Ten Delicious Places to Dip into Diving

Kona, Hawaii: Polynesian Diving

There's something about diving with large gentle sea creatures that has an almost universal appeal. The crystal waters of Hawaii make most anywhere an ideal diving spot. But if you're looking for a thrilling family adventure vacation, check out the manta ray night dives on the Big Island of Hawaii.

Surrounded by very deep water (about 18,000 feet), the Hawaiian Islands are a natural magnet for large sea creatures. Green and hawksbill turtles, spinner and other species of dolphins, and the occasional whale frequent these waters, as well as more than 600 species of reef fish. However, one hotel, the Kona Surf, has discovered a way to gather some of these big pelagics, notably the Pacific manta ray, for night feeding by shining spotlights down into the water near shore. Large quantities of plankton swarm to the lit area, and of course, plankton-eaters like the manta aren't far behind. These mantas have a wingspan that averages five to eight feet, but can grow to more than 14. Watching them swoop in, gliding or even somersaulting through the sea, using their enormous fins to funnel water and plankton into their open mouths is a diving thrill you won't soon forget.

Divers typically gather in a circle on the ocean floor, shining their dive lights into the center of the open water column, which further concentrates the plankton and allows the mantas plenty of area in which to maneuver. Non-diving members of the family may join in, as a number of the operators welcome snorkelers as well. Snorkelers remain at the surface, also at the perimeter of the circle.

Practically Speaking
All the operators who make this night dive follow established guidelines for the manta encounter. Protecting the animals is the primary focus of these rules, and touching the mantas is strictly prohibited. A number of dive operators in Kona offer manta dives, and it's advisable to make reservations, especially during peak season. Price averages $75 to $150, depending on extras, operator and season. Some outfitters offer a two-tank, two-location dive that includes a light supper and all gear. Make the first late-afternoon dive at another site, then move to the Kona Surf for the main attraction. This is an excellent way to get comfortable if you haven't made many night dives before, or if it's been awhile since you were last in tanks.

Paul McMenamin is the author, editor, and photo director of the original Ultimate Adventure Sourcebook.

Published: 31 Jan 2001 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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