Okay. I wanted really badly to share photos of what happened yesterday but they were submitted with my column and I couldn’t post them until Saturday. It’s technically Saturday in Pa.
So I went on the Manta Night Dive with Jack’s Diving Locker here in Kona last night. We met at the harbor around 3:30 p.m. and got out to Garden Eel Cove, near the Kona airport, by around 5.
The afternoon started off with a day dive of the area, and while manta rays are wild animals and can never be guaranteed, they started rolling in toward the end of that 43 minute dive.
You guys, the first time you see a meganormous manta ray swimming about fifty feet away in the deep blue water above a reef dropoff you will see magic.
I really hate describing things as magical but I actually got brain tingles.
It was that good.
During the afternoon dive we also saw a coral sheltering some beautiful Hawaiian Dascyllus fry, lots of regular coral, as well as tons of other fish whose names I don’t know. Of course we saw eels as well. I saw one moray, which was not quite as cool as the tiger moray on the first day of diving, but always neat.
But we also got a chance to see the garden eels for which the site is named. They are a weird little green eel that lives in the sandy bottom of the reef and pops up en masse like grass, or marine whack-a-moles, to feed. They pop back down just as quickly when people approach, so I got zero photos. But they were super cool.
After the first dive, we hopped back on the boat for a surface interval and a truly lovely sunset.
Then, shit got real.
After a briefing and some educational banter about rays, the main event began. The main event was a 53 minute night dive to around 40 feet where we sat (or tried to) on the bottom and…I don’t even think I can find words.
But I’m otherwise unemployable, so lemme try.
The manta rays are 8 to 10 feet from wingtip to wingtip, and can weigh 800 to 1000 pounds apiece, for the large ones. All of the divers are equipped with dive lights, which along with the lights installed at the bottom of the site, draw brill to the area.
And the brill draw the rays.
And last night the brill drew one metric butt ton of rays. The dive guides estimated that around 30 rays joined us for the dive, swooping within inches of our heads and right in front of our faces. I could look up at any given moment and gaze into the enormous, gaping mouth or inspect the gills of a ray. I will tell you, seeing them silhouetted at a distance by the deep blue sea is breathtaking, but it can’t quite prepare you for dropping into an ink black sea and seeing one, mouth open wide, headed right at you as you sink to the bottom.
I mean, you know they’re completely disinterested in you. You know they just seive the ocean for tiny plankton and brill. You know they wouldn’t dream of eating human beings because, look at them doing water somersaults. They’re the Majestic Sea Flap Flap for chrissakes! They wouldn’t dream of eating you.
It’s still a shock, the first time.
And after that it’s just god damn amazeballs.
AMAZEBALLS, you guys.
Just…wow. I’m agnostic, so I don’t believe in religious experiences, but I do believe that this world, this complex, beautiful world, is most awe-inspiring in its wildest spaces. And that dive is absolutely one of the top three experiences of my entire 33 years on Earth.
And I have children.
I got home around ten from the harbor and we got up early this morning to go try for a four flag day.
A four flag day in Kona is one in which a fisherman catches an ono, an ahi, a mahi mahi, and a marlin in one day.
Also pretty sure it’s a myth perpetuated by men who like to drink beer on boats.
We caught zero fish. But it was still a really nice day.
Even on top of the water, I’m existentially nourished by it. And the ocean is kind of the Mecca for we water lovers.
Here are some photos from the fishing day.
I got a little obsessed with the reel.
ADD anyone? Hyperfocus much?
Tonight, after we got home, we could see the boats lining up for tonight’s manta dive from the lanai.
Oh, you guys.
I do not want to go home on Sunday. I also would not turn down another chance to be on those boats.
I’m looking at the boats like a pre-2000’s Disney princess looks at boys.
I think I’m in love. With the ocean.
Have I mentioned that Ogden also owns a paper in Honolulu?