The Tale of ‘Alohi Kai
A little Hawaiian manta is not really little. Have you had a manta ray swim directly at you? Of course they have no teeth so its not like a shark, but they’re not small, that’s for sure. As I created the Hohonu by ‘Alohi Kai line, rays of all sorts were on my mind, and in no small part because of a particular ‘little’ manta ray.
There’s a south shore dive site that’s often looked down upon by Oahu divers, and is most often used for try-dives and tourist day divers. But Joe and I dove this site for years and got to know it well, venturing well past where most divers go. Once we started to introduce our dive buddies to this ‘extended’ dive, its reputation started to change with our friends and its now a regular dive for many of us. It has the benefit of both beautiful reef and sand as well as a wonderful muck-diving area to hunt for rare tiny critters – something for everyone!
On this particular day my dive buddy Alex and I did a dive there. The water was not very clear, and meant photos weren’t that great so we headed out deeper where it was more likely to clear up. We found a lovely tako (he’e or octopus) along the way who came out to play on the reef top. Calmly regarding us at first, started to flash its colors, but stayed for a while so I could take some photos. This is why we dive! Finding a brave tako willing to hang out with us is pretty much a perfect dive.
Most shore dives are about the little things – a yellow hairy hermit crab perched upon a coral head, a sea slug that lost its way and got stranded, possibly a rare eel. The ‘big’ things are not that common in most Oahu shore dives (more common on boat dives). We see Honu (sea turtles) and white tip reef sharks regularly enough, but bigger sharks, manta rays, sting rays etc are really quite rare, and something to be celebrated.
Alex and I came to a turtle cleaning station and took some shots of a lovely honu. The water was still not very clear, but it was turning out to be a lovely dive given the wildlife we’d encountered so far. Over a sand channel, onto a large reef finger, Alex was behind me. Now I should mention that I’d forgotten my ‘clanger’ – something to get my dive buddy’s attention. And so it was when I looked up and saw a manta ray faintly emerging from the cloud of water ahead of me – and I had nothing to ‘shout’ with!
So I looked down at my camera – and of all things, I had chosen a wholly unsuitable set up for something as big as a manta, a macro lens for tiny slugs, crabs and maybe a turtle head. Not a good choice even for a turtle, much less for something like a manta ray that was approaching at speed! What’s a photographer to do? Clearly you take as many photos as you can.
I waited until it was a bit closer, and managed to get about 10 frames. It wasn’t a large manta at all, in fact we think it was a lost, curious juvenile. We’d never seen one at this dive site, and only usually much farther from shore. After i got the shots I was able to, I turned around to find Alex, eyes glued on the approaching manta. For some reason, it took a bit of a shine to him (many people, do, why not a manta? They’re smart!) and swam right up and into him – then continued at him for a bit of a “cuddle”?!
What a day that was. We couldn’t stop grinning. Alex sent in the information to the manta ray database, and it turns out no one had named this one yet – they said, what do you want to name it? And that’s how it came to be that there is a little Hawaiian manta ray named ‘Alohi Kai.
In honour of the lovely guy, we’ve just made some new manta ray pieces in the shop. These are all hand-carved mantas. The ‘Alohi Kai mantas are sterling silver, while the Hohonu line are plated with ruthenium (dark grey like a manta) or rhodium (shiny bright white).