There’s just no reason, in my mind, to be there. Not in the ocean. Not at night.
Yet, there I was, pulling on a wetsuit at Keauhou Pier, where, just after sunset, I would be leaving the safety of land to dive into the ocean to swim with giant manta rays.
I don’t know how I got talked into this.
For years, the Kona Surf Hotel — now the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort — would switch on its floodlights and illuminate the ocean, not realizing it would attract plankton, the microscopic larvae stage of various fish, shrimp, crab and lobsters on which manta rays feed. Folks would gather along the railings of the hotel at night to witness the sight of these giant creatures feasting on the plankton that accumulated in the bay.
In 1991 tour operators such as Fair Winds Cruises starting offering night snorkels with the manta rays. The Travel Channel once called this tour one of the “Top 10 things to do in your lifetime,” according to promotional material. So I had to try it.
It was definitely one of the most interesting travel experiences I’ve had thus far. (Well, a close second was getting lost with German strangers in the French countryside with a GPS that only gave directions in English. That was quite the adventure!)
We departed the pier just after sunset and took a quick five-minute boat ride into the bay, about 75 yards offshore. After we got our snorkels and fins on, we dove into the water and swam to a float outfitted with lights. We hung onto this float, starting straight down, hoping for mnata rays to swim by.
I never thought, in my wildest dreams, I’d want to see something swim toward me in the dark ocean.
A manta ray with a 10-foot wingspan floated under us, spinning and twirling so graceful you forget (for a second) you’re in the wild ocean. I could ignore the growing seasickness that had reached my stomach by this point and enjoy this majestic creature, as it got so close I could feel it swim past me.
It was my first time doing anything this adventurous. I thought it would be interesting to hear what kinds of unique adventures you have been on. So let’s dish!