A year and a half ago, I wrote a series of posts about my most amazing birthday, which I spent on the Big Island of Hawaii, including one post detailing my night scuba dive with manta rays. My one regret from that birthday was that I didn't have an underwater camera to record the spectacular things I'd seen.
This past summer, I returned with the Housemate to the Big Island and went on the Kona manta ray dive again, though this time we had to pay for the boat charter. It was worth every penny, though, because not only were we granted really nice underwater flashlights (like this one), over 30 manta rays showed up that evening (compared to what I counted as maybe 8 or 9 the previous year). And this time, I had a camera with an underwater housing to record every minute of it.
...Which was kind of the problem. I had so much footage, it was a huge and tortuous project to cut it down to a watchable length. But I've finally done it. Well, it's still a bit over 5 minutes, but you don't have to watch the whole thing to get the idea--how big they are, how graceful, how many there were, and just how close to us they swim (occasionally they'd bump into us). I do recommend checking out 3:01 to see the cloud of zooplankton swarming around us--it's these little guys that the manta rays show up to feast upon. You can hear my squeals as I realize that the rapid pitter-patter sounds I'm hearing is a blizzard of little creatures pinging off my mask (what I'm saying is mermaid for "Oh, whoa! Oh my God! Wow!"). Also, around 4:51 you can get a good view straight into the mouth of one of the manta rays (a large female they call "Lefty").
If you ever find yourself in Kona, I highly recommend this nighttime manta ray dive (though ask around to find out how many mantas have been showing up lately--if the week's been bad, you might not want to risk it, since sometimes none show up and few dive shops will give you a refund). They have snorkelers on the surface, holding onto floatation devices with lights shining down, as well as divers. Seeing the manta rays emerge from the dark and dance in the light is a truly beautiful, awe-inspiring experience.