Years ago when my son and I were getting interested in scuba diving we came across list after list of the best dives in the world, the ones you don't want to miss. One dive in particular was consistently on the top of just about every list, so we researched more, watched videos, and dreamed of getting the chance to do it. Our interest was revived in the dive again when we got our scuba certification, and yet again when we got settled in Hawaii.
But it was not until we made the jump over to the Big Island that we realized, holy crap, this may actually happen! You are probably wondering by now what dive I am actually referring to....
After that the snorkelers got in the water. They have platforms to hold onto and it appeared that they also received a thorough briefing as to what to expect but we were diving so I was not privy to all of the snorkeling information.
All our gear was set up and ready to get into. A nice change from lugging our own gear around while scuba diving in Malaysia. We suited up and as the sun was nearly set we hopped off the back of the boat into the clear blue, well dark blue I guess, Pacific ocean.
Now here is where the tale of 2 dives begins.......
I jumped in and was ready to start deflating my BCD. Admittedly my anxiety was through the roof. I thought it would be due to the dark water or maybe even due to the sheer size of the manta rays that were already circling around us but that was not the case.
I have not dove in quite a while and for some reason just could not get my breath regulated at all. The dive master was incredible, trying to help me gain a comfort level. He stayed right in my face the entire time. At one point I was so distracted by the giant ray floating right next to us that I could not focus at all. But at the end of trying for 15 minutes, and not wanting to hold up the group I decided to return to the boat. The dive master helped and made sure that I got back safely before heading off with the other divers.
I teared up as I removed my gear, just terribly frustrated at myself. But there was nothing to do about it at that point. I did get to see mantas and most important my son, the real diver in the family, got to have the full experience.
Dylan jumped in and after a moment of anxiety he relaxed, purged his regulator (this helps to make you feel like you are getting a deeper breathe), and was able to relax enough to breathe properly. He tried to help me relax and I could see the sadness in his eyes that I would not be joining him, but off he went. I handed him the Go Pro and swam back. He however, dove down at this point.
Now I am not sure if this is typical but our time in the water was rough, the current even below the water was quite strong so, as was explained during the briefing, the dive master swam them over to the lights (a large set of permanent drums that sent huge torch light into the water to attract the plankton) then brought them over to the spot he felt was safest to sit and watch the show. He also brought a large rock over to each person to be placed in their lap, this was to prevent any major movement due to the strong current.
For the next 30 minutes he sat and watched in amazement as the mantas rolled, glided, and soared through the sea as if they were birds. Words cannot thoroughly describe it so watch this video below for the basic idea. There were 6 in all coming and going at various times.
The dive master was with the divers the entire time. You could tell how excited he was about diving and mantas in general through the whole trip! He brought over fish so they could see, pointed out different things he saw and made a point of checking on each person to see if they were OK and to check their air. Safety seemed to be of paramount importance!
Once the dive was over they swam back together to the boat. Dylan immediately had a sad face and came over to give me a hug. He knew without even asking how disappointed in myself I would be. The dive master also came right over to see how I was and to assure me that it happens. He was super supportive. It was a really nice gesture and he even offered to take me out one day one on one so I could have more time to acclimate.
All in all it was a great experience. I wish the water was calmer and that I would have been able to push past my fears but it was still a great outing and one we'll never forget. For my son, who did the full dive, it provided that last bit of assurance that this was, in fact, what he wants to do as a career. I am so thrilled that he had this experience at such a young age!
The boat was large and comfortable. There are buckets provided to keep your things dry and I suggest you bring something warm to wear after as it really is not as warm in Hawaii as many assume, especially in the evening when you are wet. Snacks, ice water, and hot chocolate are also provided which is a nice touch.
I suggest that you take some type of sea sickness medicine if you are prone to motion sickness at all. Many people were turning green by the end of the night and that is no fun at all. Additional items to bring are your towels, diver certification card, and dive gear if you have your own. If not you can rent full gear from Neptune Charlies for a small fee.