One of the most exciting parts of visiting Hawaii is seeing all the wildlife. Hawaii is home to a multitude of tropical fish (i’a), dolphins (nā ʻāpāpā), sea turtles (honu), and of course, manta rays (hahalua). And while you may see dolphins and turtles at your local zoop, likely, your zoo doesn’t have manta rays.

This is because manta rays can have a wingspan of 18 feet wide. To create an exhibit that could house a manta ray is often too costly for most zoos. If you want to see a manta ray up close, you generally have to travel somewhere tropical and go snorkeling.

Since it’s not an everyday experience to see a manta ray, many people are very curious and want to get close to the manta rays. Travelers want to take pictures of them smiling next to a manta ray to show their friends back home. Some individuals want to hold a manta ray or even just touch it to see what it feels like.

Still, manta rays are wild animals and wild animals deserve respect. Moreover, touching a manta ray while snorkeling could have serious consequences. While a manta ray is not likely to attack you, you should not touch a manta ray.

Keep reading below to learn why you should never touch a manta ray while snorkeling.

WHY YOU SHOULD NEVER TOUCH MANTA RAYS

We completely understand… Petting zoos are awesome. However, any biologist will tell you that the ocean is not your petting zoo nor is most of nature. A lot of things in nature can and will hurt you. With that simple fact alone you shouldn’t touch a wild animal.

Now, manta rays are not like most animals. Manta rays are friendly. They may approach you and often allow you to get reasonably close to them (which is why snorkeling with manta rays is such a breathtaking experience). But because they allow you to get close to them does not mean you should touch them.

If you’re curious what a manta ray feels like, we’re happy to tell you. Manta rays have very smooth skin and a mucus coat across their skin. Essentially, manta rays are slimy, like most sea creatures.

TOUCHING CAN HARM THE MANTA RAYS

The mucus coat on a manta ray serves a very important purpose that’s key for their survival. In fact, the mucous coating protects them. That mucus repels bacteria from soaking into the manta ray’s skin. When a human touches a manta ray, the oils on their hands can counteract the mucus, making this barrier for their immune system less protective.

Additionally, trying to hold on to a manta ray might actually remove this slimy mucus. This can make the manta ray susceptible to infections and bacteria.

Furthermore, actions also compound amongst visitors. If every snorkeler decided to touch the manta rays, it could cause widespread sickness among the manta rays. Over time we would likely see the manta ray population diminish.

YOU COULD SCARE THE MANTA RAYS AWAY

Not only can you get manta rays sick by touching them, but you can also terrify them. Like most animals, manta rays don’t have a lot of humans touching them generally. If you touch a manta ray it could cause them to flee.

And believe us, you don’t want to be the person who scares all the manta rays away on a snorkeling tour. It’s an awkward boat ride back to shore. 

CAPTURING MANTA RAYS IS ILLEGAL IN HAWAII

Not only is it immoral and harmful to touch manta rays, but it’s also illegal in Hawaii to knowingly capture them.

SEE MANTA RAYS RESPECTFULLY WITH KONA STYLE SNORKEL & SAIL

While you shouldn’t touch manta rays, you can still see them up close on our Manta Ray Night Snorkel Tours. This fun adventure begins with watching a beautiful Kona Sunset and then visiting the world-famous Manta Ray Village to see giant manta rays and other reef fish.

KEALAKEKUA SNORKEL & SAIL

SUNSET & MANTA RAY SNORKEL

AFTERNOON MARINE ADVENTURE