First is the Manta Ray, seen almost daily during the winter months on our tours to Niihau. They are gentle creatures that can be seen feeding on surface nutrients concentrated by ocean current lines.
The second is the Spotted Eagle Ray which can be seen throughout the year in all waters around Kauai and Niihau. We will find them in the harbor mating, in bays mating, along the cliffs of the Napali Coast and Niihau mating and at some of our snorkeling spots (mating). They are excellent swimmers and able to jump several meters above the surface.
The Manta Ray, or giant manta (Manta birostris), is the largest of the rays, with the largest known specimen nearly 7.6 meters (25 ft) across its pectoral fins (or “wings”) and weighing in at 3,000 kg (6,600 lb). Mantas are most commonly black above and white below, but some are blue on their backs. A giant manta’s eyes are located at the base of the cephalic fins on each side of the head, and unlike other rays the mouth is found at the anterior edge of its head. The manta breathes through five pair of gills on the underside.
Manta Rays probably evolved from bottom feeding ancestors but have adapted to become filter feeders in the open ocean.
Giant Mantas generally eat plankton, fish larvae and small organisms that are filtered out from the water by their gill rakers, a type of filter feeding called ram-jet feeding.
Eagle Rays feed on snails, mussels and crustaceans, crushing their shells with their extremely hard teeth.
The Spotted Eagle Ray can be recognized by its preference for near-shore waters and numerous white ringed spots against a beautiful inky blue body.
The predators of the ray are mainly large sharks, however in some circumstances killer whales have also been observed preying on them.
Other common names common names for the Giant Manta Ray include: Pacific manta, devil ray, devilfish, and just manta. The Spotted Eagle Ray is also known as a bonnetray, or maylan and can be seen on our Na Pali Coast Boat Tours.