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Kim Steutermann Rogers
Article Source: Blog Post
If I am ever abducted by aliens, I hope they are as gentle and peaceful as manta rays.I have long wanted to dive with the manta rays off the coast of Big Island. In Hawaii, dive operators claim the experience is the number one night dive in the world, and I have heard many stories about it. How the manta ray gatherings started when a hotel discovered that the spotlights it beamed into the ocean at night attracted the behemoth creatures. How manta rays fly through the water as graceful as ballerinas. How the week before my dive a humpback whale joined the dance, followed by a small school of spinner dolphins.
Hawaii (Big) Island
Article Source: Copyright © 2012 by Fodor’s Travel, a division of Random House Inc. All rights reserved.
Each winter, some two-thirds of the North Pacific humpback whale population (about 4,000-5,000 animals) migrate over 3,500 mi from the icy Alaska waters to the warm Hawaiian ocean to give birth to and nurse their calves. Recent reports indicate that the whale population is on the upswing—a few years ago one even ventured into the mouth of Hilo Harbor, which marine biologists say is quite rare. Humpbacks are spotted here from early December through the end of April, but other species, like sperm, pilot, and beaked whales, can be seen year-round. Most ocean tour companies offer whale outings during the season, but two owner-operators do it full time. They are much more familiar with whale behavior and you're more likely to have a quality whale-watching experience. If you take the morning cruise, you're likely to see dolphins as well. In addition to the outfitters listed below,Body Glove Cruises offers whale-watching cruises.
The Big Island does not have the variety of great surfing spots found on Oahu or Maui, but it does have decent waves and a thriving surf culture. Local kids and avid surfers frequent a number of places up and down the Kona and Kohala Coasts of west Hawaii. Expect high surf in winter and much calmer activity during summer. The surf scene is much more active on the Kona side.
Atlantis Adventures. Want to stay dry while exploring the undersea world? Climb aboard the 48-foot Atlantis VII submarine anchored off Kailua Pier, across from King Kamehameha's Kona Beach Hotel in Kailua-Kona. A large glass dome in the bow and 13 viewing ports on the sides allow clear views of the aquatic world more than 100 feet down. This is a great trip for kids and nonswimmers. Each one-hour voyage costs $109 for adults. The company also operates on Oahu and Maui. Kailua Pier, Alii Dr., Kailua-Kona, HI, 96740. PHONE: 808/326-7939 or 800/548-6262. www.atlantisadventures.com.
Stand-up paddling (or SUP for short), a sport with roots in the Hawaiian Islands, has grown popular worldwide over the past few years. It's available for all skill levels and ages, and even novice stand-up paddleboarders can get up, stay up, and have a great time paddling around a protected bay or exploring the gorgeous coastline. All you need is a large body of water, a board, and a paddle. The workout will test your core strength as well as your balance but truly offers a unique vantage point from which to enjoy the beauty of the island and the ocean.
A favorite pastime on the Big Island, snorkeling is perhaps one of the easiest and most enjoyable water activities for visitors. By floating on the surface, looking through your mask, and breathing through your snorkel, you can see lava rock formations, sea arches, sea caves, and coral reefs teeming with colorful tropical fish. While the Kona and Kohala coasts have more beaches, bays, and quiet coves to snorkel, the east side around Hilo and at Kapoho are also great places to get in the water.
Snuba—a cross between scuba and snorkeling—is a great choice for non-scuba divers who want to go a step beyond snorkeling. You and an instructor dive off a raft attached to a 25-foot hose and regulator; you can dive as deep as 20 feet or so. This is a good way to explore reefs a bit deeper than you can get to by snorkeling. If you get frightened or need a rest, the raft is right there, ready to support you.
The Big Island's underwater world is the setting for a dramatic diving experience. With generally calm waters, vibrant coral reefs and rock formations, and plunging underwater drop-offs, the Kona and Kohala coasts provide some great scuba diving. There are also some good dive locations in east Hawaii, not far from the Hilo area. Divers will find much to occupy their time, including marine reserves teeming with unique Hawaiian reef fish, Hawaiian green sea turtles, an occasional and rare Hawaiian monk seal, and even some playful Hawaiian spinner dolphins. On special night dives to see manta rays, divers descend with bright underwater lights that attract plankton, which in turn attracts these otherworldly creatures. The best spots to dive are listed in order from north to south; all are on the west coast.
Parasailing, gliding on the winds with a parachute while being pulled behind a power boat, is a relaxing and thrilling experience. If you can handle heights, you'll revel in the experience of being suspended in air while soaring above Kailua Bay. The water is so clear you can almost see the ocean floor. And no swimming is required; takeoffs and landings are from the back of the boat.
The leeward west coast areas of the Big Island are protected for the most part from the northeast trade winds, making for ideal near-shore kayaking conditions. There are miles and miles of uncrowded Kona and Kohala coastline to explore, presenting close-up views of stark raw lava rock shores and cliffs, lava tube sea caves, pristine secluded coves, and deserted beaches.
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