Friday, October 12, 2012

Hawaii: Manta Ray Night Dive

I went on the Manta Ray Night Dive when I was 22.  My parents took my sister and I to Hawaii as a last hurrah before we started grad school, and it was awesome.  One of the things we did was the Manta Ray Night Dive, and I came back and talked about it for four years.  Whenever anybody says they are going to The Big Island, I respond with, "go on the manta dive".  When we were originally planning to go to Hawaii, we were planning to go to Oahu.  There were a couple reasons why we decided on the Big Island, but I would be lying if I said it didn't have a LOT to do with wanting to experience this dive again (and I knew it was something my husband would love.)

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.)

You sit in a circle and you hold your dive light above your head and the mantas swim over you and they do backflips and they smack you in the head with your fins and it's just the coolest thing.  It's absolutely magical, and one of the coolest things is that it's totally silent.  It's not like one of those tourist experiences when you're at the Grand Canyon and all the parents are warning the kids to be careful, or when you're on the boat out over the Arizona memorial and all these bitchy high school kids are complaining about how bored they are, or when you go to the zoo and everyone crowds around the tiger cage to catch a glimpse.  I'm a total wuss about night dives (and I'm terrified of the dark) usually I spend night dives clutching my buddy's hand and freaking out about the tarpon following us, but this is the easiest night dive in the world. It's 35 feet of water, it's lit up like a football field, and you sit on the bottom.  (Sit down, don't try to kneel.  You will be much more stable.  And Frank the Eel might come hang out by your fin.)

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?

1 comment:

  1. Late in commenting, thanks for not having a computer for a while, but just want to say I'm so jealous! I freak out on night dives (all those sea urchins coming out to play, eek!), but this sounds awesome! I dove with mantas in Palau, and it was spectacular too!

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