Categorized | Environment

Free manta talks at Sheraton Keauhou

(Photo courtesy of James L. Wing)


For nearly two years now Fair Wind Big Island Ocean Guides have quietly been educating hundreds of people each week during free “Manta Talks” held at Sheraton Keauhou Bay Resort & Spa’s manta viewing area.

Sometimes as few as a dozen but more often as many as 50 people gather just after sunset to hear about the Keauhou Manta Rays. Fair Wind hosts the free Manta Talks three times each week on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Another ocean activity company hosts Monday, Wednesday and Friday nights. The talks are not offered Sunday evenings.

“The first question we get asked is whether these are the same animal that killed ‘The Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin,” Fair Wind’s group and special events sales manager Christopher Blunt said. “Once they learn that we have manta rays, not sting rays, and once they learn important differences between the two, then we can move on to sharing what we know about these amazing creatures.”

Manta rays along the Kona coast were only studied in earnest beginning approximately 10 years ago. Manta Talks help educate the public about the rays’ habitat and range, the territories they prefer, their intelligence, and why they feed where they do.

After learning more about the gentle giants, many guests sign up for an evening snorkel or dive to be able to see them below the surface rather than just from above.

One such guest, Matt Lambert of Seattle, Wash. said, “Never in a million years could I have imagined what it might be like to witness something so large, so interesting, so unique. After hearing the manta talk, I went out on Fair Wind’s Hula Kai the next night and the Manta Experience was without a doubt the highlight of my Big Island visit.”

Hawaii is the only state with a law protecting manta rays within state marine waters. The law was passed as a way to ensure that these unique sea creatures, in demand for various uses, do not become endangered in Hawaii.

According to ocean resource experts, Hawaii is the top manta ray destination in the world because of limited natural predators. The law establishes criminal penalties and administrative fines for knowingly killing or capturing manta rays within state waters.

Each year thousands of divers and snorkelers from around the world visit Kona to dive and snorkel with the manta rays. The Kona Coast specifically is considered one of the best places to get close to and observe manta rays. Their huge 12-foot wingspans and agile ballet-like movements are memorizing. With no teeth, they are quite harmless.

Manta rays are filter feeders and they feast on tiny plankton as they swoop through the water. Manta rays have a sixth sense that humans do not have called electro-reception.

Each manta ray has tiny nerve cells on their heads that allow them to sense movement and objects in the water. This allows them to swim inches from swimmers and divers without actually touching them.

Pre-Manta Experience safety rules and guidelines by Fair Wind’s professional crew emphasize that snorkelers and divers should never touch the manta but rather relax and enjoy them as bystanders. Specific zones for snorkelers and divers are established so as not to interfere with the manta’s nightly feeding.

Since 1971, Fair Wind has offered snorkeling and scuba diving excursions to pristine locations along the Kona Coast.

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