The manta rays of the Big Island are (almost) tamed with a treat of krill drawn to floodlights for an easy feed. It's a bit of an industry here - it seems that the mantas first started to appear by the deck of the Sheraton drawn by the lights each night. (N.B. it's free!) Now, everybody and his cousin in Kona has an operation sending people out on snorkeling and diving trips to various spots along the coast equipped with powerful lamps to draw in the giant rays.
We found an el-cheapo operator that took us out on a catamaran to a spot where we jumped in holding on to the edges of an old surfboard with lamps shining down from its bottom. And it was awesome.
Scary to have a 15-foot-wide animal race straight at you with its gaping maw wide open in a feeding frenzy only to turn away at the last moment. But pretty cool.
After watching the mantas do their night time acrobatics from the comfort of the balcony of the Sheraton bar, we decided that it would be really cool to be in there in the water to see them close up. The next day we booked and drove down to the marina. We jumped on a catamaran and sailed out as the sun was setting. As we arrived at the spot, there were already quite a few boats waiting for the right time. We donned our snorkelling gear, adorned with yellow glow sticks and then jumped into the dark water, clinging onto the board. As soon as we had jumped in two mantas came straight up and were somersaulting right beneath us. One was so close I thought it would brush its belly against mine. I had been slightly apprehensive about being in the water with such large creatures, but it was actually quite peaceful, as they were so graceful. Floating on the surface and looking down you could see all of the divers and their torches. It looked like something out of sci-fi film; an underwater world filled with beams of light from the bottom. It was artificial but a fantastic sight.
Ty and I were also lucky to spot turtles whilst out swimming at a lovely beach spot we had found. Some friendly Japanese tourists let me borrow their gear and I got a chance to check it out.