Do you want to experience a unique adventure by snorkeling with manta rays in the middle of the ocean? On top of that, are you willing to do it at night? If so, the Hawaiian islands are the ideal place for that! Here is everything you need to know to cross out this amazing adventure off your bucket list!
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What are manta rays?
Manta rays are those peaceful ocean creatures that can be found in a few places around the world, notably in Hawaiian waters. Even though their wingspans can reach up to 7,5 meters (25 feet), these black and white cartilaginous fishes are harmless. Unlike stingrays and eagle rays (other rays species), manta doesn’t have a stinger. Moreover, they have the largest brain of any fish and their lifespan is between 50 years to 100 years. Oh, and do you know they are relatives of the sharks?
These gentle giants are solitary creatures and come together only to feed. Their primary food is plankton which they catch with their mouth wide open before filtering them out of the water. Unfortunately, at this time, manta rays are listed as endangered species.
Where to swim with manta rays in the hawaiian waters?
The Hawaiian archipelago is home to three types of rays: manta spotted eagle and stingray. Luckily, the most common ones near shores are the calm manta rays.
Even though manta rays can be found pretty much everywhere around the islands, the West coast of Big island is well-known for snorkeling and diving among them. Indeed, the coast of Kona is widely considered one of the best spots on Earth!
As Manta rays are creatures of habit, they have specific places, called “feeding stations”, where they often come back to eat. Therefore, the best chance to spot them is to head to one of the three feeding stations Kona’s coast offers:
- Manta Heaven (offshore of Kona airport)
- Manta Village (near Sheraton Kona resort&spa)
- Kohala coast (near Kawaihae harbor)
If you decide to snorkel or dive with manta rays, note that the tours operate during the night as mantas are attracted by plankton (their food), which are in turn attracted by the bright lights of the boat.
Our experience with manta rays on big island
Our crazy snorkel adventure with manta started at sunset with SunlightOnWater and we had such a blast! After jumping on a small boat with 6 other people, who were as excited as us, we sailed for a few minutes to the feeding station “Manta Heaven”. Unfortunately, we were not the only boat operator out there waiting for the manta rays to show up. In my opinion, this was the only downside of this experience.
So the thing is simple, the crew puts out in the water a buoy with bright lights on it too attract plankton. Therefore, if manta rays want to eat, they will come towards the lights as they know they will find their food. Then, the only job you have to do is to put on your mask and tuba, hold on to the floating device, keep your head under the water, and enjoy!
However, it is not guaranteed to see the manta rays as they are still wild animals, and, as explained before, they have plenty of light sources to choose from. So, when they finally selected the plankton gathered under our buoy that summer night, we felt very grateful to get the chance to see these giants so close! We probably waited more than an hour in the water before seeing one manta ray.
I remember when we saw the first one coming towards us, everyone was screaming with excitement. I mean, look at them, they are so huge! So, it was impressive to be less than a meter away from them.
Frankly, it was a special experience to see these majestic beasts around us, sort of dancing for long minutes under the spotlights. On top of that, doing this adventure at night makes it even more magical (and maybe a bit scary too)! Would you dare to do it?
“Be aware that you cannot snorkel freely around during the tour to protect the manta rays and for safety reasons. Thus, you have to hold to the buoy at all times.”
US$ 100 per adult
US$ 90 per child
starts at sunset for 3 hours
12 m / 40 ft vessel with hot water
water/sodas and various snacks included
To summarize, if you are looking for one of the craziest ocean adventures, you should head out to Big Island and snorkel with these giant manta rays! Indeed, sharing the water with these huge creatures at night was a true highlight of our journey around the Hawaiian islands and I am super glad and proud to say that we have done it!
That is to say, I hope I have inspired you to take a little more interest in ocean fauna and even add this experience to your list!
Moreover, you should check out here my related posts on the Hawaiian islands!
Finally, feel free to reach out to me at any time, if you have any questions. It would be a great pleasure to share with you!
Sending you lots of love,