Our trip to the Big Island was originally supposed to include two dive days — allowing us to add another four dives to our Log Books — however, on our very first night in Kona I was hit with a severe bout of food poisoning. And after 12 hours of trying my hardest to keep even the smallest amount of liquid down, I regretfully came to terms with the fact that those first two morning dives just weren’t going to happen. And although I was super disappointed that we had to skip our first two dives, I turned my attention to the Manta Ray Night Dive scheduled for the following evening.
I still get butterflies thinking about my first Manta Ray encounter back in 2014; and not coincidentally, that dive was also the turning point when Cody became interested in obtaining his Open Water Certification. (Reader Advice: if you’re trying to convince your significant other to go diving with you, take them on the Manta Snorkel. They’ll be looking for a way to become scuba certified faster than Sebastian can say “Under Da Sea!”). 🙂
We were so impressed with Kona Diving Company on our fist visit back in 2014, that we decided to dive with them again on our second visit. The Kona Diving Company provides impeccable service and their attention to detail is top-notch. Not only do they set up your gear (and break it down after your dives), but they also provide all kinds of snacks, treats, and drinks throughout the day. In addition to their usual turkey wraps, they also had veggie wraps for the vegetarians (such a thoughtful touch), and they also served hot chocolate and warm soup during the surface interval to help divers warm up between dives.
The best part about KDC is their welcoming attitude and friendly demeanor that make you feel as though you’ve been friends for years. And while there were a few more divers and snorkelers on the boat than I remembered from our first visit, there were still far fewer divers than compared to other boats out that day.
On the way to our first dive site, our dive master thoroughly reviewed our dive plans, briefly stopping his lecture when we spotted our first Alaskan Humpback whale of the day. Always a good omen. Am I right? The Big Island has a great reputation when it comes to diving — good visibility, diverse sea life, and moderate water temperatures entice divers at all levels — and Garden Eel Cove, our first dive site of the day, is one of the more popular dive sites along the Big Island’s west coast.
During our 65-minutes under water (my longest dive so far), our group of five swam over the reef spotting eels, surgeonfish, pufferfish (I love those silly looking creatures!), and schools of others, including: goatfish, butterfly fish, and blueline snapper. At one point, we looked up and saw two huge manta rays glide by and then shortly after we saw a large Hawaiian Sea Turtle eating along the reef.
And as we swam back towards the boat we encountered the biggest surprise of the day:
A Hawaiian Monk Seal playing near our dive boat!
Most seals reside in frigid climates, however, the Hawaiian Monk Seal (smarter than the other seals), calls Hawaii home. I’m only kidding about that “smarter” comment. 🙂
After we surfaced, the dive instructor explained that this specific Monk Seal had been in the area for a few weeks and was (clearly) not shy. In fact, she seemed to revel in all of the attention as she swam through the diver’s bubbles and played in the ropes of the dive boats. The adorable whiskers on her face and silly flippers pulled at my heart-strings and I had to refrain from going over and giving her a great big hug. (FYI: If you get too close you’ll be subjected to a hefty fine as these fluffy creatures are endangered).
Our spirits were high going into our second dive; luck had been on our side so far, and we couldn’t wait to find out which manta ray would show up that evening. What we didn’t realize at the time was just how many mantas were invited to the party that night.