Day 1 on “The Big Island” started slowly. Everyone was just a little bit exhausted from such a long flight so while the family slept I sat on the balcony and watched the water hit the sea wall, trying to relax into the fact that I was at this very moment sitting in Hawaii!!!
So after everyone slowly wakes up, rubs the sleep out of their eyes and after gallons of coffee becomes slightly human we jump in the car and make our way down to the dive shop. Today’s activity was a night dive with the manta rays so we needed to get in early and register ourselves with the crew. After that we wander around Kona, it’s not a big town but the main street seems to stretch along the waterfront, glimpses of water peak out between restaurants, art galleries and shops selling copious amounts of Hawaiian t-shirts and hats.
We stop for lunch at a small cafe overlooking a beach. The beaches in Kona aren’t white sandy affairs but instead stony beach surrounded by a rock wall to try to protect the town from swell. We sat there eating our lunch watching a group of boys throw rocks at a palm tree trying to knock down coconuts. Its so cliche, I bet you don’t even believe me but the entertainment value of watching those boys was great.
So after that we are off on the dive boat. Its small, there was a total of maybe 15 tourist and 4 staff. We had a safety briefing, a 20 minute journey and then our first dive, a trial really to ensure all the divers could actually dive and the snorkelers were not going to panic at the idea of getting into the water. For an Australian, this particular dive there wasn’t too much to see really, lots of small tropical fish, the coral was ok, all the same color and not as breathtaking as some of what we have seen but the big win here was the Monk Seal that literally popped up while we were snorkeling. When you hear the words seal you think small, quick and curious. This big mama was non of those things, she was gigantic, she was slow and hulking and she seemed to struggling with not floating to the top she she lumbered around in the water as we snorkelers tried desperately to stay out of her way.
Then it was back onto the boat for a light dinner of wraps and chocolate brownies while we watched the sunset. I don’t know why but we expected, quick stupidly in retrospect to be the only boat there. In fact when we looked up from our food there was close to 10 boats creating a large circle around a space set up with multiple lights glowing up from the sea floor. You see the lights attract the plankton and that is the main food source for the manta rays. So the divers eventually get into the water and sit down in a giant circle on the sea floor around the lights, the snorkelers all float around on top holding onto surf boards with lights inserted beaming light down below. And then come the Manta-rays. Obviously this is nature so you get what you get, some nights there are none, some nights maybe one or two and then some nights there are lots. We were in the middle, we saw two manta-rays feeding, one very large and one smaller who stuck around for longer.
For snorkelers, the blue lights pierce the blackness of the sea at night, the fish also chasing the plankton shimmering silver flashes and divers air bubble drifting slowly up to the surface in a sparkling curtain. It’s almost like a cathedral, its beautiful, eerie and the manta-rays are like giant shadows drifting slowly over the lights. For the divers on the other hand you get to see close up the manta rays feeding, you can see all their belly spots, their beautiful slow glide over the lights, their mouths open wide. Its beautiful and its rare and my family were so blessed to see this close up.
The water is cold and in the interests of keeping things eco friendly all of the boats only allow people in the water for 45 minutes max but the water is cold so by the time you get out you are ready. then another 20 minute journey back into shore.
So overall – do i recommend this? The answer is yes, if you are a diver I totally recommend this is something you need to add to your bucket list. If you are a snorkeler on the other hand this is a little big more of a maybe. You won’t see them close up, unless they are rolling around you only see the shadows and I personally found that disappointing however as the rest of my family are divers and the only other option was to not come at all i would say yes, have a go. Its still a unique experience but for the best views it really has to be seen through a divers goggles.
How Do I Do This – we used the Kona Dive Company located Here. Diving with rented gear costs about $200 per person and snorkeling around $140.