Almost seven years ago I took a trip up the west coast of Western Australia, only a couple of months after moving there from the UK. It is a beautiful stretch of coastline, and way up north there is a little place called Coral Bay. There it is possible to go diving with manta rays, but at the time our finances were pretty stretched, and we decided not to do the dive, and save our money to go whale shark watching instead. I have always wanted to do a dive with manta rays since then, and imagined it would happen on another trip up the west coast of Oz.
However, two people informed me of the possibility of manta ray diving here in Kona, on the Big Island. Kathy suggested it as a possibility, and Melissa sent me a link to Jack’s Diving Locker, where she had done the manta dive a couple of times.
Jack’s Diving Locker do a night dive with the manta rays, and I contacted them to book for Friday night, but unfortunately the weather prevented any diving that evening, and the trip was re-scheduled for Monday – last night!
The whole trip started just after lunch, when I went to the dive shop to get a lift out to the harbour. There we were all geared up, and around 4pm we headed out of the harbour, a little nervous as we had just seen a big swordfish towed in to be weighed with a couple of huge shark bites taken out of it!
The first dive was a daylight dive on the reef, and our guide Joe took our little group of six around and showed us all sorts of fish, and a couple of moray eels too.
After a quick bite to eat as the sun set we geared up again, with torches this time, and dived down to about 40 feet, and joined a circle of other divers on the bottom. We waited a while, and suddenly a manta gracefully swooped into the circle and swam around, feeding on the plankton drawn by the lights.
It wasn’t a huge one, perhaps 8 feet from wingtip to wingtip, but it was so graceful and spectacular as it glided around the circle, swooping again and again right over the heads of those with the brightest torches.
I moved around the circle to join Keller, one of our group’s instructors, as he had some very bright lights, and the amazing creature passed a couple of times less than a foot above us.
Eventually our circle broke up and set off to explore the reef, and towards the end of the dive there was only Joe, myself and Jason, one of the other customers left with air, and the manta rejoined the three of us. It swept by so close, and on one pass rubbed right across the top of my head.
On the surface Joe climbed aboard the boat, and the manta joined Jason and I again, right below us. We held together and shone our torches together to gather the plankton, and this amazing huge creature did beautiful back summersaults right below us, coming within inches as it turned over and over, like an incredible underwater ballet. I could have stayed for hours watching it, but we were eventually called in to the boat to head back to shore.
What an incredibly moving experience, to be so close to such a gentle giant. Thanks to all from Jack’s Diving Locker, including the instructors and crew aboard the boat, Keller, Joe, Mungo and Bob. Also thanks to Harvey, who very kindly let me copy his underwater pictures from his rented camera, and any underwater shots above are his, not mine.
Note: Keller has a great video of the mantas in action on the Jack’s Diving Locker webpage, although not from my evening with them:-
Jack’s Diving Locker
What an evening… ah, but it wasn’t over yet… to be continued…