The manta ray night dive off the Kona Coast has been named one of the best dives in the world by multiple dive enthusiasts. And with good reason. Not only can you observe these rays eating plankton right in front of you, but they put on a show. These nimble animals glide through the water performing rhythmic acrobatics only inches away from you. Some rays get a little friendly and glide right over you, causing you to duck.
The story goes like this: the Kona Surf Hotel (Now the Sheraton) had a deck with lights shining into the water. People began noticing the rays coming every night, and soon tourists would crowd the deck to see the show. The manta rays were eating dinner, they eat plankton, which is attracted to light. Pretty soon guided dives started and now most nights you have anywhere from 10-15 giant manta rays. I will admit that when they start to swim into view a you get this “am I in some kind of scientific movie” feeling. And then just like that they are right in front of you, and you are mesmerized.
Not certified? No worries. While the divers sit on the ocean floor the guided tours have huge floats the snorkelers hang on to and get in on the action at the surface. To attract more plankton everyone is given lights, so its like an arena in front of the hotel. The dive guides pull out all the stops to keep these rays happy.
Just like the dolphin swim, I used Neptune Charlies Ocean Safaris and they were wonderful.
Manta Rays need to eat about 10% of their body weight in plankton every week. The baby rays are about 6ft across (huge!). While the females can get up to 12ft across, weighing in around 1000 pounds. You can not really appreciate the size until you are face to face with them. While feeding they open their mouths, about 2-3 feet wide, and their cephalic fins push water into their mouths, and out through their gills. Their branchial filters catch and trap the plankton.
In the video below you can get a sense of how large and playful they are. Unfortunately for me the water was extremely rough and I had a hard time sitting where I was. I actually had a tour guide finally give me a rock. I mean, you gotta do what you gotta do. Thanks so much for reading, let me know if you make it to the Big Island to expereince the manta ray night dive!