You got to read this story!!! It all happened last week...
Dive Master Bryce's original report:
I was leading my divers out of this beautful lavatube we call "skull cave", and I noticed a lovely free swimming octopus landing gently on a boulder just outside the exit. I slowly approached said boulder so as to not scare the octopus away.
As I got there I started noticing octopus number 2, then 3, and as I was about to motion to my divers that there were multiple octopi, #3 emitted a black cloud of ink and hauled ass away.
I was curious why the octopus would be inking as we were still approaching and he had plenty of room, so he had no reason to perceive me as a threat. That's when I saw the other two octopus take off after #3...
As I watched this hellish Nightmare Demon (aka Viper Moray) fly 10' out of his hole and attempt to chase down 3 fleeing octopus in mid-water, I learned the reason for the ink.
Now I, Bryce Lauder, being of sound mind, had no intention to stick my face in the pissed off viper moray hole, so I turned my group and started to search for some new excitement.
But Nightmare Demon had other plans...
Two or three seconds later it felt like someone grabbed my arm really hard. As I comprehended that this "grab" was actually quite painful, I turned to see viper moray tail running back to his boulder about 15' away.
I heard the lady in my group scream through her regulator, so I'm sure they heard a few expletives out of me as I emitted my green cloud (color of blood underwater) on the way back to the dive boat.
Although I was a good 10-15' away from the viper moray's hideout in mid-water, I believe it was a case of MISTAKEN IDENTITY.
The moray had just been inked for tagging an octopus and couldn't see, so it went after anything moving, which was me! CRAZY!
Keep in mind that Hawaii is one of the safest places to scuba dive and snorkel in the Pacific ocean.
The octopi were signaling "DANGER! DANGER!", but because the dive master didn't see and wasn't aware of what THEY
clearly saw, he kept moving and it was movement that triggered the eel to
As Bryce pointed out in his narrative, once an octopi inks, an eel
immediately goes into "Strike Mode" because it "knows" (in a eel kind of way), that it has only has seconds before the octopus "disappears."
Another factor in the equation is how hungry and therefore "wound up” the eel was. For all we know, it hadn’t eaten in days. This was a case of Bryce being in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time.
The olds of being bitten by a viper moray eel are about the same as being struck by lightning. From a business point of view, it is WAY better for Bryce to get bit than a tourist diver.
Our hat is off to Bryce for being so “cool.”
He has a nice story to tell, with pictures (and a scar) to prove it.
Had Bryce not had a wetsuit on as soft body armor, those puncture would would have been very serious shredding wounds which could have torn the brachial artery in his arm and the outcome may have been much more serious.
Bryce has his Guardian Angel to thank for protecting him from a much more serious injury. Eel bites are also notoriously infection prone. He’s not "out of the woods" yet.
GREAT NEWS for our Kona Mantas: regulations are coming and have been long in the make.
A week ago the legal fellow from the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) invited to meet with all manta boat operators and stakeholder. It was a great exchange of ideas
and suggestions on how this unique industry can move towards a sustainable (I love that word!) future. As always, my team participated and it felt really good to see that the officials have “heard” us.
Over-capacity and questionable conduct of operators are the main problems the Manta Experience is dealing with, and ultimately the Mantas and the reef have paid a price for it.
Book with a boat operator who is most ecologically-minded and simply reads the manual “the Operator Standards” www.MantaRayGreenList.com
Imagine spending the next several hours feeling cool, salty water sweep over you as you swim through open-ocean, and this isn't your first time. You are one of 6 people to ever swim the Ocean 7.
The toughest 7 ocean swims in the world, - the English Channel, - the Strait of Gibraltar, - Catalina Channel, - Cook Strait, - Molokai Strait, - North Channel, and - Tsugaru Channel. This is the real-life experience of Adam Walker.
Adam Walker is one of 6 people to ever complete the Ocean 7 and the first British person. He is one of 2 only who did all 7 without any failed attempts (btw he also did a 2 way Gibraltar straits), and he came to visit us! Adam joined the French Production Company MC4, Director John Jackson and Assistant Keir Byatt as we explored Manta Rays! The MC4 crew had seen my viral Dolphin Rescue video, circa 2013, and they felt compelled to interview me!!
I'm honored to have been filmed under water by world renowned videographer Roberto Rinaldi for a series international shows that will air in December 2015! In France the special "Thalassa" and in Canada "Nature of Things with David Suzuki" will center on "Dolphin Intelligence", these specials will highlight 25 human encounter with dolphins.
Adam shared with us his unforgettable interaction with dolphins (and I am sharing it with you). In April of 2014, Adam was swimming New Zealands' Cook Strait.
After several hours of swimming he peered down, only to realize that there was a great white shark beneath him. Adam, naturally, was concerned about the sharks close proximity, when suddenly a pod of dolphins surrounded him. Over the next hour the dolphins accompanied Adam on his swim through Cook Strait, at points getting so close that they made it difficult to swim. "I'd like to think they were protecting me and guiding me home!" he posted on Facebook. "This swim will stay with me forever."
We had the privilege of escorting Adam Walker and the MC4 crew on the Manta Experience with Big Island Divers, we shared my love for Manta Rays and how they have changed my life so many years ago, and still today.
Stay tuned for updates and enjoy the short video we made for Adam Walker.
It was inspiring to meet a fellow ocean lover and advocate!!
GoPro really is NoPro...at night...on the ocean! A comedy and thoughtful reminder of what happens to guests when they bring their cameras. We have seen it all :)
Our famous Manta Ray Experience in Kona, Hawaii is considered a bucket list item and a MUST for ocean goers and Manta Ray Lovers. People from all over the world travel to this exotic destination to get an up-close encounter with the beautiful and mesmerizing gentle giants of the sea.
Too many times we encountered divers and snorkelers over-tasking themselves with photography while they should enjoy this incredible and unique nature spectacle. Handling a camera on the ocean is challenging. Learn what can go wrong! We want to encourage you to give the Manta Rays your full attention.
Since 1991, our team is specialized to film this dive. With the increased use of underwater cameras (everyone has one), we feel that the guests are missing out on the manta show. Recently we were visited by the rarest mammal in the US, the Hawaiian Monk Seal, and one diver didn't even see it because he was busy with his camera (see Minute 1:54)
We want to encourage everyone who participates to check with us at www.mantarayproductions.tv before embarking onto this Experience of a Lifetime.
Let us worry about the photography. Don't miss the show.
If you visited already, then check out the nightly videos and photos available in our online store.
On a personal note: GoPro did it. Their marketing is excellent and these little cameras have produced amazing stuff. I guess every professional photographer goes thru the motions of losing business to today's selfie world.
But we have a saying in the diving industry: "A GoPro makes a bad diver a dangerous diver (to himself and others)". Mistakes on scuba or snorkeling can cost you dearly and I wish there would be more emphasis on safety than taking your own picture.
I wanted to create this promo for a long time. A big Mahalo to my team members for producing it with me. This was a lot of fun and Adam Fram: you are a real "talent" :)
Manta Ray Advocate
& Professional Underwater Photographer
P.S. ....and for everyone preparing to come to Kona, click here to get our "FREE GUIDE to the Manta Ray Experience - 25 Essentials to get the most from this Adventure of a Lifetime".
RAREST MAMMAL in USA sighted at Manta Ray Night Dive in Kona Hawaii!
Waimanu - a Hawaiian Monk seal - was seen at “Manta Ray Heaven” a few times over the past few weeks, but always on the dark outskirts. Saturday and Sunday night, we captured NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN footage of Waimanu swimming through the dive site while the Manta Rays were feeding on plankton.
The Hawaiian Monk seal is considered a critically endangered animal with a population of approximately 1100. Most Hawaiian Monk Seals live around the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands; only a few populate the main Hawaiian Islands. Three monk seals inhabit the Big Island and Waimanu – the only female - is currently pregnant.
Ryan, our newest team member Adam and myself captured a truly breathtaking encounter.
Share it with the world and let us know what you think!
Learn more about protecting Hawaiian Monk Seals: www.NOAA.gov
Aloha and Happy New Year 2015!
Today is a special day: it is the 2-year anniversary of "Dolphin Rescue Hawaii", the rare video I shot of a wild Bottlenose Dolphin being rescued from fishing line entanglement (January 11, 2013). It happened during the Manta Ray Experience and it was an incredible moment: truly breath-taking, inspiring and providing the message the world needs!
The days and weeks after the video went viral were incredible. I got calls
from CNN, CBS, Good Morning America, FoxNews, ABC with Diane Sawyer, WDR, RTL,
Westdeutsche Zeitung, Tagesschau/Nachtmagazin etc and also interviewed with the
BBC Breakfast TV via skype. These were exciting times, which continued when the
BBC "Inside the animals mind", National Geographic "Animals gone wild", MINA TV
"Die tierischen Zehn" und Globo TV (Brazil) "Fantastico" integrated the film
into their productions. Two other you tube channels reloaded my original
dolphin rescue video, and together we have over 15 Million hits. We
received thousands of comments and emails. A true testament to the uniqueness of
the subject matter. It is also very unusual for a clip this long to accumulate
so many views.
The most common question we received was, “Is the dolphin okay?”
Amazingly, our very own E. Ryan Leinbach encountered the Bottlenose dolphin again and today on the two-year anniversary of the rescue, our team is very excited to present: Dolphin Rescue Hawaii – Update: A Chance Encounter. A MUST SEE!
It was on March 30, 2014 around 11AM, when Ryan encountered Notch about 2-3 miles of
shore in "blue water", meaning the ocean is just blue and several hundred meters
deep. She was scanning the surface for something exciting to see, and when she
discovered several dolphins, her group of snorkelers glided into the water to
check it out. Notch came over to the group and was making whistling and clicking
noises. After he checked everything, he went back to his original doings of
courtship behavior with a female. We can conclude that Notch is not just okay, he is actually thriving and
making more little dolphins. How cool is that?
From a humanized perspective, you might think that
Notch was happy to see humans, but from a natural stand-point (and I prefer
the down-to-earth approach) you can suggest that Notch was just verifying
that the creatures entering his neighborhood were not a threat or something to
be concerned with.
Although, both Ryan and myself have several thousands hours swimming and filming
dolphins on the Kona Coast, we both have never seen this
particular behaviour when Notch went spiraling into the deep blue, came
straight back to the surface and swam around the humans. It is very rare footage and supports the theory that he was a "happy camper".
Well, who really knows , but we make people think, right?
At the beginning of this year (Jan 1 until 9) we joined the local "Waimea
Ocean Film Festival" on the Big Island. We submitted the full story of Notch:
before the rescue; the actual rescue and the re-union. The screenings with live
Q&A were a big success.
Here is a beautiful story from one
event: A gentleman walked up to me and told me that he
was with me on the boat when the Dolphin Rescue took place. We traveled back
together to the harbor. I was on such an adrenaline high, saying things like "this video will go
viral" or "millions of people will see this".
The guy, Dave,
thought I was a total nutcase for saying that stuff. He thought I was some crazy
lady LOL...but here we go...15 Mil hits on YouTube and counting.
The Waimea Ocean Festival edit/story is available to everyone, as we offer
the HD download for ONLY $5. YES, no kidding ONLY $5. The contributions will help us to continue our Manta Ray advocacy and ocean education.
On a personal note: The last two years were a whirlwind for many other reasons. In the summer of 2013, I unfortunately (or fortunately) was diagnosed with breast canser, so for a while my work had to be 2nd priority. The final steps to recovery were taken a few months ago (September 2014), and I can only say, everything is fine! I am not only a cancer survivor, I am a cancer
The BC diagnosis actually fueled me even more to continue my ocean advocacy and education for Manta Rays and marine life, as it is my true love and passion. I am in the right place and can apply all my skills: from engineering to web-design to video production. My group recently started the Manta Ray Advocacy movement. The Manta Ray activity is over-capacity and and
as a result the mantas are getting hurt. My small team has the means, knowledge and imagery to make a difference. Learn more here!
Our intention for sharing this footage:
1. You can make a difference every day, even if you don't see the result
Who would have thought that Notch from being in trouble with the
(man-made) fishing line entanglement would end up thriving and procreate?
2 We can co-exist with other creatures. Although humans know so much, they
only know so little.
3. The footage is very beautiful and enjoyable to watch.
4. Our company's mission statement is:
"Inspiring, educating and transforming public consciousness with
stunning imagery". We feel we are delivering and are planning to
continue on this path.
Merry Christmas to all crew members, boat captains and activity providers that we work with on a nightly basis. You help us keep the Advocacy movement going. This is our tribute to your hard work and dedication and we wish you all the best for the New Year 2015!
Aloha, we have completed our statistical assessment of the Manta (alfredi) population on the west side of the Big Island of Hawaii. These statistics cover both venues where we regularly encounter the Manta Rays.
Click here to open/download the accompanying 8-page pdf-file.
These statistics are based on field observations and review of video footage from each location on a given date. We would like to thank all contributors who made these statistics as complete and accurate as possible.
A Special Mahalo to Luke, David, Jordan and Katie from Kona Diving Company, Jonathan from Big Island Divers as well as others who were kind enough to provide us with information.
The Top 3 Manta Rays in 2013
The Top 20 in 2013
The largest "Cast on Set"
• On October 25, 2013 we saw the highest number of 43 individual Manta Rays.
39 Mantas at Manta Heaven (airport location) and 4 Mantas at Manta Village (Sheraton Keauhou location) (see page 5).
• That same night was also the highest number of 39Mantas in 2013 for individual sightings for Manta Heaven.
• The highest number at Manta Village was 13 Mantas on September 27, 2013.
• In 2013 we saw 82 individual Manta Rays (the same number of Rays we saw in 2012) during the snorkel/dive activity at “Manta Heaven” and “Manta Village” (see Page 3).
• Over the entire month of November 2013 we saw the highest number of different individuals at 62 (see Page 8).
New Arrivals – Rookies of the year
5 new Manta Rays were identified during the night activity in 2013:
• Peg, Lee Ray, Csilla, Lobes “El Diablo” and HipHip Hooray (see Page 3 and 4).
• Three Manta Rays found their way to Manta Heaven after being identified years ago:
--- Independence Ray was identified a few days before July 2011 (hence the name) and was
not seen again until July of 2013. In 2013 we saw him 26 times.
--- Tanqueray was identified at Sand Chute (a dive site very close to Manta Heaven) in 2008 and then seen again in 2010 at Kiholo Bay (distance of 15 Miles North). He finally made it to Manta Heaven in August 2013! He then visited 15x.
--- Ryan Ray ID’d in 2006 during the night dive at Manta Heaven showed up 7.5 years later 1x in November 2013. She had been seen a few times during those years at a cleaning station north of Manta Heaven during daytime encounters.
• We had seen Spatter Ray in 2012 after a 7 year absence, but she did not stop by in 2013. We have reason to believe she is alive, well, and enjoying herself somewhere else like we hope for other former regulars that are MIA today (Wing Ray, Angelika Ray, Capt. Kirk).
• "Youngster” Kai-Zed Ray came by only 1x in 2012, but made Manta Heaven a regular spot to feed in 2013. He enjoyed himself 60x.
• Rusty Ray did the same 1x show in 2012, but was then seen 43x in 2013.
• Amanda Ray, a newly identified pup in 2012 really liked to come to Manta Village. In the first 6 months of 2013 she only came 9x, but starting in July 2013 she was feeding 130x, which made her jump into the TOP 20 to Place 12. WOW!!.
• Newly ID in 2013 Peg Ray appeared 75x in 2013, she was also the 2nd most seen Manta in November 2013. She is a fast learner!
• Lee Ray followed Peg’s example of being a “newby” and making 2nd most seen Manta in December 2013. She came a total of 42x in 2013.
MIA's & Cameos
• All regularly seen Manta Rays in 2012 continued to thrill us in 2013. This “core group” is consistent at both locations with none of the Manta Rays going "missing in action"
• Coral Ray, Dionne, Shelly, Mac Ray, X-Ray, Ola’i, Isabel, Sparrow and Winona made one or two time appearances at Manta Heaven in 2013. It is nice to know that they are still around.
• Jeffrey Ray (ID in 1999) had not been sighted since October 2010, but he came 6x in August, September and October of 2013 and appeared healthy.
Lunar Phase: Fact or Fiction?
Like the 2011 and 2012 statistics, the 2013 numbers indicate that there is no correlation between moon phase and manta sightings (see Page 5).
What are the odds?
Page 6 of our pdf file will show the overview of the ratio of possible charters and successful Manta Ray Sightings for each month as well as the average number of individual Manta Rays.
• “Skunked” – going out and see no Manta Rays in 2013: _____Manta Heaven = 32 times _____Manta Village = 11 times
• The probability of seeing at least one Manta Ray in 2013 was: _____Manta Heaven = 90 % (down from 95% in 2012) _____Manta Village = 96 % (up from 93% in 2012)
• The average number of individuals Manta Rays for 2013: _____Manta Heaven = 11 (a decrease from 14 in 2012) _____Manta Village = 4 (up from 3 in 2012).
Wow, the possibility to see a Manta Ray on the Kona Coast during a night time adventure remains to be over 90%. We continue to be amazed by the consistency of their appearances.
"High mileage" mantas
Manta Rays sometimes travel the distance of approx. 14 miles between the dive sites within a time frame of 24 – 96 hours (see Page 7).
We monitor the movement of these “Travelers” and observed that 30 Manta Rays (up 2 mantas from 2012) swam between Manta Village and Manta Heaven or vice versa. Vallaray is the “Traveler of the year 2013”. She moved up and down the coast 31 times, 10 months of the year. In May and June, 6 times.
Melainah Ray (Traveler of the Year 2012) and Linda Ray also did their share of traveling within their home range and using the night feeding areas to their advantage.
Pregnant Manta Rays
By the end of 2013, we observed that 5 female Mantas were pregnant.
• Big Bertha: another one after her pregnancy 2010/2011
• Vicky Ray: first pregnancy! Congratulations! Identified in 2002 as a pup, she has been a regular since then. Perhaps it takes 11 years for females to be sexually mature.
• Koie Ray: first time ever becoming pregnant since we first saw her (ID in 2001)
• Who Ray
• Andrea Ray
We were pleased to see that all 5 females came to term successfully in the spring of 2014!!
Over the last two years, we have observed an increasing number of injuries to the manta rays. Whereas before, most of the injuries we saw were fishing hook and fishing line related. We are now seeing what looks like impact and entanglement injuries. We believe the dramatic increase of tour operators and the different methods of attraction used by some operators contribute heavily to this disturbing trend.
Resolution HCR 170 (Originally Bill HB 1684) was introduced by State Representative Nicole Lowen which urges the DLNR to manage the manta sites in Keauhou and Makako Bay (airport location), in particular the over-saturation problems we encounter 90% of the time. There are no "slow times" anymore. The resolution was adopted on April 21, 2014.
For now, a working group has been formed to find solutions. With the State’s involvement, positive change will get done eventually, but unfortunately the mantas have to endure the current climate, which is harmful to them on a nightly basis. They are now exposed to propeller strikes from live-boating, impact injuries due to hull-lighting, entanglements, and fishing gear injuries. At “Manta Village” we have observed people entering from shore that regularly dive down on, touch, and try to ride the manta rays. Unfortunately it has become a “free for all”.
The Manta “Gold Rush” has produced a new group of people who don’t seem concerned about manta injuries and the importance of passive interaction. The human over-saturation of the Manta Ray's feeding areas is clearly harming them. It is our hope that the process for their protection will be abbreviated so that the threats that they face can be eliminated as quickly as possible.
Most of the operators work within the guidelines that the Operator Standards address, but others have clearly shown they cannot or will not manage themselves, so it appears the State will have to step in and regulate them. We will keep you posted.
What can I do as a participant?
If you choose to participate in one of the excursions, we encourage you to go with a company that keeps the Manta Rays safety (and of course your’s) their highest priority!