What to Expect on Your Big Island Manta Ray Snorkel

two manta rays swimming above one another in the water

This nighttime oceanic experience was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done while traveling. Full stop. No questions. If a trip to do a manta ray snorkel on the Big Island is not in your books, you need to rewrite said book. Because it 100% needs to be. I’m serious, it was so cool. I’m so obsessed with Hawaii in general (I mean, look at all my Hawaii blogs), but specifically this experience, here is a breakdown of what to expect in the following categories:

  • What to know beforehand – are there any risks?
  • Things you need to bring
  • What you’ll do when you get there
  • How the snorkel works (with video!)
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What to Know Beforehand

Mantas Are Essentially Harmless
It’s important to know that manta rays are not dangerous creatures in the least! Manta rays are gentle giants who eat plankton and pose virtually no threat to humans unless people are causing significant problems. While snorkeling, as long as you simply keep to yourself and let them do what they want, there’s no reason for any issues to arise. Many of them touched me on their own and I didn’t have to do a single thing. You will get very close to these creatures with zero effort, so there is no reason to push your or their limits.

You’re More Floating Than Snorkeling
Additionally, you’re technically snorkeling because you’re in the water with gear on, but you’re not actively snorkeling. You’re truly just hanging onto one thing and floating while looking down. There’s no danger of getting lost at night

What to Bring for the Manta Ray Snorkel on the Big Island

You don’t really need to bring a lot for this, which is nice. The tour company should have the vast majority of stuff for you. We did this tour specifically, but there are a few companies offering this snorkel so definitely shop around for good dates and prices. Really all you need to bring are the following:

  • Wear your swimsuit
    • You receive a wetsuit to wear over it as well as snorkel gear
  • GoPro or underwater camera
  • Towel for when you get out

What You’ll Do When You Get There

When you arrive to the marina you get into your wetsuit, grab your snorkel gear, and receive a safety briefing. You’ll store anything that you don’t need to bring on the boat with the tour guides in their vehicle. This proved to be very convenient for us because we had just spent the whole day in Volcanoes National Park and had to swap some of our stuff out and change on the spot. You and whoever else is on the same tour with you will all walk to the boat head out to the snorkel spot.

How the Big Island Manta Ray Snorkel Works

You’ll get out to your manta ray snorkel spot and everyone will get off the boat and into the water with a single pool noodle per person. Your guide has a surfboard that lights up that everyone on the tour will grab onto. You’ll then put the pool noodle under your hips so that you’re just floating, looking down using your snorkel gear. Everyone is holding on to the surfboard, looking down at the same area.

Then, you literally just float and wait. You don’t have to do any swimming or anything, you just sit and wait for manta rays to join you. And they definitely do! We were out there for about an hour and saw at least seven manta rays.

Why do the manta rays come to you, you ask? Well, plankton are attracted to the light from the surfboard. Plankton are the food of the manta rays and when there are a lot of plankton hanging out in an area, the mantas come to feed. The way they feed is magical. They flip through the water to push water through their mouths and it’s amazing. I could have sat out there all night watching this water dance.

Please enjoy my GoPro video where you hear me laughing and excitedly screeching at these amazing creatures. It’s only mildly embarrassing to put this out in the world with sound, but I felt like it was necessary so you could tell what a thrill this really was in the moment. Also I promise I don’t screech like that all the time, ha.

So there you have it! You definitely need to do this experience but if you have any questions, feel free to reach out or check out my Big Island itinerary. Also, for a little more real-time Hawaii love, check out my Big Island Instagram story highlights.

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8 thoughts on “What to Expect on Your Big Island Manta Ray Snorkel

  1. I’ve never been snorkeling, and find it a little scary to be honest…! But your guide was so helpful and well-researched that I’ll have to psych myself up to give it a try!

  2. Swimming or scuba diving with manta rays is so high on my bucketlist! Thank you for sharing your awesome experience

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