Manta rays have been Kona’s most unique attraction to travellers since they were ‘discovered’ in the area in the early 90s. The waters near the shores of Kona are home to one of the most robust and accessible populations of manta rays in the world. While these animals are found in most oceans of the world, their regular appearances to feed at night in Kona make this a very unique spot.
These are the largest rays; they can be up to nine metres (30 feet) wide and can weigh over 1,000 kilograms (one tonne). They are the largest species of flattened fish and are closely related to other cartilaginous fish such as sharks, although they are harmless and have no stinging spine. They do not even have teeth and they eat by sieving food particles out of the water using rows of tiny plates in their mouths. These giant fish are very acrobatic animals and can even leap right out of the water.
Diving and snorkelling tours join to set up a ‘campfire’, an area with powerful lights that attracts plankton and, in turn, attracts the mantas that come to feed. Snorkelers hold on to large, illuminated floats and watch from above, while divers swim down to see the unique creatures from another angle. Countless mantas can be seen at these spots, as the graceful creatures twist and turn to feed.
Each ray has unique, distinguishable features on their bellies, sort of like a finger print. Guides have named those that regularly feed in the area and are able to identify them by these marks.
Manta rays are harmless but should not be touched, as their skin is covered with a mucus that protects them from infection and by touching them this mucus could be removed, putting the creatures at risk.
- Photographs courtesy of UnCruise Adventures