Scuba Diving in Manta Heaven, Hawaii

There’s something about being 60 feet under water and breathing air from a tank on your back that is calming, it’s something you just have to try to truly experience it. My diving career began in 2017 on a trip to Australia when I became a PADI certified diver and got to dive on the Great Barrier Reef! (*Link to both those blog posts at the bottom!!). Hawaii, however, is also famous for amazing diving, most significantly for giant Manta Ray night diving! Spoiler Alert: it’s not a happy ending, but I’ll get to that later.

Being that Hawaii is made up of islands, you might think it is easy to find these massive animals in Hawaiian waters, but in actuality, it is very rare. Sightings are not guaranteed at any dive site since Manta Rays are wild animals and obviously don’t answer to humans.  There are some sites with a higher chance of spotting the mantas based on a number of factors. For my night diving experience, I was on the west side of the Big Island near Kona at a dive site called Manta Heaven. More on the dive site later, let’s start at the beginning, it was time to get to the marina and hop on the boat!

On the boat, we were each given a small slip within the boat that housed our gear, which included 2 full tanks of air, 1 BCD (Buoyancy Control Device), weights, and a wetsuit. I also have my own mask, snorkel, and fins that I always try to bring on tropical vacations since snorkeling can be just as fun. We were also given a briefing on the Mantas and why we were headed to this dive spot specifically. We found out that mantas frequent this area because there is a “cleaning” station nearby. This means that cleaner fish clean other fish and mantas of any parasites that may be attached to them; the cleaner fish even swim in the gills or the mouths of others for a deep clean. For the night manta ray dive, they put giant underwater lights on the bottom of the ocean to attract phytoplankton which the mantas feed on. Millions upon millions of phytoplankton swarmed to the lights at night thus the mantas follow the phytoplankton allowing frequent sightings of mantas in this location.

I mentioned above that we were given two tanks, meaning we were doing 2 separate dives. The first was in the afternoon with the sun still up to explore the dive site and marine life, and the second at night to see the manta rays. After gearing up and jumping into the water we dove down to roughly 60 feet, sometimes a bit lower and sometimes a bit higher just depending on what part of the reef we were at, and there was life everywhere! We saw a multitude of different animals, including garden eels that are slim and look like stalks of seaweed on the ocean floor and will disappear into the ground, free swimming moray eels, a Moorish idol (Aka Gill from Finding Nemo), barracuda, trumpet fish and even an octopus! I didn’t get video/photos of everything but here are some of the better ones I captured on the day dive!

This is where I also have to say I’m sorry. I always find myself lost in the moment when I’m diving and never take good photos/videos of any of the amazing sea life, but here are a few screen grabs from the videos I got, next time I’ll do better I promise!

I also captured this photo of myself while diving and it has quickly become my favorite photo of myself doing anything water related.

With the first dive over, my post dive snack eaten, and the sun setting, it was time to gear up for the night dive. It was finally game time.

Once in the water, we dropped down to the ocean floor about 40 feet below the surface and sat around the lights, which were nicknamed “the campfire.” About 45 divers were also down there with me, just waiting for a manta to show up, everyone had hand lights and the ocean floor was so lit up it was like daytime in our own spot of dark ocean. Hundreds of fish were swimming in the lights eating the phytoplankton in the waters, and one trumpet fish came swimming right at me. Trumpetfish are long and narrow, kind of like a small spear and I was afraid (please don’t tell anyone) that this fish kept swimming right at me. We were told to stay as still as possible as to not scare the mantas so I wasn’t going to ruin it for anyone but this fish kept getting closer and closer! It didn’t seem like it was going to stop so I tilted my head to the most uncomfortable angle while trying to not to move my body all while trying not to be impaled by this fish. Thankfully I survived the encounter and kept my eyes open for the mantas.

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Unfortunately, this is the point where I must inform you of the bad news. No manta rays showed up during our night dive. While I was a little disappointed that I didn’t get to see the infamously dancing mantas, they are wild animals after-all and there is never a guarantee to seeing them. This just means I have to go back to Hawaii and try again. Sounds like a good excuse to me! I’ll let you know how I fair next time, whenever I do go back!

See you on the next adventure, reader!

Certified to Breathe Underwater

Scuba Diving at the Great Barrier Reef

Tallest Bungee Jump in Ontario

Before you read this post this is me at the bottom after the jump, its one of my better angles.

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Over my brief span on this earth, I’ve done a lot of different jumping activities. I’ve competed in school triple jump, long jump and high jump (I never came close to winning but I tried my best). I’ve also gone cliff jumping, jumped out of planes, and all sorts of jumps in between. What I’m about to tell you about is a new type of jumping for me. The bungee jump.

This was going to be my first bungee jump and it couldn’t have been a cooler setup. Somewhere along the Ottawa River, you’ll find a crane that swings over it at a height of 150-feet. This 150-foot crane is the tallest bungee jump in Ontario; it stood tall and proud, owning its designation as the tallest.

To get to the top of the beast, I had to climb what felt like a million ladder rungs but in reality, it might have only been 150 or so. There was a small platform to stand on after every 25 rungs for you to look around the beautiful surroundings. As I climbed higher, the view got even more amazing. The climb up was incredible in its own right, but knowing that I had a fast track method to get down, I climbed faster and faster, eager to get to the top.

 

You can just make me out on the ladder

 

Once I got to the top, there was a small wait before it was my turn at the edge. The wait was made easy though with the stunning 360-degree view of the Ottawa River and the surrounding area. There was a constant movement of people, and I got to watch a few of them as they prepared to jump off a 150-foot crane with just a glorified elastic band attached to their ankles. My friend Sam even climbed up to take a jump of his own, and we got to spend time at the top together.

Finally, it was my time. I had to make the walk from the waiting zone to the front of the crane. This is the area where the final jump was going to happen, where I was going to be tied into my harness and have a giant bungee cable attached to my feet. This was the time I thought, ‘why am I doing this?’

edge

I was here for one reason, and that reason was to jump. No way I was backing out. I’ve gone skydiving after all, how much scarier could this be? While they were strapping me up, they asked me a very important question, if I wanted to get wet. My answer was that I would be disappointed if I wasn’t soaked. They changed some tension settings, and it was finally time to jump. I was strapped in and ready to go, with a long elastic band attached to my ankles.

I got a countdown: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 and I jumped. The wait was over, I was doing my first bungee jump.

I was in the air for less than 5 seconds before I hit the water and plunged up to my waist in the Ottawa River. I didn’t even have time to think about holding my breath as I hit the water. The jump was exhilarating and was absolutely worth it to get to jump from the tallest point bungee in Ontario.

This is the stuff I live for, moments where time freezes and you’re just living life. Living for experiences like this is what it means to be intrepid. I think the only logical thing to do next is the tallest bungee in Canada. Anyone know where that is?

White Water Rafting on the Ottawa River

White water rafting on the Ottawa river with 10 friends for my 20th birthday? Clearly, birthday parties only get better with age.

 

Back in March, I was at the Toronto Sportsman Show and came across a booth for white water rafting which is something I’ve always wanted to do. My dad went to the same place when he was younger and always told me it was something I had to do with a bunch of friends. The opportunity finally presented itself, and I couldn’t turn it down. To make it even better, they were promoting rafting for my birthday weekend; it was the icing on the cake! I signed up at the show and went home to start organizing what would be an amazing weekend.

Our trip was for 3 days, 2 nights. Arrive on Friday afternoon, spend Saturday and Sunday rafting on the river and spend each night recovering from the exhaustion of paddling. On Saturday, we were to be in one big 12-person raft with a guide, and on Sunday were to go in smaller 6-man GYOR boats (in case you’re not up to date on your rafting lingo that means guide your own raft)

Now you may be asking which raft was better? Big raft or small raft? There is no winner, they are both awesome rafts and I’d do either one again.

Now the 1200+km river we were on has some of the best rafting in the country, if not the world. Each day we went on different rapids, and different sections of the river depending and what each boat could handle and current water conditions. Just to add some context on what we were up against, rapids are categorized into 5 classes with class 5 rapids being the hardest and class 1 rapids being the easiest. We were going up against class 4 rapids at some points on the river. It was intense water conditions.

With those intense water conditions, came the wipeouts. We all fell.

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Multiple times.

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We spent over 4 hours on the river, going through rapids, paddling across smooth sections, and jumping off the rafts and swimming when we needed to cool off. The best part… other than the Rapids, of course, was that the section of the river we were on was completely natural. There were no manmade structures to be seen; it was just the river and us. It was nice to be out and see the pristine wilderness. Although, when lunchtime came around we saw a small wooden cabin, it looked like it belonged there, nestled between the trees. Having a BBQ lunch on the riverbank was definitely a high point of the day.

Like all things, the rafting had to end. We hauled out the boats and headed back to the resort.

Just because the rafting had to end, didn’t mean that the fun had to.  While back at the resort, there were unlimited options and I chose to go bungee jumping, but I’ll save that story for another time. I’ll just leave you these three photos of me waving at a wave. Enjoy.

 

 

Certified to Breathe Underwater

When you think of Australia what do you think of? Sydney Opera House? Kangaroos? The Outback? Well, I too think of those but there is one more you should be thinking of, the Great Barrier Reef. The Great Barrier Reef has become an icon of Australia and is something you’re always told to go and see. The best way to see it? Scuba diving of course, and that is exactly how I plan on seeing it this week. In order to scuba dive to the depth of the Reef which can be ~18 meters deep, you need to be trained properly.

It was time that I became certified to breath underwater.

Like any course or education, you have to learn the theory behind it. This theory starts in the classroom, so bright and early on Wednesday morning, I was in the classroom eager to learn and start the journey to becoming a certified scuba diver.

Classroom

There were 8 people in the course including myself. We sat in this room watching videos, reading the textbook and completing quizzes. I learned quite a bit in this room, I never knew there was so much to learn about Scuba Diving. The classroom covered everything from gear, how long you can stay at a depth, how long you have to wait before flying, and all the hand signals one could ever need underwater. But enough of the classroom let’s start diving!

This course I was doing was 3 full days of scuba in order to go from knowing nothing to being a certified open water diver. It got broken down to a classroom and a pool session on Wednesday, 2 dives in the ocean on Thursday and 2 dives on Friday. The pool session was where we got to find out what it was really like to be under water and practice skills in a controlled environment before heading to open ocean where we would really be put to test.

Inpool
I have the yellow tank (Go Figure)

I think we spent ~2 hours in the pool, and let me tell you if you are ever trying to be certified it isn’t fast and it isn’t fun (but in the ocean is another story).

On Thursday we were finally going to the ocean and diving in. We got to the dive school at 7 am and had to move fast to ensure we made the window for diving. We got our gear together, loaded up the boat and headed out to the ocean. We dove to a depth of around 10 meters and practiced all the skills we had previously learned in the pool. We had to practice skills that included clearing a mask that became full of water, under water navigation, buoyancy control and swimming with a partner.

Friday was pretty much the same as Thursday, but the only difference was having to write a final exam (which I passed with flying colours). I got the fancy dancy temporary card to make it official.

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This little piece of paper made it official. I was certified to breathe under water. Now I just have to see the reef.