If you plan on going to Hawaii and doing a manta ray adventure- we have just one word of advice for you: DIVE. My dad and I were on the bottom looking up and my mom and Roger were on the surface looking down. Here is Roger's account:
From the snorkeling perspective, the Manta experience seemed to be drastically different. Because we were going into the ocean at night, they put glow sticks on all our snorkels to keep track of us. Also, rather than swimming around, everyone had to hold onto a large ring composed of fun noodles. (A novel idea…) So things started out with step 1, throwing the ring into the water for people to hold on to (At this point it was still tethered to the boat to keep from drifting too far.) Step 2 is where things start going down hill. Getting people into the water. The first two people they sent into the water were Japanese who didn't speak or understand English. So, naturally the ring was steered in all sorts of wrong directions. After getting in the water and re-directing the ring, I thought things would be ok. Turns out, step two wasn't quite over. As another lady entered the water it became all too clear she had never snorkeled before as she swallowed tons of salt water instantly and began gagging and coughing. While waiting for this lady to stop choking, we were shining our lights straight down next to the boat. This was the best part of the trip. There were only 4 of us on the ring, the Japanese couple, me and Allison's mom. Almost instantly one of the mantas swam up to feed on the plankton in our lights. It was soon joined by 3 others. One of which was the largest that appeared that night. They did loop-d-loops right below us. They would swim upward with their mouths open and at the last second flip so that their bellies were inches away from our faces. It was awesome! This first 5-10 minutes of the trip was great. It went steeply downhill from there.
After swimming out over to where the divers were, by everyone kicking each other in a sporadic "swimming" motion, the mantas stayed well below the surfaces for pretty much the remainder of the trip. The ring kept drifting away from the lights and we had to swim it around several times. We collided with other rings both from our boat and other boats. This resulted in more flipper fights. It didn't help at all that you are staring straight down at the divers relaxing on the sea floor with the mantas right over their heads. While you are being berated with other peoples flippers or listening to them choke on salt water. The ride back was also filled with lots of people throwing up. All in all, I'd rate it a great experience for divers and a terrible one for snorkelers. I'm sure with a full group of people that know what they are doing it might have turned out better. But even without all the kicking the mantas seemed far more interested in the divers lights because there were more, which meant more plankton. So even in the best case, the mantas would still stay toward the bottom. In short, I need to get scuba certified.
Here is another video I took at the beginning of the single ray that was dancing around us: