8 Essential Safety Tips for Snorkeling with Manta Rays

Feb 2, 2024 | Swimming with Manta Rays

Being in the presence of wild animals in the dark ocean at night means stepping out of your comfort zone and entering a totally different underwater world, and that is not without risk.

Most participants in our manta ray moonlight swim show emotions ranging from excitement and nervous laughter to extreme fear. We always encourage guests to trust the process: when (not if!) they leave the water, the swim with the manta rays will expand their minds and hearts and make them feel a deep appreciation for the beauty and grace the mantas exude.

After the encounter, the predominant emotions are awe, wonder, and total bliss!

All this being said this nightly experience is not for everyone. If you come unprepared – not knowing how to swim, unsure about using the gear, and not reading the liability waiver- you will add extra risks to an already challenging activity, which can ruin the experience for you and your group.

These safety tips tackle the main considerations you need to acknowledge when swimming with manta rays. It is important to understand that this activity requires preparation and awareness to prevent any hazardous situation.

#1 Read Before Booking

Most tour operators have FAQs on their websites; read them before reserving your swim. If you plan to join our manta ray moonlight swim, you can find the FAQs at the bottom of our booking page.

After reserving, you’ll typically receive a confirmation email with additional information. Keep that email at hand and re-read it on the day of the swim.

You will be asked to sign a liability waiver when booking the activity. Every participant should carefully review this disclaimer to understand and acknowledge the risks involved and take full responsibility for their participation.

To be better prepared for your big adventure, read this article with everything you need to know before swimming with manta rays.

#2 Practice Your Snorkeling and Swimming Skills

Most tour operators require you to be able to swim in water too deep to stand and have basic ocean snorkel experience. You will swim with giant fish at night in the open ocean, which is challenging enough for (young and old) people with basic snorkeling experience.

Even if some activity providers let you sign up without knowing how to swim, you would put enormous pressure on the snorkel guide, who is most likely responsible for 10 or more other lives. Don’t rely on guides to save you. You need to be responsible for yourself.

If it’s been a while since you last snorkeled, start in the hotel pool to refresh your skills, but make sure you also practice in the ocean with a mask, snorkel, and fins.

The probability of successful participation increases significantly if you refresh your skills ahead of time…in other words, we (the swim guides) respectfully ask you not to use the night tour with large animals as a refresher course.

Practicing snorkeling beforehand will make you more comfortable in the water, increase your awareness of your surroundings, and let you enjoy the experience to the fullest.

#3 Master your Gear

To avoid putting yourself or others at risk, it is important to have the right gear. Most of the tour operators will provide you with good to high-quality snorkeling gear, or you can bring your own if you prefer.

You will also need to know how to use and feel comfortable with your equipment; otherwise, you could flood your mask or swallow nasty saltwater. This can be really scary and dangerous if you don’t know how to handle the situation!

Learn how to use and get comfortable in your snorkeling gear in this article.

#4 Personal Health & Safety Tips

To participate in a manta ray swim, it’s important to be in good physical health. If you have any pre-existing health conditions, such as a heart condition or respiratory condition, contact your tour operator before booking to determine whether you can safely join the group activity.

Many tour operators take large groups, and it is very challenging for them to keep an eye on everyone. But even if you book a tour with a smaller group, your guide cannot focus all of their attention on a single person as it might endanger the other participants.

Some tour operators offer private tours, ensuring each participant receives the full attention of a dedicated guide. Get in touch if you want to know more about our private manta ray moonlight swim!

There is no upper age limit to swimming with manta rays; as long as you are a good swimmer, you feel comfortable in the ocean at night, and are physically healthy to snorkel for about one hour. Several guests in their eighties have booked a private tour with us. Read the story of Gita, a great-grandmother who traveled 28 hours from Germany to Hawaii to swim with the gentle giants.

#5 Pay Attention to the Safety Briefing

To ensure everyone has an enjoyable and safe experience without causing harm or stress to the gentle giants, most tour operators conduct an extensive safety briefing before you enter the water, including

  • Important information about the marine life you will encounter underwater
  • The equipment you’re using
  • Guidelines for passive interaction with the mantas
  • Other safety recommendations

Make sure to listen to the safety brief carefully and address all the questions you might have.

#6 Keep Children Safe

Young children often struggle to pay attention and/or understand the safety briefing before the activity. On top of that, entering an ocean full of big fish in the dark can be really scary (even for adults). This is why we don’t allow children under 12.

However, some tour operators do allow kids under that age. If you decide to take your children on a night swim, ensure they are fully briefed and know what they will be doing before entering the water. Children need constant adult supervision on board and in the water.

#7 Book a Greenlisted Tour Operator

We strongly recommend booking your manta ray swim with an activity provider that follows industry standards. Besides aiming for a more sustainable and animal-friendly experience, these companies prioritize safety for participants by having medical first responders on site as well as an emergency plan and equipment to manage a medical emergency.

Hawaii Ocean Watch keeps a Green List of activity providers; check it out here.

#8 No Drinking & Snorkeling

Alcohol and ocean activities are not a good mix. Being under the influence can impair your swimming abilities and awareness, turning what should be a beautiful experience into a safety hazard.

Most tour operators reserve the right to refuse participation if they feel someone might compromise the safety and positive experience of the rest of the group.

The encounter with these majestic creatures is amazing enough on its own. Once you’re back on dry land, you can raise a glass to the incredible ocean adventure you just had!

Following all these safety guidelines will give you an unforgettable experience with the gentle giants.

Remember to be responsible, prepare yourself, do your homework, know your limits, and ensure your actions don’t impact the safety and enjoyment of others, your own, and the manta rays.


If you’re thinking about booking a manta ray activity, don’t miss our guide for swimming with manta rays in Hawaii. It’ll answer all your questions about equipment, prerequisites, safety, sustainability, and much more.

It’s a great FREE resource for anyone who’s getting ready to experience the manta rays firsthand.



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