If you’re a diver or if you’ve ever looked into getting certified, then you’re well aware that diving is an expensive hobby.
And since we’d been on a strict budget for a year after quitting our jobs to travel, we hadn’t been diving in two whole years! This being my first visit to Hawaii’s Big Island, I was absolutely dying to do the manta ray night dive. But first, it was time for a refresher.
Choosing a Dive Operator
The best reviewed Big Island dive operator, hands down, is Kona Diving Company (5 stars on Yelp), and when I confirmed it was the same one travel blogger Alex in Wanderland had chosen for her epic manta ray night dive, that settled it.
We signed up for a two-tank morning refresher dive with KDC, plus the two-tank manta dive that night.
Reef Diving on the Big Island
Winter in Hawaii is arguably better than summer. This was mid January, and it was about 80°F by mid morning. Not too hot. Not too cold. A nice breeze. And the water was fine in our 5mm wetsuits.
KDC took us to two awesome dive spots on this warm January excursion. The first spot, “Aquarium,” was named for the plethora of sea species to be observed there. And then “Kaloko Canyon” displayed its equally colorful fish life and had some fun archways for us to swim through.
Eels, and Boxfish and Scorpionfish, Oh My!
Our morning dives were a success! We completed our refresher skills quickly and uneventfully. Our instructor, Alex, gave us a thorough review of our gear on the boat, and after demonstrating some basic underwater skills, we had plenty of time to enjoy the reef life on our guided dive.
We also had fun playing around with our new underwater housing (B&H Photo) for my Sony RX100 III (my traveler’s review), paired with the W-30 Underwater Wide-Angle Conversion Lens (B&H Photo). (That’s how we got all the photos and video footage for this post!)
Check out our video footage from this dive in my one-minute video:
I’m still familiarizing myself with the types of fish you can find in Hawaii’s reefs, and I definitely saw a lot of new fish here. (I’ve only been diving once in Hawaii before this, on Oahu. Ian, on the other hand, has been diving since he was a kid.)
The coolest thing we saw on this dive was a scorpionfish — see it at 00:28 of our video — which is now a new favorite of mine (it’s got mad camouflage skills), and I like the silly look of unicornfish. The parrotfish is still one of my favorites, and I could be entertained for hours watching an eel open and close its mouth (eels are in that video, too!).
A couple of nudi branchs, a lizardfish, a dragon wrasse and two types of boxfish rounded out our underwater sightings this trip. (Ian allegedly saw an octopus and a pufferfish, but there are no photos to prove it.)
above left: eel in the coral; right: lizardfish on the ocean floor
We also spotted humpback whales and dolphins from the boat!
Arriving back at the dock around 1:30, we had almost two hours to grab lunch in town before returning for our manta ray night dive.
Manta Ray Night Dive on the Big Island
Our night dive guide, Luke, greeted us when we returned to the boat and gave us an overview of our evening dive.
We had a nice boat ride out, with several humpback whale sightings (!!!), but about an hour into our trip, conditions changed drastically. A big swell was forecasted to roll in late that night, but it arrived much earlier. Right about the time we were preparing to get in for our first dive. We weren’t far from the rocky cliff shore, and the waves were growing larger by the minute. I could see the ocean floor between waves only about 20 feet away. (I was freaking the %#*$ out.) Wanting nowhere near that bay, I wasn’t even disappointed when they soon announced the dive was canceled.
Scheduled to leave the Big Island two days later, we were unable to reschedule our manta dive for another night. It was a bummer, but Kona Diving Company was incredibly cool about it and gave us a full refund for the night dive.
Now I can’t wait to return to the Big Island to give it another go! Here’s a cool video of the night manta dive, to give you an idea of what we missed.
If you liked this post, you may also like Snorkeling at “Two Steps” in Honaunau Bay (Big Island, Hawaii)
Now, tell me your favorite underwater destinations, so I can add them to my bucket list!
About the Author
- In March 2014, Diana called it quits on her traditional American working life and set out to explore the world with her partner in crime (and love of her life) Ian Norman. They now live a sustainable life of full time travel, working for themselves and seeking adventure at the same time. Here on North to South, Diana documents their journey in achieving and maintaining this "road less traveled" way of life.
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I’m so sorry you guys missed out on the manta dive! But… at least it is a reason to go back 🙂 So jealous you saw humpback whales!