After a long 45 min boat ride to the location, through rolling waves and rain; nothing was helping. The seasickness medication, the pressure point band, the saltine crackers, and the copious amounts of Ginger tea I had been consuming, did nothing to ease my landlocked stomach. I was about to die! Or, at least, about to feed the fish what was left of my dinner.
I was feeling completely miserable and it was a pity, because in about 10 secs, if I managed to stay alive, I would be crossing another item of my bucket list – diving with some pretty awesome creatures- Manta Rays.
As opposed to my petrifying and completely unjustified fear of sharks, I was looking forward to being inches from 10-20 feet long Mantas. Ever since I started diving almost a decade ago, I’ve wanted to see these magnificent creatures in the wild, and it just happened that we were staying in Kona, Hawaii; a magical place where you can find these creatures close to shore.
Manta Night Dive in Kona, Hawaii
As soon as we reached the dive spot, I made my way into the water, bypassing any diver etiquette and completely abandoning my dive buddy, my husband; in the futile hope that once I was under water, my stomach would stop its fuss and the world could return to normal again.
I hit the water and submerged. I concentrated on breathing in and out and tried to relax. After a few minutes, I was not 100%, but I felt at least able to function. (For non-divers, being underwater is much calmer than being on the water.)
Once the group is all in the water, we dove. Not even 20 mins into our dive, we spot the first guest of honor, gently cruising by, with no worry or curiosity on its way to dinner.
A few more minutes underwater and we saw a couple more Mantas dive by. I was at awe of their gracefulness and sheer size. At this point, my excitement level was high and I couldn’t barely wait to witness their night feeding.
We ascended for our decompression time (break between dives) and once again I was in seasickness hell. If it wasn’t getting dark, and we hadn’t seen a few 15-feet tiger sharks during our previous dives, I would have thrown myself overboard right then and there and decompressed in the water!
But, my brain had not completely stopped working yet, so I tried hanging on for dear life for the next 45 mins on board. I know, you are probably asking why a person who suffers from acute sea sickness would ever get on a boat, right? Well friends, some experiences are worth almost dying for and this was one of them.
I made it just in time to once again submerge into the pitch dark Hawaiian waters to join the other divers.
I had a small flashlight on my left hand and my puny underwater camera on my right. It was pretty unlikely I would get any good pictures with the equipment I had. At night, underwater, I would be lucky to even see the shutter button, but just in case, I wanted to be prepared. Truth be told, I also wanted something to hold on to and calm my nerves. Diving at night is like swimming in a dark pool, where you can only see a few feet in front of you. You don’t know what is lurking around you and if you are not careful, you can loose all sense of direction.
Fear aside, I wanted to do a Manta Night Dive, so I braved the dark waters. As soon as I jumped in, I saw them! Close to a dozen mantas (we counted 11), performing a feeding ballet that was mesmerizing. I followed our group towards the bottom where other divers were also experiencing this unreal event. My husband and I found a big boulder to steady ourselves against and tried to stay away from the spiky sea urchins covering it. In the excitement of it all, I still got pricked a few times, but who cared? We were diving with MANTAS!!!
We pointed our flashlights towards the surface and were blessed by up close experience. The Mantas kept coming, swirling right in front of us, open mouthed, acrobatically maneuvering around us to feed in a mix of pirouettes and somersaults. Several came so close I had to duck behind the boulder and a couple clipped my head with their wings. Thankfully, none hit me hard. The mantas were so large that our dive master estimated the largest was about 20ft across. When they swam by, there was gush, a current created by their ergonomic design.
The ballet lasted for an hour and if it wasn’t for our pesky human limitation- air to live- I could have watched them for days. In fact, I would have traded all the morning dives we did in Kona for more time in the water with the Mantas.
In their presence, I realized I could never cross this experience off my Bucket List, because only one dive with them would never be enough.
*My apologies for the grainy crappy pictures, but again they were taken in pitch black water, with only flashlights.
Is a Manta Night Dive on your bucket list?