Of the three dive trips, this was the one I was most anticipating, and unfortunately, the lowlight of our diving.
Booking a Manta dive during a peak season was a lot more difficult than I expected, and we almost didn’t get to do it. Because we also chose to have D and Damon snorkel the site, we were limited to a single dive (not a pre-dive and manta dive). We left with Aquatic Life Divers from the same docks we dove in the previous day, with a single dive master, Liliana, for the five or so of us diving, and a lead for the three snorkelers.
There are times when no manta show, but for us, we did get to see one for a minute or two, but… that was it. A highlight for this trip was actually the snorkelers, they got to see three or four manta in the area they went to. The organization of all the operators coming out and adding their lights to the “bonfire” is always impressive, and hopefully the next time I come out, there are a lot more rays to see.
The other interesting thing I encountered was a flounder that I had totally missed for several minutes, hanging out on a rock right in front of our waiting spot. Tripp says he saw it pretty early, but it seemed pretty camouflaged to me!
Having purchased new short booties for Tripp, and checking in with Jack’s the day we arrived, I was excited for this dive in Kona. The area is my favorite to dive in, and I’m grateful we had the opportunity to book a dive trip.
We headed out to the docks in the morning and got everything setup. I’m pretty used to Jack’s being a fully staffed company, with young dive masters and instructors in training. For this dive, though, we got two fairly seasoned DMs, one leading a group with high end camera gear, the other leading the group of new and fairly-new divers.
I was fairly worried going into this dive that there would be a repeat of the issues and anxieties of the last dives, but nothing of the sort happened at the start. Getting in the water was a breeze, we followed the group the entire dive.
“Lone Tree” refers to a spot on the short that used to have a single tree on the rocks. That tree is long gone, but the dive site name has remained. The arch is a fairly large swim-through that leads to some great photo spots.
After a good dive, at the time we decided to ascend, Tripp was already down at about 500psi. We’re initially taught to go up earlier than that, and the pre-dive had talked about when we planned to head back, and when we planned to start the ascent. Tripp was extremely worried about his low air, and didn’t want to do the safety stop. I kept getting him to stay down at 15 feet, and his worry kept growing as he saw the air creep closer to 0. There’s no good way to communicate that, we’re at 15 feet, even if it hit zero here, you’d be okay. We’re better doing the safety stop than heading up. The only think I could do is keep pulling him to me each time he started to ascend.
This led to Tripp not wanting to do the second dive. Add in a lack of wanting to eat a sandwich with sprouts on it, and he wasn’t too keen on diving. However, the second dive location had recently seen a white-tipped shark, and that was enough to overcome his reluctance to dive again, and get back in the water.
While we didn’t get to see the shark, as we didn’t make it that far out from the boat, we did see an awesome coral that routinely held a group of fish that would swim out from nesting in the coral when you approached, and also held a crab. We also got to see a viper eel on this dive. Tripp was a lot more comfortable, and overall, this was diving as I’m used to. Comfortable, fun, full of life, and a great experience.
Our plan coming into Oahu was to do a night dive the day we arrived. We had a wedding to attend, non-divers to keep occupied, and a flight to Kona to consider leaving enough decompression time to achieve.
The day we arrived into Oahu, we had plenty of time to get the dive going, had confirmed our dive reservation, and were ready to go. By the early evening though, we got a message that the current was too bad, and our dive was canceled. Looking through our schedule, I made arrangements with the dive operator (Banzai Divers) to dive the morning before our flight, as long as they were relatively shallow dives. However, after the wedding concluded, the day before the dive, they canceled due to an ear infection with the dive master.
Frantic calls to every dive shop ensued throughout the reception dinner. Calling for a “next day” dive proved almost impossible. One shop was kind enough to send me a list of ten different dive operators to contact. The ninth one on that list, fortunately, had availability, though it was quite a ways away. We booked with Reef Pirates and had a dive set.
Dive Anxiety and Equipment Issues
We made it down to the Hanauma area in the morning, and to the little strip mall containing the dive operator. The coolest part of their setup; the strip mall backed up to the water, and so the boat left straight from the “closet” that was their shop.
One other diver accompanied us, so we set sail to our first dive location and got ready to enter the water. Tripp couldn’t get into his full-size booties, so he went barefoot in his fins (mistake one!) When we dropped into the water, almost immediately his fin came off. This being his first dive since certification a year prior, his anxiety levels skyrocketed, and he canceled his dive. However, with the help of the boat captain, and the spare fins they had on the boat (all the way down to XXXS!), he made his way back into the water and we descended.
Things from that point didn’t go great. This is the first time I’ve dove with a true beginner, and non-adult, and having started already in a bad place, Tripp did not enjoy the dive at all. In fact, we told the DM to go ahead with the other diver, and three times, we ascended (slowly, fortunately) to the surface, to communicate, deal with issues, and then descend again to try to continue the dive. We did get about 20 minutes of real dive time, but after coming to the surface quite a ways from the boat, and an unsuccessful attempt to swim back, Tripp was done.
A boat ride and a surface interval later, the captain and dive master had talked quite a bit to Tripp about how normal some of the anxieties are. With a goal of seeing turtles at the next dive site, Tripp convinced himself not to worry, but to just do the dive and enjoy it. That self-mantra worked! This time, we made it down, and had a good, full length dive with the dive master and other diver.
It was interesting talking to Tripp afterwards, and hearing the personal struggles he went through and overcame. The decision he made to enjoy the second dive meant that he did! The equipment issues not being present in dive two meant he could just enjoy the entirety of the dive. I worried about the future plans for three more dives, but it seemed that, since he did succeed at one, we could succeed at the next, till the anxieties were gone. And the fin issue and other issues are all preventable and manageable.
The Dive Highlights
The dives weren’t all management of the dive process, I’d be remiss to not talk about the fifty or so minutes of actual diving that happened.
Oahu isn’t nearly as full of life as Kona, but it definitely is better than anything on the West Coast. Since we didn’t travel too far from the boat on dive one, the majority of what we saw was sand, coral, and small amounts of life. That first dive was dominated by the dive process.
The second dive, though, had a lot more of what I’d expect in Hawai’i. Trumpetfish, schools of squirrel fish under the overhangs, tang and butterfly fish, puffer fish, etc. Not quite in the abundance I recall, but definitely a normal variety of Hawai’ian sea life. The highlight for me, though were two items. Several (I think four) turtles, and the best moray experience I’ve had. While moray eels are often peeking out of some hole, trying to find their next meal, or just intimidate some diver, this guy made his way out of his spot and swam out while we were watching. I’ve never gotten to see (or video) a moray swimming during a dive.
I’m happy we were able to make it out to dive, and doubly happy that we didn’t do a night dive as our first dive. I think, had we had the equipment issues at night, we wouldn’t have had a single full dive in Oahu. The cluster that was booking this dive was, in hindsight, a great thing.