June 12, 2020
As the largest rays in the world, manta rays are highly treasured fish in the sea. They are also a highly threatened species and are now protected in international waters by the Convention on Migratory Species. Along with this, many countries have implemented fishing bans that make it illegal to hunt and trade manta rays. Manta rays are most commonly known for their grand size and high level of intelligence which is uncommon in any other fish. These rays have a cognitive ability similar to other highly intelligent animals such as elephants and dolphins that gives them greater long-term memory. And though their large size may make them intimidating to humans, manta rays are very gentle creatures.
Diving with the world’s largest ray is truly the experience of a lifetime. See what you can expect from a dive with manta rays in Hawaii, and find out why they’re so highly treasured throughout the world.
Despite their large size, manta rays typically feed on zooplankton and krill by simply opening their mouths wide and drawing in their prey. This type of feeding is called filter feeding which is also how whales eat. Essentially, they use their teeth to filter through the water to get the tiny plankton. Thanks to their intelligence, manta rays are great predators and are able to use their wit to prey on plankton. Often, manta rays will feed together, making a circle around their food and swimming fast to create a cyclone effect that traps their food in one spot. Another fun fact about manta rays is that they often use their long term memory to visit cleaning stations in coral reefs regularly. There are several species of fish that feed on the surface of manta rays, removing dead skin and parasites. Manta rays will commonly visit the same cleaning station over and over where they remain for several minutes at a time.
The most popular destination for diving with manta rays is in Kona, Hawaii. For many, diving with mantas is one of the most satisfying underwater experiences there is, especially in Kona. You can dive with manta rays in the Maldives and Galapagos Islands where you’ll get to see these fish at one of their cleaning stations. However, in Kona, you can see the manta ray in its prime, right at dinner time!
Night dives in Kona are quite popular because this is when manta rays are out hunting. During your dive, you’ll wind up on the floor of the ocean with manta rays up above you. Here, you’ll get to watch the mantas from the underneath while they feed and swim. Plankton is attracted to bright direct light, which is why manta rays often come out during night dives. Just be sure to keep some distance between you and the manta rays during your dive to avoid disturbing or startling them!