Is Swimming with Manta Rays Safe for Children? Why We Don’t Take Kids Under 12 Years Old

by | Jan 24, 2022 | Hawaii Travel, Swimming with Manta Rays

Swimming with manta rays can be perfectly safe for children – however, there are multiple reasons why we don’t take children along on our manta ray moonlight swims…

Since the inception of the manta swims at the hotel in 2015, we implemented a minimum age of 10-years old which was stricter than most boat operators. And in 2021, we changed the minimum age from 10 years old to 12 years old.

Here’s why!

1. Young children don’t have the patience to sit through the safety briefing.

Safety is extremely important for us at Manta Ray Advocates. We’re proud to say our guests always enter the ocean fully aware of their surroundings, aware of what they might encounter, and aware of what to do when things don’t go as planned.

That’s why every single guest has to go through our full gear and safety briefing. While on a plane a parent can take care of you and tell you what to do if you missed the briefing; in the ocean, you’re on your own.

Younger children are likely to not be completely attentive or even wander off while we try to convey critically important information.

2. Children don’t always fully understand the safety briefing

Even when kids have the patience to sit through the briefing, they don’t always understand all the details. We’ve seen multiple cases in which kids didn’t have the presence of mind to ask questions when they don’t understand something.

While the guidelines to swim with manta rays and other safety precautions are not complicated, it’s important to know and fully comprehend them. Swimming in the ocean at night isn’t safe for children if they missed important points from the briefing.

3. Some children get scared during the safety briefing

Just last spring, within a 24-hour window, we had four different 10-year-olds come to swim with mantas… and while they were listening to the gear and safety briefing, we could see them becoming more and more scared.
During the briefing, we talked about setting rules and boundaries, going into the ocean at night, encountering big fish… and they ended up not wanting to go after all.

Twice we were near crying meltdowns which ruined the night for their parents, who had to stay ashore with them. It made for awkward situations with the other guests (and us).

We think this paints a good picture of why we decided to raise the minimum age from 10 to 12-years-old.

4. Swimming with manta rays can be scary, and there’s no way back!

We go swimming with the manta rays at night, which means the ocean is pitch dark outside the manta ray viewpoint.

While the reward of seeing manta rays in their natural environment is incredible and worth overcoming fears, 99% of our participants are outside their comfort zone.

The darkness intimidates not only children but adults as well. However, adults can comprehend and act accordingly. We have seen a number of occasions in which children weren’t handling the fear well.

For our team, it is morally imperative that everyone has positive memories of a lifetime ocean experience. Our work is about uplifting and encouraging guests to be better stewards of the ocean.

For a child younger than 12, the risk might be that the precious mind associates water and ocean with fear. Too many times, we’ve had adults telling their stories about how a water-related incident scared them as a child, and we are determined to not add to this kind of long-lasting trauma.

Let the child succeed with support and encouragement
Let the child succeed with support, encouragement, and best practices. It’s often scary for the adults, too.

What to do if you’re planning a manta ray swim with children

While we don’t take children under 12, several boat operators do. Check out our greenlist of sustainable and safe manta ray tour operators on this page.

After reading this far, and you still decide to take your child or not, we highly recommend preparing for your swim with manta rays ahead of time. Download this free guide to learn all about what you need to bring things you need to know, what skills to practice before joining, and what to do ahead of your manta ray dive or snorkel adventure!


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