Garden Eel Cove, also known as Manta Heaven, is just north of Keahole point, the western-most protrusion of the Big Island, Hawaii. For this reason, it is protected from the southern swells and creates a natural sanctuary for feeding Manta Rays.
Conducted at this site is one of the most popular night dives in the world, were in it is lit from dives boats and snorkel rafts from above and diver’s dive lights and massive video lights installed each night from below.
To dive here is like attending an underwater rock concert, only the main attraction is 2-4m Manta Rays, feeding on the heavy concentration of plankton that accumulates in the light beams.
The rays perform impressive back flips with their mouths agape and cephalic fins formed into scoops, sucking up the nutrient-rich water and then letting it filter out through their gills.
Their size is immense but they are incredibly agile, and deftly maneuver around the divers seated on the bottom, the snorkeler floating on the surface, and one another, each one feeding just as hungrily as the other.
In my time on the Big Island, the numbers would range night by night from a scarce few mantas (the complete shut-outs were rare) to high 20s, into the 30s, and even a record-breaking night of 42 individuals manta rays present.