For months I had been looking at the Manta Ray diving adventures in Kona, Hawaii. I had heard from friends that it was just beyond amazing, and that “words can’t describe the dive”. The LA times marked this dive adventure as one of the top ten dives in the world.
I wasn’t sure about going to Hawaii until some snow hit Seattle, WA. The roads were ice and Thanksgiving weekend was days away, that was my sign. I called up Jacks Diving Locker, asking them about their Manta Ray PADI specialty certification. By then end of the call I had eight dives booked and four specialties. I then turned my head back to my computer and right to Expedia. It was done, I was off to Hawaii the next day.
Once in Kona I ran to my hotel room dropped my stuff off and went immediately to Jacks. Once I was there I got all my course work and sized for all my gear.
The next few days I spent doing my other specialties. Finally it was Friday – I had four dives booked and could not wait for the last one. That being the night dive with the Manta Rays. I spoke with many divers in the area, asking what the record count for Manta Rays were during the event. I quickly discovered that it was thirty six!
The Manta Ray dive is a two tank dive with most companies including Jacks. Both dives take place at Eel Cove – although once the sun sets, the dive spot morphs into Manta Heaven.
After our first dive, the divers and snorkelers sat anxiously on the boat, listening to the dive masters instructions on what to expect down there. They also informed us that about 17% of the time there are no Mantas. My heart sank as they dealt this information out.
During our first dive one of the dive masters had placed lights in an specific area called the ‘campfire’. As we waited on the boat and watched the sun set, we saw the lights that were placed in the campfire through the oceans water. The lights attract plankton and Manta Rays eat plankton. Manta Rays actually need to eat 10% of their body weight each week, so you can imagine how much plankton they need. Some Manta Rays are well over one thousand pounds.
It was time, we put on our gear and waited for our turn to drop into the ocean. Lights in one hand and cameras in the other. We started our decent down to the campfire. As I sunk down to the bottom, I could see at least twenty other divers their already. Their lights shining up towards the surface. I found my place to settle and looked up at the snorkelers dangling feet. The event in it’s self without the Manta Rays are quite an experience on it’s own.
We waited about ten minutes and BOOM, a male Manta Ray comes into our man made beam of light. Summer-salting through the ocean, collecting plankton. Most divers eyes wide open, from the shear beauty of the animal. A good fifteen minutes go by and the Manta disappears for a bit. Our leader Keller decided to take us on a little adventure.
We found an Eel between some coral, we watch as he pecks into some coral and pulls a good sized fish into his mouth. He then drops back into the coral with his new dinner. Something I had never seen before.
The Manta had returned and we go back to enjoy more of it’s beautiful movement underwater. At around sixty minutes most of the group had gone back up to the boat. Keller was asking me questions on his slate about the Manta. This is part of the Manta Ray specialty. Then he wrote that it’s time to go up. I followed him as he grabed the milk carton of lights. We swam towards the boat when suddenly he drops the carton. He starts banging on the back of his tank, a special signal to let me know that he ,sees something. I am thinking that there are some more rays, then I look up to see his lights moving further and further away from me. I start kicking hard to try and catch up with him, I glimpse down at my computer to see that we have gone from 30ft to about 60ft. I then hear them, there are dolphins, but I can’t see them yet. I swam around with my light about 20ft from Keller, to see three dolphins swimming around him and his camera. I start making noises to call them over, praying that they come say hello to me. It works, they swam over my direction and I get to say my hello. We stayed there for a good 10 minutes and then I signal to Keller that I need to go up as my air is below 500 psi at this point. We headed to the surface.
When we got to the surface I quickly lost focus of getting on the boat as the Manta Ray is now directly below me. He had moved from the campfire as nobody was there anymore with no lights. Me and another diver were floating, shining our lights watching the Manta collect more plankton. The Manta Ray does more summer-salts below us, lifting us slightly out of the water on each full rotation. What more can happen? The dolphins have surfaced and are no more than 7ft away from us!
They swim by and say hello, my attention quickly shifted back to the large Manta swimming just below me. The dive was precious and I was close to crying out of happiness. I got back on the boat and sat at the edge, just watching the Manta collect more plankton.
The boat took us back to the harbor and Keller shows us his footage. I am so thankful he captured the dolphins as my camera had run out of batteries. We all watched and stared at the wonderful moment we have all just experienced.
The next day I was sitting on Jacks boat, trying to figure out how I could go on the Manta dive again. Jacks doesn’t go out on Saturday and Tuesday. So I calledup Kona Honu and booked myself on their Manta Dive. I was hoping to see more than one Manta feed. Now I am at ten dives in three and a half days.
I get to experience one Manta Ray again! This time a female, much larger than the last. They call her Big Bertha! Although the dive was not the same as the first, however, the shear beauty of watching a Manta Ray feed underwater is something that I will not only forget but will do many many more times again. I will go back in search of seeing more than one Manta. It was the most amazing experience of my life (so far).
You can also see more on my scuba website : www.scubadiverlife.com