Night of the Mantas | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD


Coming up next on Jonathan Bird’s Blue World,
a huge group of manta rays that are attracted to divers’ lights. Hi, I’m Jonathan Bird and welcome to my world! Manta rays are the world’s largest and most
graceful rays. They are completely harmless to people and often even curious of divers.
I have filmed them at cleaning stations in Yap and Indonesia, feeding in large aggregations
in the Maldives, eating grouper eggs in Florida and hunting alongside the whale sharks of
Holbox, Mexico. But here on the Big Island of Hawaii, the
manta rays do something amazing! My adventure begins at Big Island Divers in
Kona. Down at the marina, I board the boat for a
unique experience unlike anything else in the world. We have a short boat ride to the dive site. We arrive at a small cove where other dive
boats are gathering, waiting for the sun to set. My guides to this dive will be Danielle Wollen
and Jonathan Davis who have each done this dive thousands of times. Soon it becomes clear how popular this dive
is…nearly 20 boats have shown up as darkness falls. As much as I’m tempted to jump in, I must
be patient. The action here begins after dark. Finally, the sun sets and people start suiting
up. As snorkelers go into the water, their flashlights
create an alien glow. It’s time for me to enter the water and see
what’s going on beneath the surface. I swim over towards the commotion and soon
I see a manta ray. Then another and another. They are feeding in the lights of the snorkelers
at the surface! As I sink down below, I can see groups of
divers holding their dive lights pointed towards the surface. The mantas are feeding in the
light of their lights too! Just as a light attracts insects at night
above water, light attracts plankton at night underwater. So after a while, bright lights
attract a lot of plankton, and the manta rays come in to feed on the plankton! The whole ocean is lit up, so a lot of plankton
swarms into the bay. While mantas have huge mouths wide open as
they pass the divers, nobody is in any danger. These massive animals, which can reach 18
feet across—the size of a car—eat only plankton. They catch plankton with strainers in their
huge gills. Water goes in through the open mouth and back out through the gills at the
back of the throat. But plankton gets stuck in strainers called gill rakers on the gills.
Every once in a while, the manta closes its mouth and swallows the plankton. On each side of its mouth is a fin called
a cephalic lobe. Mantas used to be called “devil rays” because these fins look like
demonic horns. As it turns out, they are actually used for feeding, by helping to funnel more
water into the mantas mouth as it swims. So how did the mantas learn to feed in the
light of divers? It all started back in the late 1970s at a
nearby oceanfront hotel. The hotel has lights to illuminate the ocean for the guests. With
lights shining on the water for many years, and plankton accumulating under them every
night, eventually manta rays discovered this nightly hotspot for feeding. Soon people realized that mantas regularly
visited the site and scuba divers started going out to see them. The first manta ray to be documented at the
site was a female with a damaged left cephalic lobe. She may have been attracted to the light
because her damaged fin makes it harder for her to catch enough food on her own. She was
affectionately named Lefty by the divers. Now, over 30 years later, there are over 200
individual mantas known to frequent the sites. And guess who comes over to pay me a visit?
Lefty herself! She does a close pass over my bright video lights and then comes around
again. This goes on for the entire dive! Nobody is quite sure how long mantas live, but Lefty
has to be at least 34 years old, since she was first seen in 1979! I’m starting to feel a little bad about hogging
all the mantas because my video lights are much brighter than a plain old flashlight.
I have a huge amount of plankton swarming around my head, and the mantas can’t get enough. Divers are asked not to touch the mantas because
being petted and touched night after night is bad for their skin and the thin layer of
mucous that protects it. Yet, many of the mantas have pink, irritated skin on their
cephalic lobes and chins caused by rubbing against dive lights every night as they attempt
to scoop as much plankton as possible. There isn’t much I can do about the mantas bumping
my lights and camera except to try to pull it back a bit as they swim over. Most of the
time it works. But not always. As the night goes on and the other divers
slowly start to leave, more and more mantas come to my video lights. Soon, Cameraman Todd
and I have them all to ourselves. It seems like the mantas would probably stay here all
night if we did. Unfortunately, just like the other divers, we soon get low on air and
need to think about heading back to the boat. Reluctantly, I leave the bottom, keeping my
video lights on so the mantas can see where I am. I don’t want a dozen mantas crashing
into me as I ascend! By swimming slowly, the clouds of plankton
are able to follow my lights, and so do the mantas, trailing behind me like hungry puppies. Up in the water column near the surface, the
mantas start taking turns doing barrel rolls in my lights, which keeps their mouths right
in the highest concentration of plankton. All to soon however, I reach the stern of
the boat and need to get out of the water, leaving my hungry new friends in the darkness.
Soon the plankton will dissipate and the mantas will have to go back to their normal nighttime
routine. Honestly, there is really no better way to
describe that dive other than pretty much the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen in my
entire life. We’re talking about dozens of manta rays feeding within inches of my head…it’s
just incredible to see, something I will never forget. As we head back to the dock in darkness, and
I think about the spectacular dive I just did, I realize one thing for certain: I know
what I’m doing tomorrow night!

99 thoughts on “Night of the Mantas | JONATHAN BIRD’S BLUE WORLD

  1. @BlueWorldTV How do you get money for all Those exiting Trips All across the world??? Btw You're Awesome Bro! Have you made a Video about Muranas? If not You should Check it out 😀 Have fun on your Dives!

  2. Hi Jonathan! I really love your program and love the subtitles. I'm learning many things of the sea world and improving my English very much. Thanks a lot!!

  3. Idk why? But the intro to Jonathan birds blue world really brings back memories of when I'd come home everyday after school in 7th grade and watch the future is wild on dk kids

  4. I did this dive with extended horizons when I went Kona. Unfortunately none of the mantas showed. Ill have to try again sometime.

  5. i do this almost yearly now and still never get tired of it like dancing underwater ghosts they glide in and out of the pillars of light appearing and disappearing in the dark waters without a sound. never in my life have i seen something so big yet so graceful and with practic you can tell which rays you've seen before by the splotchy pattern on the underside of each ray thats how experts can tell who comes by every night

  6. We did a snorkel session with the Mantas last summer in Kona. "Sunlight on Water". They had a raft rigged with lights that attracted them. It was like watching an underwater ballet!

  7. I would love to do this at least once in my life. Scuba diving at night with manta rays will definitely be on my bucket list! Thank you so much for sharing this video!

  8. 1:21 you forgot one time you saw them, when you went to the Philippines to see Thresher Sharks
    4:37 that fish or remora got itself stuck in the Manta Ray’s gills.

  9. WOO HOO! We are about to get to do this soon in KONA, as the snorkelers up above the divers. 🙂 So excited for our Hawaii trip.
    Wow. Lefty.

  10. Since I probably won’t get my diving certification until next summer in 2019, I am gong to do the snorkeling version of this with my dad this December! I’m like the most happiest person ever right now. I can’t wait!

  11. I recently did this dive and filmed my experience, it was supper cool and I really want to do it again!

  12. Great Video! I'm about to do the Manta Night Dive and the Black Water Dive. Anyone have tips on shooting this on a GoPro? Thanks!

  13. I think this was the best night dive I have ever made!..In kona diving a rebreather. Used Jacks dive locker….WOW!!

  14. Hey, Jonathan! I had a question on Manta Rays. I remember you saying that they were once called devil rays because of the cephalic lobes they have and people once thinking they looked evil, but their names were changed to Manta ray after that. I was watching another ocean type documentary show, and they mentioned devil Ray's and showed a segment on them like you did. However, these were different and didnt look the same as the Ray's you showed which used to be called devil Ray's. I just got a bit confused on that and wanted more of a clarification if you knew! Thanks!

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