Mantas in Kona
The mantas were once attracted to and fed in the concentration of plankton that gathered in the shore lights of the Kona Surf Resort. When the Kona Surf Resort closed in July 2000 they began to feed at a site offshore from Keahole Airport. Nightly, dive lights are used to enhance this “dinner buffet” for the manta rays.
Pacific Manta Ray (Manta Alfredi)
Did you know?
…Manta rays can grow huge in size: there have been documented cases of fin spans reaching more than 20 feet!
…The word manta is Spanish for coat, or blanket. When swimming, the manta resembles a spread-out cape.
…The manta’s gills help it to feed by operating as a filtration system. Water is sucked in through the mouth and pumped out through the gill slits while the plankton is siphoned off to the stomach.
…Manta rays have been known to jump out of the water, either for sport or to aid in birth. On occasion they have been known to wreck small fishing boats!
…Manta rays have a protective mucus membrane on their skin. If humans touch the mantas,infections or lesions can occur.
…Mantas have the largest brain-to-body ratio of all mantas and sharks.
…Mantas are very rarely kept in captivity, mostly due to their size. Only four aquariums in the world have manta rays on display.
Mantas and Humans
Mantas are inherently shy creatures. Touching, grabbing,or simply being in their “flight path” can cause them to be more shy, avoid divers and snorkelers, or leave the area all together. Touching the rays could also remove the protective coating on their skin and leave them susceptible to infections. By remaining calm and passive,the rays will gradually overcome their shyness of you. If you are patient, they will often grow so trusting they will brush lightly against you as they swoop in to feed. Remember, Humans are the greatest threat to marine animals and our interaction should be gentle and calming.
It is important to adhere to the following guidelines in order to protect these majestic creatures. By so doing, your experience is sure to be one of the world’s greatest night dives / snorkels!
Manta Ray Encounter
The wingspan of a near-shore Pacific Manta Ray averages 5-8 feet but can reach well over 14! They have no real teeth, no stinger, and a harmless disposition. Their only defense is to flee. These huge and gentle creatures feed on a food source of almost all microscopic organisms called plankton, so Manta must work very hard to get this tiny food. At night, light attracts brine shrimp, a form of plankton that rays feed on. Using their cephalic fins like big scoops, they funnel water into their wide-open mouths and filter out these organisms.
"We believe that by combining the manta ray encounter experience with education, we will protect and insure the existence of the Manta Ray, and help all humankind realize how fragile our existence is."
Guidelines for Manta Ray Encounters
- Divers should stay on or near the bottom, and snorkelers on the surface above. An open water column is necessary to give the mantas room to maneuver.
- Divers form a circle or semi-circle on the bottom, avoiding contact with sea urchins, reef or marine life. Avoid shallow water.
- Lights should be directed inward (towards the center of the group) and slightly upward.
- Avoid exhaling bubbles directly into the face of an approaching ray.
- Do not ride, chase, touch, grab, or harass the mantas! Snorkelers, stay on the surface and do not free dive down toward the mantas.
- Move lights slowly with the surge in an effort to gather a concentration of plankton in the light beam.
- If you are photographing the mantas, be patient stay within your group. There are plenty of opportunities to take pictures. If on occasion the mantas are absent, there is plenty of other nocturnal marine life to observe.
- Stay with your group. It can be difficult to tell “who is who” underwater at night, so make a mental note of distinguishing features (color of fins, glow sticks, etc.). These huge and gentle creatures feed on a food source of almost all microscopic organisms called plankton, so Manta must work very hard to get this tiny food. At night, light attracts brine shrimp; a form of plankton that rays feed on. Using their cephalic fins like big scoops, they funnel water into their wide-open mouths and filter out these organisms.