Tourists often snorkel with sea turtles, stingrays, and loads of fish. But rarely does any creature that measures 14 feet across swim up and barrel-roll underneath them.
That’s what a group of Flying Longhorns who cruised Hawaii in late winter experienced as a 1,400-pound manta ray named Vicky Ray put on a show with them in the water.
The Flying Longhorns’ 36-passenger ship had stopped off the Big Island on its third night to give the travelers a rare chance for night snorkeling. They had surfboards to hold onto as scuba divers below helped draw rays using light. And boy, did Vicky rush and roll.
The Manta Pacific Research Society has identified virtually all of the mammoth mantas around Hawaii, and as of this month, there are 189, some with clever names like Rachael Ray and Stevie Ray.
The cute names belie the species’ fight to survive. In China, their gill rakers have been marketed as a cure for various ailments. Conservation organizations say they’ve been driven near extinction within short order.
The Flying Longhorns came away with a profound appreciation for mantas. “It was definitely an experience,” trip host and Texas Exes staffer Kristy Kimball says.