If you really want to meet the locals in the Maldives, consider going on a manta ray cruise.
Expeditions led by the conservation organization Manta Trust escorts guests on dives to observe and track the sea creatures.
You can sail aboard the Four Seasons Explorer, a three-deck catamaran that holds 22 passengers, on all-inclusive sailings for three, four or seven days.
During your time in the water, you get to interact with the rays -- and count them, photograph them, and collect and share data that's critical to protecting their habitat, according to a statement by Four Seasons Resorts Madlives.
Manta rays and whale sharks, which also thrive in the tropical waters, stay close to the water's surface, which means you don't have to dive to see them.
In addition, cruise passengers visit remote snorkeling areas and uninhabited beaches as well as small villages. The ship usually shuttles passengers between resorts at Kuda Huraa and Landaa Giraavaru on the Baa Atoll.
Prices for the Explorer start at $5,600 for a stateroom for seven nights, $3,200 for four nights and $2,400 for three nights. (Staterooms accommodate two people.)
The Explorer Suite which holds three people, starts at $10,080 for seven nights, $5,760 for four nights and $4,320 for three nights.
Prices include all meals, three dives or snorkeling excursions each day and transfers. Manta Expeditions aboard the Explorer are offered Aug. 27 to Sept. 3 and Sept. 10 to 17.
One other way to see mantas: The Four Seasons Landaa Giraavaru offers a four-night Manta Watch package that includes airport transfers via seaplane, daily buffet breakfast, an on-call snorkeling excursion when mantas are spotted, and a dolphin cruise.
The package starts at $4,885 for two.