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Kona Manta Dive, Hawaii


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#1 diver dave1

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 09:47 AM

Spent some time on the big island of Hawaii and did the Manta Night dive by the airport. I went with Jack’s Dive Locker and for them it’s a 2 tank outing. We did an aftn dive prior to the night dive and they set the lights in place at the end of the aftn dive. One manta was kind enough to visit us during the aftn dive. He was being cleaned by three wrasse and it was a delight to watch them slide in and out of his mouth as he cruised by. Our boat also had snorkelers which allowed for at least one reasonable photo from below using the snorkelers as models.

As soon as we dropped in for the aftn dive, I was adopted by a pair of raccoon butterfly fish. I wanted to take their picture but one could say they were overly cooperative. They did not just stay close, they stayed under me -nearly inside the BC- for virtually the entire dive. It was like trying to take a pic of your second stage while you are using it. Tried slow gently rolling, rotating, moving to get an angle to take a photo and those guys just kept moving with me, staying right beside me. It was rather curious and entertaining.

At sunset, there were nearly a dozen boats at the dive site for the Manta’s. They have you kneel on the bottom in a large circle with each boat group staying together. Everyone needs to find their own boat to get home in the end. When we dropped in, there were 2 manta’s gliding throught the lights. Soon there seemed to be Manta’s everywhere all the time. We were later told there were 14 of them but it seemed like they were everywhere. They were running into each other, just zooming everywhere. It was great to watch them.

I used the Tokina 10-17 for the manta dive with the sola 600 light. I noticed some of the manta’s have injuries to the bottom in various places. I also noticed they kept scraping across the bottom of my light as they passed. Wondering if those 2 things are related. So I lowered the camera (taking the light with it) and they starting missing the light and rubbing across the top of my head. That left me shooting “from the hip” without being able to see the viewfinder but also kept them from running into the light. Having a manta sneak up from behind and rub across your head can be rather startling.

Overall, it was a fun event. There were 2 downsides. I failed to think ahead and had the sola too close to the lens which provided a lot of backscatter that could have been avoided or at least minimized. I normally use a spotting light with macro, not wide angle, and I previously used a light that turned off when the flash fired. So I am learning my equipment the hard way.
The other downside was the sola 600. Its battery did not make the entire ~40 min. of the dive even though I had it at the middle power setting for about 1/3 of the dive. It was my first trip with it and the supplier has agreed to replace it. I had the same lack of batter life on the black water dive a few nights later.
Here are a few pics from the dive.

dave

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You can see some of the injured areas in this photo.
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This is my first attempt at posting a video here. Not certain if it works out well. Also, not certain how to post a video here from Flickr so I provide the link.
Sorry for the backscatter but at least you get a short feel for the action.
Manta video

Nauticam D7000, Inon Z-240's, 60 micro, 105 micro, Tokina 10-17

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#2 RickM

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Posted 10 June 2011 - 04:36 PM

Glad to hear you enjoyed it! How did the black water dive go?

#3 Oceanshutter

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 09:16 AM

That's Fantastic! I am glad you had a good time.

My wife and I were there last week and part of this week. We did the Manta Dive 3 times! (Wed. the 1st with Jacks, and Sunday and Monday with Kona Honu divers). Guess how many Manta's we saw combined? Maybe 10.....20......30.......Nope....... we saw a grand total of 0!!!! We couldn't believe it. This was really the whole reason we went there to be honest. So it was a total bummer. We went with jacks the first time and the water was crystal clear, so there wasn't any plankton in the water. WE then switched to Kona Honu Divers as we didn't want to do the afternoon dive, just the manta dive. There was some pretty bad surge, and again the mantas were a no show. We thought for sure if we did 3 dives we couldn't miss.......we were wrong. $700 down the drain. I understand that nobody controls what the mantas do, but that just added to an overall disappointing trip. Although, I did think the dive operators are very good considering what they deal with. Jack's a little more strict. Kona Honu was more laid back and we enjoyed them a bit more.

After 1 trip to Oahu and 1 to the Big island, I have decided I am done with Hawaii. It is way too expensive for very less than average diving. We did a 3 tank advanced charter and after tip, it was over $500 for me and my wife. Horrible! We could have gone to the Philippines twice for the amount of money we spent on this trip, and had better service and off the hook diving.

I am starting to think my wife and I are Manta cursed. (only seen one in all our travels, fiji) We did German Channel in Palau a couple of times, and was very similar to the kona dive.......sit and wait...........

Dustin

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#4 diver dave1

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 04:52 PM

No manta's? Geez, I would be bummed too. I found the diving at Kona to be rather boring as well. No interesting coral colors to speak of. The Manta and Black water dives were the only one's I expected to be good and that was accurate. It was a 20 anniversary and family vacation. Getting in any diving was a bonus.
The dive guide told us the average is about 3 manta's per trip...many with zero to 2, a few with a dozen or more.

I have had a chance to process a few pics and they are at the link below.

Manta pics

The black water dive was nice but not perfect. What is?
I am working on a trip report, a brief one, now.

dave

Nauticam D7000, Inon Z-240's, 60 micro, 105 micro, Tokina 10-17

www.shiningseastudio.com


#5 Oceanshutter

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Posted 11 June 2011 - 09:36 PM

We also did the black water dive. That was fun and interesting. It was tough photo wise but my wife ended up with a couple of keepers. It was the highlight of our trip since we didnt get mantas. I probably wouldn't do it every night. But a couple times would be fun.

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#6 sasdasdaf

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 12:13 AM

Did you guys do the manta dive near the Sheraton hotel or near to the airport? I understand there are 2 places where it can be done. I did the dive in May 2010 in front of the Sheraton hotel and we saw 2 mantas.

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#7 diver dave1

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Posted 16 June 2011 - 04:33 AM

Did you guys do the manta dive near the Sheraton hotel or near to the airport? I understand there are 2 places where it can be done.

I did the one by the airport. I do not claim it is better or worse. It is just the one I did.

Nauticam D7000, Inon Z-240's, 60 micro, 105 micro, Tokina 10-17

www.shiningseastudio.com


#8 tie

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Posted 26 June 2011 - 12:39 PM

The hotel is a more reliable location for mantas, but a worse night dive site. The operators who sail from the harbor (Jack's, Kona Honu, ...) don't like to go there because it uses more fuel. Still, often if they book a repeat customer who sees nothing at the airport for multiple days, they will go the hotel to keep him happy. It sounds like this didn't happen for you since you switched operators in the middle.

The Sea Paradise sails from right next to the hotel, though, for one-tank trips. Kona Honu is my favorite operator, but for mantas the Sea Paradise is a lot safer. And if you see nothing your next dive is free. If my memory is right I was told this only happens a couple times a year. (Personally, I have a 100% sighting rate at the hotel and maybe 30% at the airport.) If you want to be totally safe, then time your trip when the moon isn't full (so the lights they use are worth more) and go to the hotel deck the night before to check the surf and count the mantas.

I would recommend trying one of each. While it is amazing to see the mantas at the hotel, it is also more crowded and feels like a zoo or an amusement park, not at all like a natural experience. This bothers me a bit. It tends to have much more surge and there are many spiny sea urchins there, also. (Use their wetsuit, not yours. ;) ) In contrast, the airport site is good for two dives even without mantas.

Edited by tie, 26 June 2011 - 12:40 PM.


#9 sasdasdaf

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Posted 27 June 2011 - 05:40 PM

tie, thanks for the info. I don't know when I'll have a chance to go back to Hawaii, but I definitely intend on doing the manta night dive again. It was one of my most memorable dives.

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