Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.
Octagonal Bank of New Zealand banker's desk carved from Australian red cedar, Dunedin, circa 1883.

Monday, March 18, 2024

I Have A Manta Ray In My Face! - Monday, March 18, 2024

Today was a marathon recovery day for Bob, although he worked in the morning. A trip into town was needed to mail a package and buy groceries. Then, we hung around the resort and relaxed. 

Our big adventure was a nighttime manta ray snorkel. The boat Hula Kai was our passage to a whole new world. We arrived 40 minutes early to sign in and look over the harbor. Then we read signs about Keauhou Bay's history as we strolled along the cliff.

Our manta ray tour boat, the Hula Kai.

King Kamehameha III history.

A path along verdant cliffs at
Keauhou Harbor.

It was time to get fitted for our shorty wetsuits. It's the first time I've put on a wetsuit and they are hard to get into. Bob had to hold the zipper together so I could zip it up. Next, I helped him.

The ride to the manta ray area was only three minutes from the dock. On the way, we watched another beautiful Hawaiian sunset.

Upon reaching our snorkel location, snugged in amongst six other boats and rafts, our boat was tied to a mooring line. An orientation was given on interacting with the manta rays, using the snorkel equipment, hanging onto the line of ultraviolet lights, and returning to our boat.

Yep, those are our wetsuits.

Sailing into the sunset.

A cluster of boats was already here. 
More came after us.

In the photo below, you can see snorkelers in the water hanging onto a light bar to the right of the ship Konastyle. You will need to enlarge it a little. That's the kind of light bar we hung onto.

The Konastyle boat next door.

The ship was rocking and rolling on the swells. That meant the ladder to get into the ocean was going up and down dramatically. I was third to the last in line to get in the water. I took my time hanging onto the ladder for dear life until I felt it was safe to let go and jump into a swell. Bob was right behind me and we swam over to the lights. The lights floated tied in a row and we grabbed onto the handholds. 

Our instructions were to float flat on top of the water. We had our masks and snorkels on so we could see manta rays. The tour boat crew helped us put pool noodles under our ankles so our legs would stay on top of the water. The manta rays would come up from beneath us, and our legs, arms, and cameras couldn't be in their way as they "swam" through the water to filter plankton into their mouths.

For the first five-10 minutes, we didn't see any manta rays, just a blank ocean bottom. Then, we started seeing tiny fluorescent creatures under the lights. I saw tiny blue jellyfish the size of my small fingernail, a short, skinny see-through fish with a long snout, and plankton. It's amazing what's under the sea.

OMG! Then we started seeing the manta rays! Those things are huge. Their wingspans are 13-18' on average. Apparently, there used to be a manta ray at this spot that had a 30' wingspan. First, the rays were down 20-25'. 

When they swam up to feed, we were not to reach out to touch them or disturb their feeding patterns. If they brushed against us, it was fine. 

But, whoa! They swam up from the bottom, curled, and did a roll so that their white bellies were about 2" from our masks and hands. At one point, a manta ray swam so close it brushed my hand! I was delighted, surprised, and fascinated that they swam so close. That was the biggest surprise of the night. They are so graceful. Numerous times, two manta rays would swim toward each other, go straight up belly to belly, let us look straight into their mouths, and then curl away from each other upside down a few inches underneath us! 

The manta rays are so graceful. While they were feeding, it was like watching a ray ballet. Or an aerobatic stunt plane doing tricky maneuvers. They look like they're flying in the water.

An interesting fact about manta rays is that each has unique belly markings. They're like our fingerprints. Our crew told us that we saw six manta rays tonight. The manta rays do not have poisonous spines and there are no teeth. 

The sea was rough with good-sized swells. Holding onto the light bar took a lot of upper body strength. The waves pushed and pulled my body in different directions. The pool noodle got knocked out from under my legs, so I yelled "NOODLE" and a staff swimmer in the water retrieved it and put it back under my ankles. They were doing that for people up and down the line.

I surprised myself by lasting 30 minutes in the water in those conditions, but it was worth it. This was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. A staff swimmer helped me back to the ladder that was going up and down on the swells. I took my time, grabbed onto the ladder, and planted both feet on it before I climbed out.

Included in our tour were soup, a roll, and hot cocoa. Mmm. I was cold and the jackfruit soup was yummy.  The hot chocolate really hit the spot, though!

When it was time to take off the wetsuit, I could not figure out how to get out of that soggy, wet thing! It had a zipper down the front to the bottom of one leg (remember it's a shorty wetsuit). That opened up half the front of the suit, but I couldn't get it away from my skin. Finally, I asked a teenage boy who was walking by to grab the wetsuit's arm. He pulled hard away from me and I pulled my arm the other way. Free! I was finally free! 

Meanwhile, everyone else had to get out of the water; the snorkel part of the tour was over. I found Bob getting his soup. He didn't want hot chocolate, but the server gave it to him. Guess who got an extra hot chocolate? If you guessed me, you are right.

The boat took us to the dock where we debarked and then drove to our timeshare. We loved this nighttime snorkel. I recommend this tour to everybody!

Now we're tired and ready to flop into bed, like a wet fish. Blub, blub!

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