Night Diving With Hawaii’s Manta Rays

For those of you who dive, the Big Island of Hawaii is home to a once-in-a-lifetime diving opportunity: night diving with manta rays! There are few places in the world where you can get in the water with these massive creatures. There are even fewer when if comes to diving with them at night.

We were lucky enough to be on the Big Island for a work trip toward the end of one of the two manta seasons. The diving seasons each year are usually mid April to mid June and again from September to November. Like anything else in nature, there is never a guarantee. However, during the seasons, you run a good chance of seeing something.

When the dates for our trip were confirmed, we began looking for a reputable dive shop around Kona that offered the Manta night dives. There are several out there that offer both diving and snorkeling. So if diving isn’t your thing or someone in your group can’t dive, snorkeling is an option. We opted to go with Jack’s Diving Locker. They have a friendly, knowledgeable staff and well maintained gear.

As the date got close, we began daily checks of their website. Each day, the dive master would post which of the two main locations they went to and how many mantas were seen. With it being toward the end of the season, most days said two to three. Occasionally, there were more. Occasionally, there were none. On the night of our dive, the boat took us out to the dive site just off the coast from the Kona airport. The dive master stated that there had been good activity there the few days prior. The other main dive site is just off the coast from the Sheraton hotel, which was where we were staying for work. In the evening, the hotel turns on large lights pointed out over the water. The lights bring in the zooplankton which, hopefully, brings in the manta rays who feed on zooplankton. At night, we would stand on the balcony and watch the divers, snorkelers and occasionally a manta swimming through the water.

As we made our way to the dive site, I nervously suited up in my wetsuit and prepped the Go Pro for what I was hoping would be that incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience. It was just after dusk when we arrived at the dive site. I wasn’t sure what to expect to see at that time, but we got lucky with not just some cool looking fish but two mantas as well! The evening had been made before the main dive had even happened.

If you have never been diving before, the video above shows you want it is like to descend from the boat.

Our second dive was absolutely magical! The dive crew set up large lights on the ocean floor and pointed them up to the surface (important reference, we were only about 40 feet down). Each diver was also given a small handheld light to use once they had descended. On this evening, the flood of light brought in a dozen or more manta rays. They swam above and around us as we sat in a circle on the sandy bottom. Occasionally, one would gently bop me on the head as it swooped in toward the lights. Honestly, words can’t do it justice. We managed to get a few decent photos on the Go Pro. The real winner was the video.

If you are a diver, this is a must do when visiting the Big Island of Hawaii. It is an experience you will never forget. I promise!

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