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September 1999 Vol. 14, No. 9   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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from the September, 1999 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The night manta dive off the Big Island’s Kona Surf Hotel was once rated among the top ten in the world by National Geographic. Thousands of divers have thrilled to the spectacle of a half-dozen or more large animals acrobatically feeding on plankton attracted by lights shining on the surf. Some operators are still promoting “Manta Madness” dives, but recent visitors have reported fewer and fewer mantas in what was once a “sure shot” adventure.

We polled several Kona dive operators and all agreed: the mantas are no longer visiting the site as frequently or in the same numbers as before. No one is sure why. Theories include too much hassling by divers, mating distractions, or sea changes affecting the nutrients in the near-shore waters.

Of course it’s still an immense thrill to see even one magnificent devilfish swimming directly at your face, mouth open wide enough to swallow you whole, then veering off at the last second in a graceful back-somersault that fills its branchial filters with plankton. If you sign up for this adventure and the mantas don’t show, you’ll still get a chance to watch moray eels and lobsters hunting as well as other nocturnal beasties. But if mantas are your main objective, call your chosen operator when you arrive and check with them before booking the dive. Jack’s Diving Locker and Eco-Adventure make the night dive part of a two-tank package for $85 and $95, respectively. Other operators, such as Manta Ray Divers, Dive Makai, and Kona Coast, do it as a single dive for around $65. Snorkeling options are available, too

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