Every evening, mammoth “ballerinas” dip, glide and twirl in the waters fronting the Sheraton Kona Resort & Spa.
Despite their size (they can weigh up to 3,000 pounds with a wingspan of 20 feet), manta rays are incredibly graceful.
Founded in 2001, the nonprofit Manta Pacific Research Foundation (MPRF) has identified some 240 mantas in the Kona area by the distinctive dark spot patterns on their bellies.
The 700-square-foot Manta Learning Center at the hotel displays photos of some of them, along with general information about mantas’ anatomy, life cycle and feeding, reproductive and behavioral patterns.
Playing continuously is a 15-minute video that MPRF co-founder Keller Laros produced from footage of dives he’s made in Kona.
Visitors can also learn about the magnificent mantas at a talk in the center every day at 6 p.m. Because of its prime seaside locale, Sheraton Kona is a great place to see mantas because its lights attract plankton, mantas’ primary food source. There’s a viewing area near Rays on the Bay restaurant close to the Manta Learning Center.