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First Trip Report - Kona, Hawaii

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#21 eyu


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Posted 07 June 2013 - 06:04 AM

I have been with Kona Honu and have been very pleased with them.  They set up a separate rinse bucket for my DSLR on their Newton 46. 

Their Manta night dive is a must do.

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#22 oneyellowtang



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Posted 30 June 2013 - 11:47 PM

<sigh> I read trip reports like this from experienced divers, who have seen much of the world, and it's disappointing they didn't get to see the best of Hawaii diving.


I got certified in Maui in in 1979, on my way to moving to Australia for high school. While in OZ I dove many of the better (and not so good) sites from the GBR south through Sydney and the southern part of New South Wales.


After college I started diving again, and luckily my wife enjoys it as well - we have dived all over the Pacific - Fiji half a dozen times, French Polynesia multiple times, the Solomons, Palau, Yap, Rota, Saipan Pohnpei, (and my dad and I drove Truk in 1982 when it was still called Truk, the 727 had to the buzz the runway to scare away the livestock before landing, the Intercontinental was the only hotel on the island, and "catch of the day" literally meant "wait a minute, we have to go catch something...")  We've also been in the Maldives multiple times, Cocos twice, and we seem to be returning to Indonesia just about every year now.


Having said this - Hawaii is still a special place for us to dive - the Big Island in particular. The last 3 years we've done extra trips just to dive Hawaii (it's an easy place to take our young kids as well).


I have over 150 dives on the Big Island - and it can deliver incredible dives (and I don't even like the Manta dive because it feels staged, and it's usually crowded). The experience you had w/Jacks is not unusual for their operation, however, in their defense, did you look at their website? The only 2 dives that I do with them are their "Long Range advanced two tank" trip and the "Pelagic Magic" night dive, everything else is going to feel like you're being given the "tour" treatment.


You need to get way south of Kona to get to a number of the better (less dived) sites. Most of these sites will deliver consistently good to great dives, but you need to be willing to spend 1-2 hours on a boat to just get to the sites. Jacks doesn't run their normal trips that far, both because of the cost, and because most people that dive with them are as you suggest, just there to sample the diving, amongst the many other things the Big Island has to offer. Most boats won't even go that far south - Jacks dives a couple of sites that the only other boat that dives them is the Aggressor (and if you really want some of the best diving on the Big Island you should try the Aggressor, which goes all the way down to South Point, which has some great diving along the way).


After trying many of the dive operators on the Big Island, Jacks isn't our usual first choice, but their advanced long range trip has rarely failed to live up to expectations and the Pelagic Magic dive is one of a kind (and somewhat unsettling when you first realize you're dangling in dark water kind of like bait ;)    And as mentioned in a previous post, we do all miss Dive Makai - a truly unique operation.


Steve, so I wish you had a better experience diving w/Jacks - but a little more research might have alerted you to what you were walking into... (and yes, Jacks could have given you better info...).


The other thing I tell everyone willing to listen about diving the Big Island is this: getting way south of Kona will lead to some really great diving, but for day in, day out best diving on the island - don't take a boat out of Honokohau Harbor, go north! Go out w/Mauna Lani Sea Adventures, or one of the dive shops that goes out of Puako. The Kohala Coast (from about the Hilton up to just past the Maua Kea) has some really good diving, and there are about 3 dozen turtle cleaning stations in the area, many of which are active most of the time (in Feb. I spent 70 minutes at one cleaning station shooting images of 9 green sea turtles being cleaned by the tang and the surgeon fish over and over - they just kept taking turns).


Other factors to consider:

- Hawaii has more (relic) endemic marine species than any other place on the planet. It is literally the end of the evolutionary chain for many species.

- Nihau offers some world class diving (off the coast of Kauai). Underwater topography is amazing; you can dive with Monk seals, and occasionally with much too curious Oceanic Whitetips. Only downside is they can only dive it in the summer, and the trip back to Kauai makes the trip to Cocos seem glass smooth by comparison.

- The Molokai Hammerhead dive out of Lahaina - big boat, too many divers, but if they get to know you, they will drop you off in spots where it will be only you (& your buddy) and hammers swimming by (and occasional other types of sharks).

- The northwest corner of Lanai has some really cool dives as well - the swell can be challenging, but in the few dives I've done there I've been impressed with the pelagics that wander by.


Having said this, I agree that the fish populations in Hawaii (specifically the Big Island and Maui) are way done from where they were when I first learned to dive there. The aquarium trade has taken it's toll. The good dive operators know some sites that even the fish collectors don't know about (or are too far for them to get to profitably). As an example, only on the Big Island can you get a chance to dive with Tinkers Butterflyfish - a rare species only found there. They hang out below 150 feet, usually in pairs, and are exceptionally curious if you approach them cautiously. Hang out at about 125ft after spotting them, and usually they will come to you (sometimes to swim around in your bubbles). Saw a pair of these on an extended range trip w/Jacks just last February.


Completely understand your experience (I've had similar before - in a number of different places), but felt like there was more for you to experience if you had more time or had dug a little deeper initially.


- Matt