I first heard about this dive from a guy at work who claimed it was his favorite dive he'd ever done. When I decided to take a trip to the Big Island just before Christmas, I knew the Kona Manta Ray Night Dive had to be on my list. Not only would this be one of my first dives in over three years, but it would be my first night dive... and doing so surrounded by animals with 14 foot wingspans. Needless to say I was both excited and a little nervous.
I booked the trip with Big Island Divers, which was a great choice. The dive masters and Captain had a great aloha personality, but with enough knowledge and experience to do their job well. We even saw a whale breach on the boat ride to the dive site. I think the whale knew what good vibes these guys were giving off, so he decided to give us a little show to help get them a bigger tip. It totally worked.
This was a two tank dive so we did a little reef dive as the sun was setting. It was nice to be in the water, but the dive itself was relatively uneventful. One group said they saw a manta lurking around the site, which was a good sign. Sometimes, the mantas don't show up. But I had faith.
During our surface interval, the captain provided us with some wraps, snacks, and dry towels. Score more points for Big Island Divers! As we snacked and watched the sunset, more dive and snorkel boats began to arrive to stake their spots. It was kind of like everyone was hosting their own little dinner party to lure in the mantas. I just hoped ours had the tastiest plankton.
It was finally time to dive. Each of us was given our crazy bright lights that would be helpful in attracting the plankton. Just make sure you don't flash your dive master!
We then made our way to our"campfire" where a bunch of flashlights were already staged to start the plankton accumulation process. Despite it being my (and many other people's) first night dive, I felt very comfortable. There was enough light in the vicinity from other boats that it wasn't at all unnerving. I will say it was quite difficult to stay on the bottom because of all the current. I highly recommend adding four extra pounds or so to keep yourself better anchored. No need to be neutrally buoyant on this dive.
Had to snag one quick selfie to prove I was there before the mantas came.
It felt like an eternity before the first manta showed up, but when it did, it was an incredible sight to see. Once the first manta came, then the show began.
I call it a show because it was literally like they were performing for us. They move in such a manner it looks as though they are flying through the water, doing graceful loops around the campfire and the circle of divers. Simply majestic creatures.
And they certainly weren't afraid of us either, they got close enough that you could see all of their fine details. The spots on the underside are actually unique to each manta. This is how marine biologists identify and name the different mantas. If you take a picture of a manta that has not been previously identified, you get to name it! (Sorry, Manta del Ray has already been taken)
Despite their grace, I can't say I wasn't a little nervous when the first manta came at me with its mouth open. I'm sure if you listen to the audio in my video, you can hear me take a significantly larger gulp of air. However, once I observed their fine tuned underwater motor skills I became less nervous.
I'm telling you they were just interested in the plankton. No humans were eaten.
Okay, maybe my head got brushed by their wings once or twice, but they were nice and soft and it just added to the experience.
And just before it was time to leave the campfire and surface, the mantas did a little dance together, coming within inches of one another before heading their separate ways. One of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. It felt surreal.
This was without a doubt one of the coolest experiences I've had. It was simply amazing to be able to observe these creatures in such close proximity. There is a reason this is considered one of the best night dives in the world. If you have the opportunity, do this dive! I guarantee you will not regret it!
Here's a full video of this magical night!
Have you dove with the majestic mantas? Share your story below!
Also Check Out:
- This YouTube Video of the Manta Ray Night Dive
- My other night dive on the Big Island, known as the Blackwater Dive