Tourists with high earning power are being enticed to visit the island of Santa Maria in the Azores to dive and photograph the giant manta rays that abound in local waters.
Entrepreneur Artur Silva is planning to open a four star hotel to attract clients from the USA, Canada and Northern Europe for holidays to explore the shoals. The species has a span of between three and nearly four metres and is said to be an underwater photographer’s dream.
Artur Silva said: “For many years I have taken part in international championships for diving and Santa Maria is possibly the best place in Europe to dive and see this exceptional species.”
Paulo Reis, of the Diving Centre Paralelo 37, one of the pioneers of diving with the manta ray, said that this year visitors, particularly from Spain, Germany and Austria, were expected to exceed expectations.
The average cost of a 10-day visit, including the diving experience, accommodation and food expenses, is around the €1,500 to €2,000 mark.
Manta rays are known as “devilfish” because their horn-shaped cephalic fins give them a devil’s appearance.
They are found in temperate, sub-tropical and tropical waters and normally are seldom seen and difficult to study, but they are extremely photogenic.