This was Karel’s last day on holiday. So we asked ourselves, if it’s the last day in paradise, how do you spend the time constantly queasy and nearly vomiting? In Karel’s case, you go snorkeling at night for manta ray. So off we went!
Admittedly, I’ve been spoiled when it comes to snorkeling. The waters of St. Thomas are crystal clear and left me unimpressed with the agitated Hawaiian ocean. Visibility is murkier compared to the Caribbean. But our tour group of divers and snorkelers saw a wide variety of fish and sea life during the early evening.
As darkness fell, more and more tour companies arrived at the small bay we were at. Every new boat brought along a congregation of divers and snorkelers, each with a bright light to attract plankton, which the manta ray feed upon. My underwater, point-and-shoot camera doesn’t illustrate what we saw accurately. The sight of seeing some 100 divers on the ocean floor with bright lights shown above and snorkelers with lights shown below, was truly an illuminated spectacle. After a few minutes of this, we saw dark figures flying below us. With wingspans of up to 16 feet, the manta ray we witnessed were not quite that large, but still impressive. It was difficult to see the manta ray from all the bubbles from the divers, but there appeared to be about 2-3 manta ray that evening.
They are massive, graceful creatures. Near the end of the tour, Karel and I saw a manta ray below us. It flew through the water, as if in slow-motion. Then it turned skyward and pointed itself directly at us. Its large mouth opened widely, we could see its gills from within the hollow chamber. It continued to angle itself until its bear abdomen was completely exposed to us. If I had extended my arm, I could have brushed the underbelly of this beast…it was that close. The tour guides explained this as “barrel rolling” and isn’t completely understood. It was a speechless moment.
Throughout all of this, Karel was feeling a little nauseous from the choppy, chilly waters. After returning to dry land, he felt better. We dried off, ate some dinner and then drove to the airport so Karel could make his flight. We said our goodbyes without completely comprehending the odyssey we had experienced in Hawaii. An unique crusade that will certainly become more nostalgic as time goes on.