I love crazy looking animals. It’s a big part of why I like diving so much. And manta rays are definite favorites. These creatures are amazing. HUGE. Gentle. FAST.
And despite the fact that they are enormously large, unless they run into you, they’re not going to hurt you. No stinger. No teeth.
I’m not a big night diver. But the night manta dive on Kona is justly famous. It is an incredible experience. I went with Jack’s Diving Locker and really liked the operation and the people. You meet mid afternoon, get on the boat and go to the dive site. You do a late afternoon dive seeing many of your usual friends on the reef. Then you come out, do your suface interval, have dinner and wait for the sun to go down. And then the real fun begins.
The boat has both divers and snorkelers. The dive site is a sandy/rocky bottom in about 35 feet of water. The divers jump in and head to the bottom where they sit, kneel or lie flat. The snorkelers float above, of course. The divers arrange themselves in a circle around a milk crate filled with lights pointed up. It’s kind of like an underwater campfire. The divers point their lights up. The snorkelers point their lights down. The light attracts plankton. And the tiny plankton attract the giant mantas with their mouths wide open.
And then the mantas arrive. The night we were there, 10 of them showed up. They “fly” in, mouths open filter feeding the whole time.
These are giant animals. And there were 10 of them. And there were a bunch of us on the bottom and floating on the top. And big, big mantas in between. Flying. Summersaulting. Gliding right over your head. I spent a half hour being transfixed by the ballet.
From a photographic perspective, I kind of brought a knife to a gunfight. I’m set up for macro. So, I’m looking for things the size of a baseball or smaller. You can stretch it a little, but mantas are way outside the size range I’m really equipped for. so, here’s just one image I couldn’t resist. Definitely not the best manta picture you’ll ever see. But I had a ball taking it.