What could possibly follow Bonaire, Galapagos and the Whales of Tonga? How about a night dive with a proliferation of Mantas? Sounds wild – of course it does, but Kona in Hawaii offers a unique experience to get up close and experience these amazing creatures at night.

The dive site “Manta Village” is located near the Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa (formerly Kona Surf Hotel) in Keauhou on the West Coast of the Big Island of Hawaii. “Manta Village” is the original site where everything started back in the early 70’s, when the Kona Surf Hotel opened.

The resort illuminated the surf zone with bright floodlights, so guests could enjoy the beauty of the wave action at night from the rooms and public viewing decks. Unintentionally, this attracted Manta Rays to the area because the lights caused planktonic marine life to concentrate in the water near the shoreline. Over time, the Manta Rays “learned” thmantas_01at this was a favorable feeding area.

This process is called “Classical Conditioning” or “Pavlov Effect”. The Manta Rays began to associate light with their natural food source. This is the only place in the world where you can be an arm’s length away from this truly remarkable and beautiful creature. That makes Hawaii unique in all the world.

In 1991, Jim Robinson, prior owner of Kona Coast Divers, decided to schedule scuba night dives on Monday nights in front of the resort, because he was aware that Manta Rays were frequenting the area. He also had custom built underwater lights made up to set on the bottom thereby drawing the Manta Rays away from shore into deeper water where it would be easier to position groups of divers.

It was an instant success. Other dive operators then followed suit. Marine life interaction guidelines were established to ensure that the Manta Rays were not harmed. At that time, James Wing had the video concession at Kona Coast Divers, so he simply covered the Manta Ray dives as well.

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 (8-12m) 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 one the few places 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.

Blog post provided by John Anderson (5,000+ dives, NAUI Instructor Trainer, Diving since 1984)

Photos courtesy Jacks Diving (www.jacksdivinglocker.com), and Alexinwanderland (www.alexinwanderland.com)

Detail extracted from: www.mabtarayshawaii.com