It is one of the top ten dive experiences, consistently rated, and it is definitely the top snorkeling experience. It's also just one of the coolest things you will ever do. You totally think that I'm overselling this and nothing could ever be worth $70 to lie on top of the water or sit around a campfire, but I'm not. I was a little concerned before we got in the water that I had oversold it and that my husband would be disappointed in the dive.
Guys, it just isn't possible. (Unless they don't show up. But there is an 80% chance.)
(Photos by me. Tip - don't bother bringing a camera. Most of the pictures are terrible
and it messes with your buoyancy.)
If you are a snorkeler, you are equipped with a light and a raft and you hang on to the raft and the mantas come up and they do back flips underneath you and they come (seriously) belly to belly with you. As we were heading back to the boat, a couple mantas followed us and I can thoroughly say that the experience is as cool as a snorkeler as it is as a diver.
I highly highly recommend doing the two-tank dive if you are a diver. Why?
If you go to the same site during the day, you see mantas during the day. It's seriously seriously cool. And it's only $10 more, so even if you don't see mantas, you get an awesome dive with other cool stuff.
(Why am I not in Hawaii right now? For serious.)
I also highly recommend Big Island Divers. They provide you with water, juice, snacks, a sandwich, hot cocoa, dry towels after each dive (bring a sweatshirt - it gets REALLY cold after the dive), and they set up and break down your gear for you. They provided one guide for four divers, which is a perfect ratio, and they have a counter on their website to show how many mantas came to last night's dive. If the number is high, your chance of seeing mantas is pretty good - they apparently hang around for awhile.
Something to keep in mind is that it can get chilly - definitely rent a full wetsuit for this one, even if you wear a shorty. Even Mark was cold, and he doesn't usually have a problem. Another thing is that the boat doesn't have a bathroom, which is a concern for some. They encourage using the ocean once you have taken your wetsuit off, so it's a little weird because people get on the boat, take off their rental wetsuits, and then jump back in, so it's just awkward, I think. Kona Honu has a bathroom on their boat, if that is important to you, and I think we went with them last time - everyone on our boat totally respected them, so I would guess they are a good operation. Big Island also has a big boat which they use for people only doing a one-tank dive, so if you are snorkeling, try to get on that.
Anyone else ever do this dive/snorkel? What did you think? Am I overselling it?