Take a night snorkel with giant manta rays

Perhaps our most unexpectedly awesome experience in Kona has been the night manta ray snorkel with Sea Paradise Sailing and Snorkeling Tours. We had already seen mantas swimming some 15 feet below us on our trip with Wild Hawaii Ocean Adventures, but this was a quantum leap beyond. Once outfitted with wetsuits the 25 passengers on the Holukani trimaran were ready to travel a few hundred yards out into the small Keauhou Bay on which the Kona Sheraton sits. The snorkelers are given a "noodle" to keep them parallel to the surface and then hold on to a "line" strung from the boat. Lights are turned on and then - voila - the plankton which are the manta's main diet are attracted to the surface followed shortly by six mantas. The giants (averaging 10 to 15 feet in wingspan) appear, swim literally within inches of the snorkelers' faces, do their acrobatic belly rolls, glide down - and repeat, over and over for almost an hour. If you look to the left - watch out - a gaping mouth might appear from right almost out of nowhere. These gentle, graceful creatures seem not to be bothered in the least by tourists interrupting their dinner. They are said to be among the sea's most social and curious animals. It's truly an experience of a lifetime even for inveterate travelers.

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