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.
…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 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!
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."
For more information about research, education and conservation visit the Manta Pacific Research Foundation.
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