Aloha, we have completed the Manta Ray Statistics for 2012.
Click here to open/download the accompanying 7-page PDF-file.

All statistics are based on personal observations and review of video footage of each specific night dive on a given date. We would like to thank all contributors who make these statistics as complete and accurate as possible.
A Special Mahalo to Luke, David and Katie from Kona Diving Company as well as Jonathan from Big Island Divers.

The Top 3 Manta Rays in 2012

We had two No.1 Manta Rays in 2012!

1. Place: Koie Ray and Blain Ray, came to feed 245times

3. Place: Vicky Ray, she was seen 232 times

 

The Top 20 in 2012

 

The largest “Cast on Set”

  • On July 4th, 2012  we saw the highest number of 42 individuals in one night, which sets a NEW record number of Rays at “Manta Heaven” (Airport location) (see page 5).
  • During the month of April 2012 we saw the highest number of different individuals at 62 (see Page 7).
  • In 2012 we saw 82 individual Manta Rays (an increase of 10 from 2011) during the snorkel/dive activity at “Manta Heaven” (Airport location) and “Manta Village” (Sheraton/Keauhou location) (see Page 3).

 

New Arrivals – Rookies of the year

3 new Manta Rays were identified during the night activity in 2012 (see Page 3 and 4):

  • Amanda Ray – She was identified October 22, 2012 at Manta Village. From her identification to the end of 2012 she was seen 5 times. She was very shy and stayed close to the bottom to feed on the plankton.
  • Orion Ray – Orion was first seen on September 21, 2012 at Manta Village. He was seen one more time after his identification. Both times he came to the lights, but was very shy.
  • Daniel Ray – Daniel was identified April 8, 2012 at Manta Heaven. He was seen 7 times in 2012.

All 3 pups had a wingspan of 3-5 feet.

 

Interesting Facts

Delaney Ray was identified in August of 2008 and was not seen again until May of 2011. In 2011 we saw her 43 times, and in 2012 she made it into the TOP 20 with 139 sightings.

  • Mango jumped from No. 37 with 18 sightings in 2011 into the TOP 20 to Place No. 16 with 147 sightings.
  • “Youngster” Tim Ray made it into the TOP 20, although he only started appearing in March 2012.
  • “W” Ray has been known as long as “Lefty” (since 1979 – over 34 years ago!).
    We saw “W” only 3 times in 2012 (04/26, 04/30 and 05/01/12), but the really exciting news is that she was pregnant at that time. Her belly was huge and males followed her very closely (check out this short video).
    It is still a mystery how long Manta Rays live, but we can speculate from “Lefty” and “W”. It is even more incredible news to understand that a female can reproduce at this age!!

 

MIAs & Cameos

  • We are sad to say that we have not seen Capt. Kirk since June 14, 2012. He had made regular appearances (73 times) at Manta Heaven until then. He is a Manta Ray without a tail and very easy to spot. We hope he is just on an “extended vacation”.
  • Guillermo, Coral and Kai-Zed made one-time appearances at Manta Heaven in 2012. It is nice to know that they are still around as they have not been seen since they were identified in 2007 (Guillermo) and 2009 (Coral). It was also good to see that Kai-Zed (ID’d in 2011) “checked in” at Manta Heaven last year.

 

Lunar Phase: Fact or Fiction?

As in the 2011 statistics, the 2012 numbers suggest that there is no direct correlation between moon phase and manta sightings (see Page 5).

 

What are the odds?

Page 6 of our pdf file will show the overview of the ratio of possible charters and successful Manta Ray Sightings for each month as well as the average number of individual Manta Rays.

“Manta Heaven” participants got skunked 15 times, “Manta Village” participants 21 times in 2012.

The probability of seeing at least one Manta Ray in 2012 was:

Manta Heaven: 95 %               Manta Village: 93%

Wow, the possibility to see a Manta Ray on the Kona Coast during a night time adventure is over 90% now (up from 88% in 2011).
These are incredible numbers for creatures “in the wild”.

The average number of individuals at “Manta Heaven” was 14 (an increase from 7 in 2011) and at “Manta Village” was 3 Manta Rays for 2012 (up from 2 in 2011).

 

“High mileage” mantas

Manta Rays sometimes travel the distance of approx. 14 miles between the dive sites within a time frame of 24 – 96 hours (see Page 7). We kept track of those “Travelers” and observed that 28 Manta Rays swam between Manta Village and Manta Heaven or vice versa.
Like in 2011, Melainah Ray is the “Traveler of the year 2012”. She moved up and down the coast 26 times, 10 months of the year and in July and December, 5 times.
Big Bertha, Lefty and Vallaray also did their share of traversing their home range and using the night feeding areas to their advantage.

 

Disturbing Trends & Injuries

Trend 1:
We have seen an increase in the number of swimmers and kayakers coming from shore at the Sheraton Keauhou location (Manta Village). While guests of the boat operators are briefed to the existing guidelines so as to safely and responsibly interact with the wild life, this (regrettably) is not the case with participants from shore. We have witnessed them diving down and touching the mantas on a number of occasions. We are concerned that the manta rays may “learn” that the lighted, feeding areas should be avoided during certain time periods, possibly causing them to alter there “schedule” to avoid humans.

 

Trend 2:
2012 also brought an increase of tour operators who began using “hull lighting” to attract the Manta Rays close to their specific boats and away from the long-established, centrally located viewing area thereby “fragmenting” the attending manta rays.
This practice has also caused the manta rays to sustain impact injuries due to the close proximity of those lights to boat hulls, propellers, rudders and ladders.

Underwater hull lighting creates an unsafe feeding environment for the mantas and has resulted in injuries to the mantas that have been witnessed and well-documented.
So, while there is statutory language in place that protects the manta rays from being captured or killed, no such language exists that offers protection from injury.

In an attempt to address this and other problems, the local manta industry (at the strong suggestion of State and Federal authorities), united to create “Tour Operator Standards” for the Manta Activity.
A “Manta Committee” was formed in late 2012, with approx. 80% representation, to establish and implement  Operator Standards for ALL the commercial operators to follow for the Greater Good:

1. Increase the safety of the Manta Rays and their habitat.
2. Increase the safety of the users and participants of the manta tour experience.
3. Establish community practices and to educate those people involved.

We are working within the Manta Operator community towards complete compliance as there is a fair amount of resistance to implementation.

Injuries:
As stated above, our resident population of Manta Rays has had to sustain injuries due to engagement with boats. Jana Ray, in particular, has had a rough year sustaining serious injury to her right cephalic fin as well as showing evidence of various other injuries (visualized in this video).

 

Conclusions

Due to the sheer number of Manta Rays observed, especially at “Manta Heaven”, and the numbers of pups produced, we believe that, overall, the resident population is healthy and thriving.
On July 4th, 2012 we saw the highest number of individuals (42), which sets a NEW record number of Rays at “Manta Heaven”.
We saw Teresa Ray bring her pregnancy to term in February/March 2012 and observed a pregnant “W” in May 2012.

With an over a 90% probability of seeing a Manta Ray in 2012, Kona, Hawaii continues to be THE destination to see these Gentle Giants in their natural habitat!

If you choose to participate in one of the excursions, we encourage you to go with a company that is mindful of and complies with Tour Operator Guidelines.

We  hope you have enjoyed the presentation of this information. Once again, Mahalo to those that helped us compile this data. We are looking forward to doing this again for 2013.
With Aloha
Martina, Jim and Ryan

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