I don’t know about you, but I wanted to be an Oceanographer when I was in college – must have been sitting in the middle of a tax accounting class when I had that overwhelming desire. Why do I bring this up? I have always been fascinated by the sea and everything in it.
The Big Island (BI) is my favorite island in Hawaii..volcanoes, green sand beaches, rugged cliffs, lava, amazing golf courses and home to the phenomenal Iron Man competition. BI is also the stomping grounds for Manta Rays, one of the largest fish in the ocean. I hear they have wingspans of up to 20 feet – though I cannot confirm the stat via personal experience. Have you ever seen these guys in action? So graceful when navigating the big, blue magnificent ocean. They also have incredibly large mouths so they can scoop up as much plankton as possible. It is amazing to me that something so large can subsist on such minute bits of food. I personally need a ribeye and a loaded baked potato – throw in some cheesecake and I am good to go.
If you happen to find yourself exploring the BI, one of the the best places to see these amazing creatures is off the Kona Coast. Specifically, just offshore at the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa at Keahou Bay. It sounds ridiculous but it’s true. In fact, the hotel has lights that shine at night so you can see them swimming from the viewing deck of the hotel. The lights attract plankton like moths to a flame, thus drawing the Mantas into a feeding frenzy.
If you want to get up close and personal with these gentle giants (assuming you are not a SCUBA diver), consider a snorkel tour with Hula Kai Adventures. What is the scoop you ask? Once the sun begins to set for the day, you hop on a boat which will take you about 100 yards away from shore, don a wetsuit (if needed), life jacket and snorkel gear and jump into the water.
Once in said water you hang on to a floatation device that looks similar to a raft and will be instructed to stretch out as far as possible, plank-like so the chance of accidentally touching the Mantas will be unlikely. Your legs will be held up by the assistance of a ‘pool noodle’. The tour operator will shine lights in the water to attract the plankton. Within 10 to 15 minutes a Manta will be inches from your face – and I mean inches. They got so close to me, I screamed in my snorkel which subsequently led to hysterical laughter as the sound was so ridiculous! They seem to be starving when they arrive – they will circle round and round like there is no tomorrow. The tour lasts for about 90 minutes (varies) – just long enough in my opinion. We had the opportunity to see 2 mantas, but there can be a heck of a lot more if you are lucky. If by chance you don’t see any, you can come back FOC.
It is definitely in the top 5 of things to do in Hawaii and most definitely in the top 25 of all time experiences. I think this is the one time in my life where I regretted not buying the video :-/.
Noteworthy Information: I have a propensity to get motion sickness so after watching these guys and gals go round and round for 60 minutes or so, I almost puked – but it was well worth it!
Get on the Life Bus and hang with the Manta Rays on the Big Island of Hawaii – you will not regret it!