Hawaii is a great playground, and your swim with the 25′ mantas will be a night you’ll never forget!
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My teenagers later reminded me— their 8-year-old brother could have fit INSIDE the mouth of one of those manta rays!
I envisioned Jonah – I mean, my 8-year-old Tom – disappearing HERE:
In reality, though, it was very safe.Let me tell you about it…
WHAT IS A MANTA RAY
Mantas are very large rays, often 25 feet across and 3000 pounds.
They look much like their smaller cousins, but they lack stingers.In fact, manta rays are not our predators.They love plankton, and barrel roll through the water, mouths agape, scooping up these microscopic bits, sort of like a whale.
Here they are, in action:
WHERE ARE MANTA RAYS
Manta rays swim in oceans throughout the world, from the Maldives to the Galapagos to Thailand.
But I swam with them in Hawaii, off the west coast of the Big Island.
HOW DO MANTA RAYS BEHAVE
Manta rays eat plankton, and plankton are attracted to light, so you can often see manta rays right off the coast, where hotel spotlights illuminate the water.
One great location in Hawaii is the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort, which has an actual Crystal Blue lounge with big windows overlooking the illuminated shallows.
But why stay dry?For a truly unforgettable experience, go swimming WITH the manta rays.
SEEING MANTA RAYS OFF A DIVE BOAT
We boarded the boat around 4pm, motoring up the coast, staying 200 yards off shore.
When the boat dropped anchor, we donned snorkel and masks, and jumped in for an evening snorkel.Tropical fish,gobs of wide open water, the occasional sea snake on the sandy bottom…Then we saw him!
Sailing out of the ocean depths, the manta ray flapped more gracefully than any bird I had ever seen, screaming at a breathtaking pace in our direction.
My heart pounded, but I also felt a firm calm that this creature was not any threat to me.(and that’s saying somethin’ for someone who’s skittish in deep water, always stealing glances over the shoulder to see what’s coming from behind)
The manta rays look positively prehistoric.It’s hard to find their mouths – until they open them in a barrel roll, then they are ALL mouth!
Their giant gills run in slants along their white undersides,
And their eyes seem to be at the base of these pointers, jutting out on either side of their mouths.
MANTA RAYS AT NIGHT
After our evening snorkel, the guides jumped in to plant a spotlight (read as:plankton attractor) on the sea bottom, in about 100 feet of water.
We had a little snack, watched the sun set (no Green Flash that night!), and gabbed nervously about our impending dive.
(You can either dive or snorkel with the manta rays.Since you’re snorkeling on top of the water,this option gives you the unique flutter sensation on your belly! Read below…)
Darkness quickly fell and we jumped into the black water, huddled so closely together that our limbs hit each other as we splashed furiously out to the spotlit circle, to meet the rays.
Nervewracking does not begin to express my experience.
Whites of my sons’ eyes, behind their masks, wild with adrenaline!
Finally relieved to join the “circle” with the other 40 or so folks from the boat!
It was not long before our first manta ray appeared, flapping out of the ink, and into the light.
He seems not even to notice us swimmers and went right to work, catching dinner.
He was harmless, yet terrifying!
Then another swam in.And a third.
That’s when my 8-year-old jumped up on my back, white-knuckling my shoulders and letting out bubbly screeches when a manta ray soared our way.
WITH MANTA RAYS, IT’S ALMOST WHAT YOU FEEL, MORE THAN WHAT YOU SEE
Manta rays create strong current as they wing past you.Their palpable momentum creates a rush along your body and their wings flutter just below you.Did that manta ray’s wingactually brush my skin, or was it just the rush of water?
Either way, I was WAY close to such a wild, out-of-my-normal-world creature.
I felt like I had brushed the primeval.
A LITTLE SCIENCE OF MANTA RAYS
Manta rays have few natural predators because of their size. Only Orca and large sharks, such as Tigers, successfully hunt these large rays.
Some cultures fish manta rays for food or medicine. Manta rays usually become rare very quickly when this happens, because of the manta ray’s low reproductive rate. Manta rays give birth to 1 or 2 pups each year, and females sometimes take a year off to recover her resources before breeding again.
Manta rays are not commercial fished, but they are sometimes accidentally caught, because they swim slowly in the upper layers of the ocean.
DOES THIS ADVENTURE “CALL YOUR NAME”?
I can send you on a trip to Hawaii, where you’ll do this swim,
PLUS meet my waterfall guru, go on a shameless food crawl, sleep in a treehouse,
hike dense bamboo forests, and just have a ball!
Email me now to talk about what YOUR trip could look like!