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Rays in Thailand and Similan islands

Thailand is blessed with very rich waters in terms of flora and fauna. From the Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea, Thai waters shelter plenty of different species of corals, fish, sharks, rays, and almost every other class of marine creature you can name.

Thai waters have great diversity when it comes to Elasmobranchs (rays and sharks family). Currently, 64 species of sharks are registered as resident in Thai waters. In terms of rays, a whopping 71 species have been recorded as resident or regular visitors to Thai waters. Not all of these rays will be encountered by divers or snorkelers, since most of them are pelagic species and live out at sea, away from the regular diving and snorkeling sites. Luckily there are plenty of rays that live inshore and on coral reefs regularly visited by divers, so there are plenty of opportunities to encounter many species of rays while underwater.
You can have alook at statistic report of CITIES of shark and rays in Thailand.

Manta Rays

manta ray There are two species of mantas, M. birostris which can reach up to 7m in fin span, and its much smaller (relatively) cousin M. alfredi which grows up to 5.5 metres in span. These gentle giants can regularly be seen during plankton blooms, where they swim open-mouthed to filter the water’s particles and plankton for food. Both species, although listed as vulnerable by the International Union for Conversion of Nature (IUCN), can regularly be encountered in Thai waters. However, do not expect to see the super large individuals in Thai waters, with most encounters being with individuals who are much smaller than the maximum size for these rays. For the giant oceanic Manta rays The best dive spot for sighting is Koh Bon in the Similan marine park.
Check also the protection organisation: Manta Trust

Eagle Rays

eagle-rays The Spotted Eagle Ray (Aetobatus narinari) can be encountered on several reefs in Thai waters; they live at depths of up to 80 metres, and feed on molluscs and small invertebrates. The typical encounter with one of these magnificent creature is a fly be, since they do not generally stay around performing circles in the current like their bigger cousins the Manta Rays. Encounters are brief affairs as the rays are normally travelling from one location to another. The Spotted Eagle Ray is considered near-threatened around the world, and is actually a protected species in several countries including Australia. Find more about the eagle ray at: Eagle ray behavior and habitat

Bowmouth Guitarfish

Bowmouth Guitarfish This relatively rare species can be encountered in Thai waters up to a depth of 90 meters. It is very unique and looks much more like a shark than the classic ovoid body shape of a ray. The distinctive feature of the Bowmouth Guitarfish, which gives it its name, is its W-shaped mouth. There are prominent ridges on the animals’ head and back that give it a distinctive appearance. The Bowmouth Guitarfish are usually found lying on the seafloor, and are classified as vulnerable by the IUCN.

Blue-spotted Stingray

Blue-spotted Stingray The Blue-spotted Stingray (Neotrygon kuhlii) is one of the rays’ divers will be most familiar with, since they are regularly encountered on tropical reefs around the world and Thailand is no exception. They are relatively small with the largest specimens reaching about 45 cm in diameter. It is often confused with the Blue-spotted Ribbon-tail Stingray, since both have the same color pattern of a sandy/grey colored body and blue spots. The main difference between both species is the shape of their body disk, with the Ribbon-tail Ray having a circular-shaped disk, and the regular Blue-spotted Stingray having much more of a diamond-shaped body disk. These rays are some of the most common rays you will encounter while diving in Thailand.

Whiptail Stingray

Whiptail Stingray The Whiptail Stingray is one of the bigger rays that divers will encounter while diving on reefs in Thailand. This relatively large ray has a body disk that can reach around 1.5 meter in diameter and can regularly be encountered on sandy patches on coral reefs. They get their name from the multiple venomous barbs present on their tail, which have the effect of making their tail look like a traditional whip with its many threads at the end. The tail stands out since it is normally much longer than the diameter of the body of the animal. They do not use their tails for predation, but only for defense. They consume a diet of mollusks, crabs and other crustaceans that live in the sand patches surrounding coral pinnacles. This species has not been evaluated by the ICUN to determine the health of its population.

When and where is the best time to see Mantas?

Mantas are one of the major bucket list creatures to see for scuba divers. Understandably, a lot of divers will go the extra mile to experience the sheer joy of diving with and encountering Manta Rays. In Thailand, Manta Rays can be found all around the coast, however some locations in Thailand shelter much bigger populations, and Mantas are regular visitors of coral reefs. The best place in Thailand are the Similan Islands which have their own Manta season, and encounter are a very regular occurrence. The peak of the Manta season runs between January and May when the currents bring nutrient- and plankton-rich waters to the area. The best two dive sites in the area to encounter Mantas are the Pinnacle at Koh Tachai, and the impressive Manta cleaning station at Koh Bon.

Are rays dangerous or venomous?

Not really! Basically, Stingrays got a bad reputation after the accidental death of TV personality and wildlife presenter Steve Irwin in 2006. Rays have two main defensive options, either sheer size such as Mantas and Mobulas, or they have a barb on their tail that they can whip around and use to strike predators. These barbs do contain some venom, although it is nowhere near as lethal as snake venom. A sting from a ray is going to be painful, but should not be fatal. The situation with Steve Irwin was a tragic fluke accident. It is notable that most stingray injuries are sustained on the calf and thigh when inadvertently stepping on resting rays, and them trying to escape.

Are there other Eagle Ray species in Thai waters?

The most common type of Eagle Ray you will encounter in Thai waters is the Spotted Eagle Ray. This ray is relatively small with white spots on a black back. There are other types of Eagle Rays in Thai waters, including the Mottled Eagle Ray, Ocellated Eagle Ray, Ocellate Eagle Ray, Banded Eagle Ray, and the Ornate Eagle Ray. However, these rays are quite rare in Thai waters since most of them tend to be pelagic, living far off the coast. Encounters with these species are very rare in comparison to the more common Spotted Eagle Ray.

I thought Guitarsharks were sharks!!

Sadly it is a misnomer! Most guitarfish/guitarsharks are called that because of their body shape, which is elongated, with distinct pectoral fins, and a dorsal fin similar to that of sharks. That is why they are called (guitar)sharks, although for true scientific classification purposes they are much closer to rays than sharks and are therefore considered rays. There are several species of Guitarfish that can be encountered in Thailand, including the Granulated Guitarfish, Thailand Pointed Guitarfish, Clubnose Guitarfish, Widenose Guitarfish, Spotted Guitarfish, Brown Guitarfish, Granulated Shovelnose Ray, and the Bowmouth Guitarfish.