Have you ever swam with a manta ray? This is probably one of the most memorable trips that I have ever had, here on the Big Island.
If you know me, you know that I love all things ocean, even the creatures that live there (Yes, Little Mermaid is my favorite Disney movie). I even love the coral gardens in all their colors. I’m constantly looking for eel and octopus and I especially love when the dolphins come near where I’m swimming. It just makes my day!
There are several tours that you can pay for that will take you to where the mantas are swimming at night. They provide the life jackets, the lights and pool noodles to hang on to. They even have divers swim down and place lights on the ocean floor so you can see the mantas better. They also offer scuba diving tours if you are certified.
I got together with a few friends and we went out of Keauhou Bay on our standup boards. We took waterproof lights and paddled our way out to where the boats were. Using the lights from the bottom of the ocean floor and having our boards strapped to our ankles, we jumped in with masks and snorkels and watched from above.
You can see the manta rays from “Rays on the Bay”, the bar at the Sheraton. That’s where the mantas hang out every night, just past the hotel. They stay there because the Sheraton shines bright lights into the water that allow these majestic creatures to see their food, plankton. With mouths that stay open all the time, they are constantly filtering out plankton and other small sea life that they eat.
They twirl and swirl under water something like an underwater ballet. They are absolutely beautiful!
The mantas in Hawaii are called Reef Mantas. They can get up to 18 feet from wing to wing; that’s how they are measured, not from nose to tip of tail. The ones around Kona are generally closer to 12 feet. I would say the 3 that I swam with that night were between 10 and 12 feet long.
No matter what size they were, they seemed huge in comparison to us. Especially, when they swirled up within touching distance. They seemed gigantic!
It doesn’t really matter how you get out to see the manta rays, just do it. It is an amazing experience!