Was I crazy?
The setup: I had just learned to swim (see here) and had just snorkeled out too far and scared myself (see here) by running out of breath about, oh, 200 metres from shore.
The adventure: Get in the water, at night, with a giant Kona manta ray. This is apparently, one of the highlights of visiting the Big Island – you can swim with a weird and wonderful sea creature (there are diving trips too).
My thought process: “wow! I’ll never have this chance again! This is so cool, I have to do this! Surely they haven’t lost anyone yet!? And these rays don’t have stingers or barbs, right?” Obviously, my priorities might be different than some people’s.
The verdict: yeah, maybe just a bit crazy. I apparently don’t mind putting myself in situations where the risk-consequence factor is high (as opposed to the risk-probability factor), but I still will detour around big spiders and cockroaches who are more afraid of me than I am of them (or so I’m told – I never really believed that one)
Best quote (from the Captain in an attempt to reassure us): “There’s nothing in the ocean at night that wasn’t there during the day.” I’m not sure if that made me more afraid of snorkelling in the day or more interested in seeing the ocean at night……
Yes, I did it. I got in the water with my safety floating noodle and entrusted my life to a couple of college kids and some plastic piping framework. And it was totally worth it.
I chose to go with Blue Sea Cruises after researching the whole thing. Just like the whale watching boats, I’m afraid that the industry has taken off and you will always have those that play fast and loose with the rules. Blue Sea Cruises avoids all that by going out later – after most of the others have gone out and taking less chances with their guests and not crowding the animals. Once company lets you paddle around by yourself which sounds exciting at the time, but when there are up to 10 boats all clustered around the same area and a ton of people in the water, it starts to get a bit sketchy. Blue Sea really took care of all of us beginners and I felt totally confident with them and I had a great time.
We’ll skip the bit where I was nervous and the bit about people getting seasick (only one person) and the bit about suiting up in a wet suit (something that simply cannot be done elegantly) and move on to the interesting bits. As we were getting into the water, I’m looking at the plastic frame that the lights are on and that we all hang onto around the edges. I see a white spot under the light which I think is a reflection. When I put my head down, I see that’s no light! That’s a flipping 10 foot manta ray! (the Captain said it was probably over 10 feet)
When you put your head in the water to snorkel, your world changes. And when that new world is filled with a creature that is bigger than you, moves quicker than you and is far more powerful than you, that is an awe-inspiring sight. It’s not quite the same when you are standing on dry land looking into an aquarium.
The Manta would swim up to the surface where the light was and gracefully arch it’s back and do a loop-di-loop, showing us it’s underbelly with a little remora fish hanging on.
Once or twice it would go to the bottom and pivot on a wing tip so we could see the grey shadings on its back. A few of us got bumped by its wingtip (my uncle almost lost his camera! thankfully, he didn’t so that I could get these photos for you to see!) which was considered getting “kissed”!
If you’ve ever gone on safari or encountered a large wild animal where they are clearly in charge, you may have felt the same things I did. We are puny little physical things and there are forces ever so much bigger than us….how you choose to greet those forces is what will make you just that much bigger. Happy Adventuring!