooperative manta viewing for all users and participants during the experience.  


  • Operators must remove skegs from rafting apparatus.


  • Boat and tour operators must minimize line use in the water other than for mooring or anchoring purposes.  


  • After sunset or when mantas are present, descent lines must not be used.  


  • Lines between vessels must not be allowed to sink.


  • If using lines, kayaks, rafting apparatus, etc. must use buoyant lines.


4) Dive and Snorkel Guide Standards


  • Operators with in-water activities must have in-water guides for each activity - surface and underwater.


  • In-water guides must have in-water supervision training and rescue certifications.  For example, snorkel guides must be Lifeguard, Skin Diving Guide, or Rescue Diver certified. 


  • Scuba diving guides must have current professional level certifications from agencies recognized by the Recreational Scuba Training Council.  Professional level certifications include dive supervisors such as Divemasters or Scuba Instructors.  All scuba professionals must carry personal liability insurance.


  • All guides must have CPR/First Aid training and access to an Emergency Oxygen system (on boat or EMS).


  • After sunset, all divers and snorkelers not in direct contact with their vessel must display one marker light.  All guides and working professionals must identify themselves with two marker lights.


  • After sunset, all participants must stay with their guide.


  • Each operator must have an emergency recall procedure.


  • Snorkel guides must have a visible surface float during daylight.


  • Snorkelers and divers must not go beneath live boats.


5) Participant Standards 
    (first established in 1993)



  • Observe Only: No touching.  Resist the urge to “pet” the mantas.  This will only rub off their protective mucus coating.  Do not chase, grab, or try to ride the mantas.  This does not benefit the animal in any way.


  • Diver Position: Divers must stay on or near the sand, rubble, or boulder bottom.  An open water column is necessary for the mantas to maneuver.  Avoid contact with the coral, sea urchins, or other marine life.  Form a semi-circle with your group.


  • Snorkeler Position: Snorkelers must stay on the surface and keep legs horizontal.  Do not dive down into the water column.


  • Lights: Divers shine lights up into the water column to attract plankton.  Snorkelers shine lights down.


  • Bubbles: Divers try to time your breathing so that you do not blow bubbles up into the manta if it passes over your head.


  • Taking photos or video: When taking underwater photos or video, be considerate of people and mantas.  Minimize your equipment in the water column and let the mantas come to you.


6) Professional Videographer and Photographer Standards


  • Professional videographers and photographers must identify themselves with two marker lights.


  • When shooting video or taking photos of mantas or divers, professional videographers and photographers must stay on or near the bottom. Stay out of the water column in the area of manta ray activity.


  • When shooting video or taking photos of mantas and snorkelers, professional videographers or photographers must stay on or near the surface. Stay out of the water column in the area of manta ray activity.


  • When descending or ascending, professional videographers or photographers must stay out of the water column in the area of manta ray activity.


  • Professional videographers or photographers must be aware of their proximity to the campfire, scuba divers, snorkelers, boats, moorings, and the bottom - especially when setting up for or taking a shot.


  • Professional videographers or photographers must not shine video lights or deploy camera flashes into the faces of those who are not their designated customers.  Be aware of the field of the beam of light and narrow it when necessary. 


  • Work from the outside of the area of manta activity shooting in to concentrate plankton and mantas.  Do not shine lights in other areas that attract mantas away from the main area of activity – intentionally or unintentionally.   


For more information and the appendix, please see the full document.


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