Pardon me, sir, can you point out the mantas?

Oh. My. God.

Sorry, had to get that out of the way. We had the most absolutely fantastic day in the world possible today.  I thought that Tuesday was the most awesome, but I was obviously mistaken.

The first dive of the morning was at Aquarium.  This is a site with which Wayne and I are very familiar, each of us having nearly half a dozen dives here.  We splashed into the water ahead of everyone, and headed north.  We went through a swim thru that reminded me of Shark’s Cove, although the washing machine effect was less than pleasant.  We managed to dive from Aquarium to a favorite spot, “Suck ‘em Up,” and we entered through what is traditionally the exit. 

Wayne’s sign for Suck ‘em Up is really cute.  I just can’t quite describe it.

When we got out, we saw a 5’ white tip reef shark that looked reasonably well fed and relaxed.  Unfortunately, the larger group did not get to see it.  We also looked into a cathedral area, where there were two spotted puffers swimming around.  Before exiting, I managed to find a Hawaiian red lionfish.                

On our second dive, we were planning on heading south, but the current picked up strongly, so we headed out on the same direction.  Little did I know, but the valve in my low pressure inflator got stuck again as we headed up, continually filling up my BC bladder, which then vented the air in order to avoid bursting.  When I saw that, I disconnected the hose, but I had lost about 800 psi in about 4 minutes.  I’m just not that heavy a breather.

While we were diving there, we saw a hawksbill turtle, a bigeye emperor school, a few lone pyramid butterflyfish (amongst the myriad of other fish), and then Karl showed us a pair of harlequin shrimp hiding in a head of antler coral.

From here was lunch - vegetable soup (Wayne loved it), a great salad, chicken and cabbage wraps, and sausage and cabbage.  I partook in the salad and the chicken wraps, along with a hot chai tea.  Perfect.  Diving nitrox, I wasn’t at all tired, and didn’t need the post lunch nap.

We were going to do Keahole pipeline, but the current was ripping, so we moved on to Garden Eel Cove.  An awesome selection, if I do say so myself. 

On our first of three dives, Wayne and I headed south to see the garden eels, and we wound up running across a peacock flounder, a peacock grouper hunting with a whitemouth moray, and an undulated moray.  Whale song resonated loudly throughout the dive.  Near the end I found a five pound weight in a weight pouch, and we brought it to the surface.  Will (a fellow diver) then mentioned that there were mantas on the port side of the cat.  I asked for my camera, and Mindy brought me my fins as well.  I reentered the water, descended to meet David, and got to shoot stills and video of two mantas.  What a great surprise.

Second dive of three had a smaller group.  We headed north, away from the other divers, and were rewarded almost immediately with a manta.  And then another.  And then three others.  One of the five was missing his cephalic fin, as well as part of his tail.  This was likely because of fishing line that kept wrapping tighter and tighter.  :(

I have absolutely no idea what else we saw on the dive.  Zero.  Period.  And I think I am famous as the crazy redhead dashing after manta rays, hair streaming behind her as she pulls up her hood, pulls out her camera, and searches for manta rays.  I thank the crew and our fellow travelers for putting up with me.

We paused for dinner - our last night dining with Chef Chris.  He made a wonderful meal - an oriental salad with Chinese cabbage and cucumbers, and other good veggies.  Then out came the main course - huli huli chicken, Okinawan sweet potatoes in a coconut milk sauce, rice, and carrots.  I’ll leave everyone to guess how I liked this meal!  Dessert was individual servings of pineapple upside down cake and vanilla bean ice cream.  Great final dinner with the chef.

And then we move to the last dive of the day.  Our night dive with the manta rays.  As I opened the blog, Oh. My. God.

There were at least 19 boats out waiting for divers and snorkelers to get into the water to begin the viewing.  During dinner and afterwards (we were waiting for all the other groups to get in and to have been there for a while), mantas were swimming up around the catamaran.  After the other groups entered, we started getting ready.  It really worked out well.  We swam past 3 mantas getting to our “manta circle.”   We had an overhead pass-by of one manta, and then we waited.  There was one consistent manta after about 5-8 minutes, and then the other groups started leaving.  Then James (Captain and dive guide extraordinaire), came back and brought three mantas with him.  We wound up with a total of four before we finally headed back to the ship, bringing one manta along with us.             

Everyone was up and excited at the end of the dive, unlike most other nights here, where we all fell asleep.  I love the benefits of nitrox.

Good night to all, and sweet manta dreams!