Located off the Kona coast on the Big Island, the Manta Ray Night Dive is regularly rated one of the most incredible things you can do underwater and one of the best deep-water experiences in the world. Board a tour boat and you’ll be taken an hour from shore, snapping a plethora photos as the sun sets over the ocean waves.

Photo Credit: Renee V

Using plankton, headlamps and flashlights to attract the nighttime marine life, gentle manta rays are drawn to the area to feed in the moonlight. With about 200 in the area, 1 - 5 Manta Rays are spotted 90% of the time (and even up to 46 one epic night) on tours that operate every day year-round with no peak season. Since the operators are familiar with the mantas that call the area home, they keep a running logbook with names of each creature, documenting and detailing everything from their markings to each interaction with them. Some have been rescued from fishing nets, and others hurt by aggressive humans determined to touch (and taint) their protective coat. Either way, it makes the experience far more personal knowing they can identify each Manta and care about the conservation and well being of these amazing sea creatures.

Photo Credit: Kelly

As nighttime sets in, everyone disembarks into the water. Snorkelers stay on the surface holding a floating raft as the SCUBA divers descend to the bottom. In between both groups appear the massive creatures, up to 16 feet long with wingspans more than 20 feet wide. While their bony undersides, spiny tails and huge mouths may appear intimidating at first; Manta Rays actually have nothing that bite or sting, making this the safest large animal encounter in the world. Once they start doing tricks, you’ll immediately be put at ease and find a peaceful rhythm in the darkness. The gentle giants come within inches of you, doing flips, turns and somersaults, showing off in their natural habitat, quite mesmerizing and zen-like against the quiet lap of the waves.