Thursday, January 24, 2013

Part 4: Star gazing and Manta Rays!

Thanks to my parents, Scott and I were able to escape for two separate evenings together without the boys, which is such a rare treat for us! On Saturday night, we had dinner at a yummy restaurant right on Hilo Bay, Cafe Pesto. After dinner, we drove up to Mauna Kea (Hawaii's highest peak) to the star observatory. Mauna Kea's altitude and isolation in the middle of the Pacific ocean make it an ideal location for astronomical observation. Astronomers from all over the world travel to Mauna Kea to star gaze. It was a clear and beautiful night, and we had fun learning about constellations on the star tour. FYI: excellent people watching too! (Picture: Star Trek convention) :-)

On Monday night, we signed up for a night snorkel with a professional diving company. The adventure started with a 30 minute boat ride down the coast to "Manta Heaven," an area near the Kona airport where manta rays are often spotted feeding at dusk. We admired the beautiful sunset along the way. We saw whales in the distance and even some spinner dolphins swimming alongside our boat!

It was such a beautiful evening!
Once it was dark and we got our instructions, we suited up and jumped in the dark water, hoping to see some mantas!
For those of you who know me well, you know that I'm not a huge fan of open water, large sea creatures, or snorkeling for that matter. This was a big deal for me. So thankful for friends and a husband that challenge me to try things out of my comfort zone!
Scott and I are in the top left corner of this picture. We swam holding on to a surfboard with lights in the middle. The plankton in the water is attracted to the light, and the mantas are attracted to the plankton. The manta rays (some over 10ft in width!) literally swim straight for the surf board and do a  back flip right when they get to us, scooping the plankton into their open mouths. It was a little bit scary at first, I have to admit.
That's me on the right looking straight down in the mouth of a giant manta ray. I learned on this trip that manta rays are extremely peaceful and friendly creatures. They have no teeth (so they can't bite!) and unlike sting rays and eagle rays, they have no barb or stinger, so they could not hurt us.
That's Scott.  The mantas were close enough that we had to really concentrate NOT to touch them.
Our guide told us that on average, they see 5-6 mantas per night. We saw over 20!
I can easily say our time in the water with these animals was one of the most unique and thrilling 45 minutes of my life! If you come to Hawaii, don't miss this! We used Kona Diving Company. Our guide and boat captain were super friendly and helpful. We highly recommend them! 


Grandma said...

All I can say is "WOW!"

Melissa Batusic said...

Wow, Ash, So proud of you! And that picture of Scott and the sunset in the background is fabulous! So handsome!