By Janice Mucalov, Cruise and Travel Lifestyles
‘Talk story’ with colorful characters, snorkel at night among monster manta rays, and paddle an outrigger canoe on this off-the-beaten-path ‘un-cruise’ from Lanai to the Big Island.
The mammoth rays glide up from the inky depths, one by one. Black wings flapping like Dracula’s cape and cavernous mouths gaping open, they rise to within inches of my snorkel mask.
“Don’t move,” I will myself.
My brain registers – they won’t hit me. Sure enough, with precision timing, the rays arc backwards at the last moment in a graceful back flip, showing off their creamy white bellies before swooping back down.
Who the performers are in this underwater manta ballet, I can’t tell. “They have names like Rachel Ray and Sugar Ray and Stevie Ray,” our snorkel guide with Kona Diving Company, Katie Gaab, had told us earlier. “You can identify them by the black tattoo-like markings on their underbellies.” XRay, for example, has a big black ‘X’ on her chest. I’m too gobsmacked by the whole cast to scrutinize individual tattoos.
What does stick in my mind is Katie saying: “They have no stingers.” I can see they also have no teeth – just rows of harmless, internal, radiator-like gills sucking in clouds of twinkling plankton.