11 August 2016

Manta Ray Dive

Diving with the Manta Rays was something I wanted to do since we got our dive certification.  A few friends have done it and their videos are absolutely stunning.  We had planned on going when we visited the Big Island on our post deployment vacation but early winter swells and weird weather caused most of the tours to be cancelled.

Part of the drive to come back instead of going to Kauai was this dive.  We were able to book a spot with Big Island Divers and headed out on our last night there.  To try and help calm my butterflies of doing a night dive we decided to book the two dive charter -- one at dusk and then the big event.  I cannot say how happy I am that we did that.  On our first dive we went to 78 ft (deepest I've been), saw fours mantas, a monk seal and a bunch of coral/eels/fish.  After a surface interval where we watched the sunset, we were finally ready to go in.

The idea of diving at night is just unnatural.  Every part of me tells me not to go into the water at night.  If a shark is going to come attack me I would rather have the opportunity to see it coming versus it sneaking up on me and that's it.  Thankfully, this was a great introduction to night diving.  There is a big "campfire" of dive lights on the bottom of the ocean that faces up.  All divers have a light that you can use to look around with on the descent (I spotted a huge eel out and about) and then you face it up once you're settled.  Snorkelers float above on surfboards with lights on the bottom of them.  The phytoplankton (the mantas food) come into the lights and try to photosynthesize, which bring the mantas out to eat.

To say it was a once in a lifetime experience, and probably the best dive we're going to go on, is an understatement.  We saw 13 different rays including Big Bertha, a pregnant 16 ft wide beast.  A few came so close to our heads that I ducked and ones tail brushed against us.  Being able to sit and watch these beautiful animals underwater is an experience that I can't even begin to put into words.  You can find a video below the pictures! For those interested, there's a longer one on our YouTube page!