Planktonic marine life is attracted to light at night. We set up underwater lights shortly after sunset to attract the plankton.
Manta Rays are drawn to the area and feed by filtering the plankton from the water using a complex system of brachial filters to ingest and then digest the food.
There are two locations along the Kona Coast to view the Manta Rays. We visit these sites almost every night throughout the year. Adverse ocean conditions or inclement weather are the only conditions that prevent this activity.
Name of Site
Located near the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa in Keauhou
Located off shore of the Kona International Airport
Most tour operators meet approximately 1 - 1.5 hour before the in-water activity starts. The check-in times vary due to different sunset times throughout the year. Some operators also offer 2-tank scuba dives. This means that you dive or snorkel during twilight hours, then wait until it gets dark to enter the water to view the Manta Rays.
You need to be a certified scuba diver to dive the Manta Ray Night Dive.
As with all wildlife in their natural habitat, the Manta Rays come and go as they please.
“Manta Village”, near Keauhou Bay, has consistent Manta Ray Sightings of 1 to 5 Manta Rays about 90 % of the time. “Manta Heaven” on the other hand, has higher numbers of Manta Rays, but is less consistent. On one spectacular night, we reported 42 Manta Rays at “Manta Heaven” (July 4, 2012) !
Click here for more information about the statistics of Manta Ray Sightings.
Once the boats arrive at their destination, boat crews and photographers give thorough briefings on:
- The Creature “Manta Ray”
- Safety, Entry, Exit, Stay with your group
- Snorkeling and Scuba Diving at night
- Equipment use
- Video/Photo Services
- Suggestions for optimal viewing and
- Guidelines for passive interaction with the Manta Rays
The Guidelines for Participants
Please remember that our interaction with the Manta Rays is passive. We are visiting their realm. We do not want to harm the Manta Rays.
To accomplish optimal viewing of the Manta Rays, we advocate the following guidelines:
1. Do not touch the Manta Rays!
Manta Rays have a protective slime coating on their body. Touching removes this mucus layer and compromises the creatures immune system.
2. Snorkelers: Stay on the surface!
Do not free dive into the water column which is designated to the Manta Rays.
3. Divers: Stay on the bottom!
Make constant contact with the bottom in sandy areas. Do not float into or swim through the water column which is designated to the Manta Rays.
4. Divers: Remove the snorkel from your mask!
We encourage you to take the snorkel off your mask when you dive with the Manta Rays, so the Mantas do not run into it and possibly remove it with the attached mask.
Due to increased numbers of tour operators and participants, the industry came together in late 2012 to create Manta Tour Operator Standards. We encourage everyone to learn more about it. Click here for more information.
As soon as it is dark enough for the plankton to form, everyone enters the water. Divemasters bring the scuba divers to where the Manta Rays congregate. The divers position themselves on the bottom in about 25-35 feet and they shine their lights upwards towards the surface. The snorkelers from each boat are guided to the illuminated areas as well. They shine their lights downwards.
The lights, the Manta Rays, the coral reef and various kind of fish make you feel like you are in a different world. It is a unique environment most people never see.
The Kona Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii is the only place in the world where you can experience the Manta Rays with high probability of sightings. This is the result of conditioning the Manta Rays in Kona over a period of years to associate light with plankton. Read more about this in our “History” section.
The in-water activity lasts about 45-60 minutes.
We provide video- and photo services aboard a multitude of tour boats that frequent the Manta Ray feeding areas. We utilize state-of-the-art, High Definition video cameras and editing equipment. We capture your snorkel or dive and create a fully-edited DVD of your night, which is made available for purchase. You can place your order for a DVD, download or pictures by contacting us by phone, email or through our Online Store.