Drift Diving

Today, the big boat, Hale Kai, is full so we get chosen to go on Imi Kai, the smaller more agile boat. There are four guest divers, dive master S and boat captain S. We get to do two drift dives today!

The first dive starts at a dive site called Outhouse. Yes, there is actually an outhouse built right at the shore, and thus the dive site was called this many years ago.

It is a very relaxing dive, not much current so we leisurely kick our way north at about 60 feet below the surface. We discover a leaf scorpion (Yeah B!), a stocky hawk fish and a huge gathering of assorted fish.

drift diving off kona

Our second drift dive is off the deep mooring at Pyramid Pinnacles and again we drift north. Right away we spy four spotted eagle rays gliding past us but not close enough for photos. It is a dive for invertebrates – shrimp and crabs. Dive Master S scoops up an orange hairy hermit crab to show us and this fellow is adorable.

Orange Hairy Hermit Crab

Orange Hairy Hermit Crab

After yesterday’s dive with the three goof balls, this day’s diving was excellent – calm, unhurried and relaxing.

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Karma

The day starts with B and Debbie standing on the lanai and spotting a pod of spinner dolphins swimming by. Not even on the boat yet and the omens are good.

D asks us what we want to see today and Debbie says she needs a good picture of a leaf scorpion fish and wanted to see a spotted coral blenny. First dive and we have covered off both. Neither of which are easy to find but the karma is good and we go with it. Second dive we find a couple more leaf scorpions and another spotted blenny. There are a ton of other fish but these are the highlights.

Leaf Scorpion

Leaf Scorpion

This afternoon we bag another beach. Debbie and I have been to Mauna Kea before but B has to see it. It is one of the nicest beaches on the island. Only thing is it must be accessed across private property so it is up to the man at the front gate as to whether you get in or not. No problem with him and we are in. The beach is big and the sand goes far into the water. There is a good snorkel area near and we make use of it and the sand.

The Hawaiian gods aligned with us today. We have yet to see a tiger shark but the other wishes come true and we will sleep easy tonight.

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Full Boat

Like neighbours, you don’t get to choose your dive partners. Today there is max people on the boat so we have to share our dive master with 3 others. It is B’s dive 100 so we are hoping for a good day.

We get in the water and within the first 2 minutes we know the day is going to be trying. The 3 other divers may not be newbies but they are not very good divers and are absolutely lousy at following a dive plan. Before we get in the water D outlines what is going to happen underwater and the behaviour he expects. As we progress D alters the dive plan because the behaviour of our companions is quite frankly endangering the entire group. The renegades’ diving skills are not up to snuff and they can’t follow directions.  The fortunate part is B, Debbie and I are much better on air consumption than any of the other 3 so we get 1/2 a dive after they are vanquished to the surface.

Frog Fish

Frog Fish

We did however find a few interesting things for B’s 100. The first thing is a frog fish. Orange in color. Really kind of cool. B has not seen too many and has a hard time distinguishing it but Debbie took a lot of pics and B is able to figure it out. B spots a snowflake eel. Really pretty and not that common so worth a minute of inspection. A couple more leaf scorpions are found and best of all for B, D finds a turtle sleeping under a cave so we all have a good look at it, before it wakes up and swims to the surface.

Turtle

Because of the guys we were with we did not have a good day for finding things. We could not get to the areas where we can find creatures and D had little time to do his magic and make things appear. This has been the worst two dives of the past week. There has to be the worst two but these take the prize hands down. Hope we don’t have the same company the next couple of days.

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Ring of Fire

Hawaii is part of the ‘Ring of Fire’. Been here twice before and have not been to the volcano. Today is the day. We cannot hike to the high peak and frankly since the big attaction is to view the sunrise I am not that interested in getting up a 2 am to make it to the top in time for the event. We opt for a trip to the Hawaii Volcanos National Park.

Halema'uma'u Crater

Halema’uma’u Crater

B and Deb want to sleep in so we don’t get started until 8 but we leave close. Two hours of driving later and we pass through the park gates. First stop, the visitors center. The displays are OK but the ranger/hosts that are very informative and give us an idea what the park has to offer. There is a loop road around the attractions but it is no longer a loop as 1/2 of it is closed. No explanation, just closed. We had spent $25 to get into the park so we thought we should a least see what there is. The displays at the Jagger Museum are really good and are quite informative about volcanos and Mauna Loa in particular.

Kilauea Iki Trail

Kilauea Iki Trail

We choose to do a 2 hour hike that skirts the rim of the Kilauea Iki Crater, created by the 1954 eruption, and then dips into the crater itself. Interesting walk. There is a very informative self guide book necessary to enhance the tour, otherwise it would just be a walk with no more purpose than to say we had done it.

Kilauea Iki Trail

Kilauea Iki Trail

At the end of the walk, when back on the rim of the crater there is a lava tube one can  traverse. To me it was a dark tunnel. Frankly I did not see the point of walking through it.

Three days ago we had another brush with the ring of fire. We were under the surface of the ocean diving when we all heard the noise of a boat passing overhead. Only we were not in an area where boats should pass over head, we did not hear it coming or going just overhead, and it was unbelieveably loud making it sound like the biggest boat that had ever passed above any of us. Nothing much was said when we arrive at the surface because we all talk about what is seen and the conditions of the dive. The next day K arrives and tell us there was a 4.4 magnitude earthquake while we were diving and that is what the boat sound was. Weird.

At home we put up with cold and snowy winters but on the edge of the Pacific Ocean residents and travelers alike have to be prepared to deal with earthquakes and volcanos. We experienced both in a short span of time. Neither was life threating but both are subtle reminders of what could be.

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3 dive day

The blog for this island is all about diving. That is what we are here to do and that is what we are doing. Every once in a while the dive shop does what is call a long range dive day. The idea is for more experienced divers to go farther afield. The diving is a little harder and the day is definately long. We start at 6:45 and get home around 4:30.

Pyramid Butterflyfish

Pyramid Butterflyfish

The diving is excellent today. Minor current on one dive and absolutely still water on the other two dives. We see cool stuff all day. Frog fish, haven’t see too many of those yet this trip. A rare one called a “painted” frogfish.

Painted Frogfish

Painted Frogfish

There are several Blue Dragon Nudi’s. Have never seen one before and today we see at least a dozen. A red spot nudi, not very common. A few Viper Eels, a couple Dwarf Eels, a Curious Worm Fish or two, a few schools of Pyamid Butterfly Fish, Fishegg Eating Nudis, and a single Flame Angel.

Golden Lace Nudibranch

Golden Lace Nudibranch

We get to swim into a couple of shallow caves and wind our way in and around a myriad of coral heads. One of which is named the Matterhorn. Guess what that one looks like. No snow though.

Dwarf Eel

Dwarf Eel

It is an absolulely steller day of diving.

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

Blue Dragon Nudibranch

 

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Night Diving

Yesterday evening B, Murray and I go out on a night dive. Now I am not a big fan of night dives – dark, cold, scary, dark, more dark, but Murray convinced us to do this one because the dive folks kept saying the night dives in Kona were great. Yeah, I’ve heard THAT before and been sorely disappointed.

Not this time.

There are just four guest divers and Luke, our dive Jedi. The fourth diver, R, is from St. Albert, a 20 minute drive from our house. Four Canucks, how lucky is that! At least we all talked the same language, eh.

Kona Dive Company ensures it is full dark before entering the water, which other dive shops around the world do not do. The creatures that come out at night are slow moving and it takes them time to come out, so we get a leisurely dive briefing, giving them plenty of time to come out of there daytime hiding holes.

After we descend, we start to see lobsters and crabs and shrimp and eels. I realize that, although it is dark down there, with the five dive lights and an extra red light that Luke carries, it is not as scary as I imagined. I was enjoying myself looking at the unusual creatures. Murray and I spy a small octopus moving along the bottom and wave the others over. The octopus has very long legs and a small body and is gorgeous. He gets nervous and moves under a overhang, evicting the fish that is there already.

Many of the fish are still out and I silently entreat them to go hide as they are fodder for eels and larger prey. Run! Hide! Go to bed!

It is a dive that every diver coming to Kona should experience. The night reef is amazing.

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A Turtle of a Day!

On first dive today, a hawksbill turtle swam by to chew on the fin of H, our dive master. He was quite intent on tasting purple fin. Murray captured some amazing video of this fellow, but you will have to wait to view it.

After our dives, we decide to go to the beach and bay where everyone says there are turtles. It is a hot walk from where we parked the car on the highway to the beach. Murray and I jump in the water right away while B watches the bags.

A three legged turtle swims by. I wonder how he lost his back leg. Poor guy. but he doesn’t seem to concerned with not having the right number of limbs.

After B has her snorkel, we walk north on the beach and find two turtle sunning themselves. They must get cold in the water at depth, and so lay on the hot sand to warm up.

Turtle

We accidently take a walk around a greenish looking lagoon trying to find our way back to the car, and come across a number of other turtles,  both in the water and out. Seems like the time of day to be sunning, if you are a turtle. What a turtle of a day!

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The Lunch Bell Rings

Today we watch a couple of the sea’s creatures having lunch. We travel along with our eye on the reef and out into the blue. The reef part is pretty much any dive but the out into the blue part is watching for a turtle or two and quite possibly a tiger shark. It is tiger shark season here and they are about. We don’t see either.

But, on our way back into the shallows on the sandy bottom is one big conch. It is the size of a soccer ball. Seems to be eyeing up an urchin, don’t know the specific name but we call it a pincushion. The chase is on and when the shell catches up to the urchin the creature inside the shell lifts its house 6 or 8″ off the sand and drops it very quickly on top of the pincushion. Excuse me while I dine in private.

Conch

Conch advancing on lunch

Shortly after that I spot a very large zebra eel lying under a rock. The dive master stirs up an spiny urchin that is sitting very near. The eel leaps, leaps as best a sinuous beast can, and without any regard for the spines, clamps its jaws around urchin. Two or three more attacks and the spiny black creature is cracked in half like a walnut. The eel takes half and receeds into hiding under the shelf. It seems the Hawaiian sea folks like to eat without an audience.

Zebra Eel having lunch

Zebra Eel having lunch

Zebra Eel having lunch

Every dive is different in the day a good portion of the reef animals are in rest mode and don’t hunt at all. Today we witness a couple of those nocturnal beasts taking advantage of a daylight opportunity.

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First Dives

Normally Murray and I get a touch of the nerves on our first dive of a trip. Not this time. Maybe it is because we dove in Dominica only two months ago. B, however, had nerves enough for everyone as she hasn’t dove in the ocean for two years. But we all made it and it was great, as Kona always is.


I recently read a short article about the fact that very few people experience the world under the waves. We are so lucky to be able to see octopi, sleeping sharks, cleaner fish doing their life’s work for another much larger fish, dragon moray and viper moray ( two very unusual eels) and fish indigenous to Hawaii’s waters.

Our first day of diving is done, we will now get into a routine of sleep, eat, dive, repeat and enjoy the underwater world.

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Arrivee

Made it. Not even a bad trip. It started a bit weird. Debbie got singled out for a ‘special’ run through the security check. They make her take out all of her electronics, and put them separately into the xray bins, when the bins appeared on the other side they pulled aside all her bags and swabbed them, and then patted her down. Nothing comes of it so it is only a short delay and we had plenty of time anyway.

The lay over in Seattle is fairly long but the plane is again on time and we are in the air by noon. The next hour is spent trying to get the Alaska Air app to connect so B and Debbie could watch movies. Don’t even know what we did to make the iPad respond but in the end the connection is made and movies are watched.

It is not often travel plans are made and they pan out to the letter but today was one of those days. Off the plane. On time. Pick up a rental car. In the blink of an eye. Stop at the dive shop. Everything as we expected. Groceries. Done. Find the condo. Too slick.

Tomorrow early at the dock.

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