Dylan Rohrer, [email protected]
I recently got the chance to visit Hawaii for the first time. Little did I know I’d be meeting a local celebrity on the “big island” of Kona.
The family had booked a trip to snorkel with Manta Rays, named one of the top things to do while visiting Hawaii. Everyone was very excited as we drove to the boat dock, our minds imagining everything we might get to see.
After slipping into our (very fitting) wetsuits, we all kicked off our shoes and loaded up onto the “Sea Paradise”. After a short ride out past the harbor, we met up with a few other boats and watched the Hawaiian sunset on the warm Pacific Ocean, rocking with the waves.
Once it began to get dark, the crew of the “Sea Paradise” set out huge rafts with lightbars attached to them. These lightbars served two purposes, to be able to see the Rays below and to attract a swarm of plankton, the main food source of the Rays. The other boats next to us began to do the same until there was a huge circle of light shining through to the dark seafloor.
The crew then gave us our “floatation devices”, (a simple pool noodle), and we headed out to the raft, where we all held on, looking down onto the seabed.
One of the members of the “Sea Paradise” crew had mentioned before a local Ray, popular with the locals. She was almost guaranteed to visit, and had gained such a reputation that the local crews had given her the name, “Amandaray”.
I saw my first Ray before even making it to the raft. Taking a glance below me while swimming, I saw a blur of movement on the seafloor, before a Ray swooped up just feet from under me!
As we all settled into our spot on the raft, the seabed became clouded with a huge concentration of plankton. It began to attract other animals too, including Needlefish, Sea Cucumbers, and more.
It wasn’t long before a member of the crew began to call out “Ray below!”. Everyone on the raft began to “Ahhh” with amazement as the huge animals swam below us. After some time, a crew member shouted, “Here’s Amandaray! Everybody say hi!”.
This Ray was far larger than the others and was able to be spotted by her unique color pattern on her underbelly. Amandaray put on quite the show, even getting so close to me while feeding I actually felt her brush against me!
This experience is one I will never forget. If you ever decide to visit Kona, I would highly recommend taking a tour with the Manta Rays. You may even get to meet a local celebrity!
Below is a short GoPro video captured of Amandaray. Meet her for yourself! (Video courtesy of Brooke Lewis.)