Each year, many tourists come to Hawaii just to swim with manta rays. More specifically, they travel to Kona on the West side of the Big Island to meet the gentle giants.
There’s no question that swimming with manta rays is a unique and magical experience – but why the Kona coast? What’s so special about the mantas around Kona, that we don’t really have anywhere else in the world?
The Manta Ray Viewing Sites of Kona
The answer: a scientific principle called Classical Conditioning (also known as Pavlov effect) as the manta rays that inhabit the coastline have learned that light attracts plankton (their main food source).
Along the West coast of the Big Island of Hawaii, different “viewing sites” were created where manta rays congregate to feed. The underwater lights at those sites attract plankton – which in turn attract the manta rays. You can read more about the manta ray viewpoints around Kona, how they originated, and how they work in this article.
Hawaii is one of the few places in the world where you not only get to swim within an arm’s length of the mysterious giant fish but also have a 70-80% chance for successful sightings.
These incredible odds to swim this close to these magnificent and beautiful creatures (I mean the mantas, not the plankton) makes the Big Island of Hawaii a unique place to experience mantas in their natural habitat.
Check our Manta Ray Library
Of course, the fact that you can almost touch the mantas (almost! Touching them is frowned upon, as you can read here) is not the only special thing about the marine life around Hawaii. There’s just a great choice of manta-related activities to pick from on the Big Island; although the most impressive of all is to come on a snorkeling adventure with us at Manta Ray Advocates – we call it our manta ray moonlight swim. Find out more about the manta rays you can meet when you join us – check out the manta ray library on this page!
Planning a trip to Kona?
If you’re planning to come to Hawaii for an underwater adventure, don’t forget to grab our guide to swimming with manta rays in Hawaii! It includes everything you need to know before you set out to meet the mantas – from a greenlist of sustainable tour operators over safety tips for snorkeling and scuba diving, to equipment and preparations.