My absolute favorite part of our trip was swimming with the manta rays in Kona. It was the one must do thing on my list for our trip and the primary reason for our jaunt over to the big island since there isn’t a manta ray swim available from Oahu. My wonderful hubs made all the arrangements, so I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect but had a basic idea of how it would go having first seen the idea on an episode of Briget’s Sexiest Beaches a few years ago.
The guides put out a platform with lights that attract plankton, which the manta rays feed on. Their teeth are pin-sized, peg-shaped ridges just inside their mouth and are used only for gripping each other during mating so to eat they just swim along collecting plankton in their mouth with the help of two scoop-shaped fins located on their head. They swim in giant graceful backflips under the lights over and over again gathering plankton with each pass. And unlike their sting ray cousins, they have no barb on their tail so they pose no danger to humans.
The night we went the water was pretty choppy due to strong winds, so it took me a while to get comfortable and put my face in the water but even before I did I could see the rays under the light platform. You aren’t supposed to touch the rays because you could introduce harmful bacteria to them doing so, but sometimes they might touch you. Even if they don’t, they are still within inches of you with each pass.
We had several different rays visit our lights although I couldn’t easily tell them apart except for size differences. Each would circle a number of times and then rotate off to visit another light rig. This created a few breaks where there were no rays in sight but nearby fish came to take advantage of the food source and were entertaining to watch as well.
This was definitely something I’d do again if we went back. It was a truly magical experience to be right next to such beautiful and graceful creatures who are completely at peace in their natural habitat. We booked our manta swim with a company called Sunlight on the Water and would highly recommend them. Their crew was super friendly and made sure everyone in our group had fun, even one gal who got quite sea sick. They also got in the water with us to take photos from below which they share on their Facebook page and checked on how everyone was doing often. The images in this post are all screen shots from video the Hubs took with our GoPro while in the water. He did a good job, considering this was our first experience using the GoPro. Check the Facebook page later today to watch the video these images came from.