I’ve always had some fascination with marine life. As a child I loved going to SeaWorld to see all the marine animals in their underwater grace; twirling, arcing, and swooping through the water, jumping and splashing and looking as if they were having the most amazing time. I remember wanting so badly to jump into one of those huge pools so that I could give a whale or a dolphin or a sea otter a huge hug. They just looked so…cuddly!!!!
Well, as I’ve shared before, Hawaii was the ultimate SeaWorld. Being able to see so many of these amazing creatures in their natural habitat doing what they do with no interference or “help” from humans was nothing short of breathtaking. Naturally, when I learned about this evening snorkel with manta rays I jumped at the opportunity to be so close to them.
This is the natural behavior of the manta rays off the coast of The Big Island of Hawai’i. Manta rays feed on plankton during the evening. Plankton is attracted to light. So naturally, when boats are in this area at night and their lights are shining bright, lots of plankton comes to the surface and the manta rays find the plankton and feed. Their mouths are wide open and they feed by making arcs through the water, scooping up as much plankton as possible, until they’ve had their fill. Because mantas are so large (they can get up to 20 feet across), they need to eat about 50 pounds of plankton a day. That’s a LOT of graceful arcs through the water! And an amazing show for those of us who were watching. Thankfully they’re not dangerous. They have no stingers or barbs or teeth. They’re just HUGE and HUNGRY!! And what’s even more amazing is that manta rays tend to be solitary creatures. Seeing so many of them in one small area is a treat. We were told that this is the only place in the world where the mantas have been known to exhibit this behavior. So indeed, this was a once in a lifetime experience. A sort of underwater Cirque du Soleil. Seeing them in the distance is one thing. But when one brushes your leg with it’s “wing” or comes directly at you with its mouth wide open to catch the plankton that’s right in front of your face…well…it’s nothing sort of surreal. It’s hypnotizing, really, and I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Enjoy!!