Since I was coming to Hawaii a day before my family, something I knew I wanted to do, but I knew they would is go some snorkeling trips. I had heard good things about “swimming with dolphins” on The Big Island and snorkeling with the Manta Rays get a whole write up in every guide book. I knew the latter was a must do! But I am always up for a dolphin swim and found Manta Ray Dives of Hawaii that had a deal that you could book both for a discount. So sign me up!
Of course, it doesn’t really matter which company you use as they all pretty much do the same thing, just see which is offering the best deal, either through their website or maybe your hotel or if you have time, check out the information center in Kona and see what deals can be held. I have no complaints with Manta Ray Dives.
I was emailed some sort of vague directions about where exactly to meet in the morning for the dolphin swim. I had to ask two people where I was supposed to be, as I actually arrived too early and was a bit lost about where I was supposed to meet the boat exactly. Luckily, even for the shiest of people (me) and everyone is so nice in Hawaii (I had to remember to turn on my New Zealand brain for that!) I had no problem asking random other boats and people in the area and found where I was supposed to be. Check in was easy, there are bathrooms at the dock to change and we were quickly loaded onto the boat and onto the water! There were only 12 of us in the morning and plenty of room to spread out with our stuff and sit or enjoy the upper deck as we zoomed along the shore in search of dolphins. There were a couple of other boats out in the water searching for dolphins with us and we quickly found a pod. They got so close to the boat! The pod wasn’t big and we jumped in the water for a bit and they actually got really close to another person from our boat! I love the water in Hawaii, it is so warm and clear, you could see straight to the bottom.
We climbed back onto the boat and zoomed around to follow the pod down the shore. I popped a ginger chew as I wasn’t feeling the best (they work really well!) and we jumped in and out of the water about 5 times all morning, trying to follow the pod. It was a pretty small pod and there was a baby with them, so I was surprised we even got to jump in the water, but each country has it’s own rules (you aren’t allowed to swim with babies in New Zealand) but apparently the pod was small for the day. We then road back to the bay where we loaded on, but before going back, there is a small natural reef were we stopped and had sandwiches for lunch (as well as all sorts of chips and candy provided throughout and a large cooler of ice water, my favorite!) and then could jump into the reef at our leisure to swim around and snorkel a bit. Not Australia by any means, but still pretty decent!
I had about a 5 hour break in the middle of my day, but I was so tired, I spent most of it, driving around the small (to me) town, a bit of shopping, eating and napping before heading back to the marina for the Manta Ray swim.
The manta ray swim was way more popular. There were over 20 people on the same boat and we were so squished in, that I ended up sitting on some stairs, so I could have more room. Everything was very well organized with little glow sticks attached to our snorkels, different colors for every boat. All boats vary on their floatation devices and lights provided and I felt my boat was very prepared. We had giant floating rings we all would hold on to and were given a waterproof flashlight to attract the plankton, which then attracts the manta’s. It’s such a professional endeavor that they have lights screwed into the ocean floor that go on when all the boats are there and the divers (you can scuba too) and snorkelers come around. And there are so many boats!!! In floating around as a group, you are continuously running into other groups, which got super super annoying, always getting kicked in all parts of your body. Luckily, you are wearing a wet suit, but after about 30 minutes you can only help but kick everyone else back. It got really annoying.
But ohmigod, it was so beautiful! All the lights swirling around, and the manta’s come around instantly, you feel like you are in outer space, but you are really underwater, it is insane. The manta’s are HUGE and just float around. They look a little scary at first, but if you look closely, you realize that they have no teeth and there is no way one is going to “accidentally” swallow you. It is crazy how close they swim to you! Between all the lights and the warm water and those crazy creatures swimming so close to you, it was an amazing experience. Since I don’t have an underwater camera, I don’t have any pictures, but you can google it, but it is seriously NOT the same thing at all.
Moral: Anytime I can jump in the water with animals is a good day for me! The dolphins were pretty cool and the manta rays were just amazing! If you are prepared for just how crowded it will be once they throw you into the water, you’ll be fine. I just love the water in Hawaii and am amazed by its temperature and clarity that I don’t have to be right up close to anything and I still have a great time. I really liked the company I went with, the crew was great and they seemed to be prepared for everything and the gear was in great condition.