Head Home Previous Next Last

Snorkeling With Manta Rays

Nida Spalding loves to read, travel, and spend time with family and friends. She believes that curiosity and persistence are key to happiness and success.

This promised to be a magical and unique experience — a night snorkel with manta rays in Keauhuo Bay, Kona. The requirements are that one can swim a short distance and has experience snorkeling.

That afternoon in Kahalu'u Bay while my son Ryan tried surfing, I rented snorkel gear for practice. In the shallow water where the fishes were, I put on the mask. With the tide rising, I felt like a seaweed being tossed in the swelling water.

Unable to stay upright, I felt like a drunk. Within minutes, my snorkel then my mask vanished into the bottom. Somehow, I retrieved them. The mask was easy to use but the snorkel was a bit of a mystery. I gave up on it — using just the mask to see lots of yellow fish.

"Do you know how to snorkel?" I asked Ryan back at our hotel.


"Well, we better learn." I played a YouTube video "How to Snorkel." Ryan paid little attention.

On the Big Island, once the sun sets, the roads are DARK.

The concierge specifically said, "Follow these directions." With map in hand, Ryan directed me to Kaleiopapa Street. There was nowhere to park and we couldn't find the Sea Quest Hawaii boat. I insisted we find Kamehameha Road where we were supposed to find a gravel parking lot. It was deserted; we parked. But Ryan was right; the boat was closer to Kaleiopapa Street. We moved the car. After all that, I was pretty frazzled.

A female crewmember calmed me down. "Here, have a drink of water."

We were provided wet suits. I opted for the "shorty" (up to the knees). Ryan chose the jacket (up to the waist).

The boat ride to the snorkel spot took only five minutes. Nick, the boat captain gave instructions then asked, "Who doesn't know how to snorkel?"

Ryan raised his hand. I raised mine. Honesty is the best policy.


"How do I do this?" I asked, clutching the snorkel.

"Put the whole thing in your mouth." A crew member said, pointing to the mouthpiece.

Captain Nick continued, "Don't touch the manta rays. Let them brush against you. If you're still, they often do."

Pretty soon, everybody stepped into the water. I froze. I wasn't sure I could swim the short distance from the boat to the light raft.

"Stay on the boat," Ryan said as he went in the water with the others.

"What?" No way I was going to sit this out. I'm a participant, never a spectator. With my mask and snorkel on my face, I lowered my jelly legs into the water. A male crew member pulled me by the hand and pushed me towards the light raft.

Holding on to the raft with both hands, I laid flat on my tummy, a swim noodle around my ankle.

Light attracts the phytoplankton that manta rays love to eat! Within two minutes, they came. One, two, then several manta rays glided around us. They swam inches from my face and brushed against my arms. What magnificent creatures! I felt serene. Breathing through the snorkel felt natural. Hearing my breath relaxed me.

Forty minutes passed. At one point, my head throbbed and I felt hunger pains in my stomach. Should I return to the boat? I didn't. I concentrated on my breathing which felt rhythmic and calming.

Several times, I looked up to see if I could spot Ryan on the other raft. It turned out he returned to the boat early. He got too cold!

On this mother and son journey, I learned the importance of staying calm and going with the flow. But kudos to the attentive staff at Sea Quest Hawaii.

~ Nida Spalding








Last page
Next page
Previous page
Home page