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Diving on the Big Island


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#1 UWphotoNewbie

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Posted 06 June 2013 - 01:39 PM

After about a 4 year hiatus of diving I've finally planned a new diving trip to the big island of Hawaii. 

 

Has anyone dove Hawaii and what are your recommendations?  I'm traveling with the family but I have reserved 2 days for diving on the trip (plus LOTS of snorkeling time with the family).  I won't be bringing a buddy so I'll  I will be with a charter cattle boat group and whoever they buddy me with. I'll need an operator who doesn't mind since I'll be diving with my DSLR rig. Of course I understand that I have to sacrifice photo time to stay aware and with the group/divemaster.

 

Cruising around the web, the manta night dives look amazing! Does anyone know of a 2-tank trip that takes snorkelers as well as divers? This may buy me another day of diving :-)

 

Also, it looks like most companies offer 2-tank am dives. Do 4-tank days exist or is it not practical given the distances to dive sites? 

 

What operators and sites do you recommend? 

 

Thanks for your help. Any other travel suggestions are welcome. In addition to diving and snorkeling our family (kids 10 and 13) plan to see the volcano, do some hiking and see some cultural sites (Kaloko-Honokohau and Pu'uokohola). We will be 4 nights in Hilo and 7 nights in Kona. 


UWPhotoNewbie: Not such a newbie to diving and UW photography.

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#2 RickM

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Posted 07 June 2013 - 04:44 AM

We have been diving with several of the operations but by far our favorite is Pacific Rim. Patrice runs an excellent operation! She has a smaller boat (6 divers max) so everyone dives as a loose group. My DSLR was never a problem. They do not do afternoon dives (most ops don't) because the wind picks up and makes it kind of rough. But you get to dive your own profile so 70-75 minute dives are not usual. Plus she has homemade brownies every day!

 

Do not miss the manta night dive. Pacific Rim does not offer that so we use Kona Honu. They offer it as a 2 tank (reef, snack, mantas) or a one tank manta dive. Most all the operations take snorklers along too.

 

Schedule your dives and tours accordingly, some of the attractions like the observatory are over 14,000 feet.



#3 UWphotoNewbie

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 01:40 PM

Thanks Rick! I will look into Pacific Rim.


UWPhotoNewbie: Not such a newbie to diving and UW photography.

Nikon D70: 60 mm, 11-16mm, 105mm, 15mm, 10.5mm

Ikelite iTTL Housing, dual Ikelite DS125

Nikon D600 topside 14-24, 28-300, 70-200, 35,50,85


#4 Canes05

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 08:24 PM

Lots of good diving on the Big Island and quite a few shops to choose from.  I don't know anyone who offers 4 tank trips, but Jack's Diving Locker has 3-tank "Advanced" trips.  This is the way to go if you have limited diving time.  I know there are quite a few folks on Wetpixel who don't like Jack's Diving Locker, but I've had excellent experiences with them on their 3-tank Advanced trips.  They usually take you to places that are a longer boat ride from Kona.  The sites I've done on these trips were fantastic, and it's usually only about 6 people per boat on the Advanced trip.  They also do the Manta night dive.  Most shops offer this... all the boats arrive to the same spot around the same time in the evening.  Tons of divers in the water, but they also take snorkelers.  There are a bunch of excellent shore diving opportunities on the Big Island also... just do a Google search of Big Island Shore Diving.  I've mostly shore dove with a couple of boat diving days every time I've been there.  The shore diving spots are also good for snorkelers.  



#5 gina

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Posted 26 June 2013 - 09:54 PM

I just got back from a trip to the Big Island on Sunday.  We dove with Kona Diving Company and absolutely loved them!  They sometimes do three-tank trips and take snorkelers.  See my review here: http://wetpixel.com/...686#entry333390

 

I advise you to NOT dive with Jack's Diving Locker.  They are not a well-respected outfit.  Please see this thread for more info: http://wetpixel.com/...showtopic=42090

 

-Gina

 

 

 



#6 UWphotoNewbie

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Posted 05 August 2013 - 09:40 AM

Thanks for the tip Gina,

 

I will be leaving this Thursday and plan to dive with Kona Dive Company. They have a 3-day package that includes the manta dive plus will take my family as snorkellers. The 3-day package will save us some money too.

 

Also obviously, everyone on this site dives with huge cameras. Any problems asking them to lower the camera to you?


UWPhotoNewbie: Not such a newbie to diving and UW photography.

Nikon D70: 60 mm, 11-16mm, 105mm, 15mm, 10.5mm

Ikelite iTTL Housing, dual Ikelite DS125

Nikon D600 topside 14-24, 28-300, 70-200, 35,50,85


#7 gina

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Posted 06 August 2013 - 03:36 PM

Also obviously, everyone on this site dives with huge cameras. Any problems asking them to lower the camera to you?

 

I'm sure they would be fine with it.  There was only one guy on our trips who had a large camera (I didn't bring mine this last trip) and they were quite accommodating.

 

-Gina



#8 eyu

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Posted 07 August 2013 - 10:57 AM

I have dove with Kona Honu divers, they set up a separate rinse bucket for my rig.

I particularly enjoyed their Manta night dive.

 

Elmer 


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#9 UWphotoNewbie

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 08:25 AM

Just back from Hawaii. We had a perfect vacation. Four days on the Hilo/Puna side and 7 days in Kona. Great weather, saw some amazing things topside and in the water. Snorkelling, diving and beaches were beautiful.

 

I dove Kona Diving Company at Gina's suggestion. I went for their 3-dive package (2 2-tank days and their 2 tank evening/manta night dive). They were perfect. I can't say how they compare to other operators there (and there are many choices), but my experience with Kona Diving Company was awesome. The reefs on the big island are impecciable and the vis was amazing. Lots of wildlife. Mantas, tiger sharks on 2 dives, one whitetip shark, dolphins, turtles, a whole school of eagle rays, 2 octopus, 5 kinds of eels, one nudi, plus all the reef fish. Lots more to see I'm sure. I only did 6 dives! The manta night dive was the most incredible dive I have ever made. We had 28 mantas doing loops over our heads (almost scraping the tops of my strobes). We stayed for an hour of this and I shot until my strobes ran out, then shot available light for a while then just kicked back and took it all in. Amazing!

 

KDC treated me very well. I'm used to and expect to haul and set up my own gear. But I can get used to having someone else do it for you :-) They took my gear at check in the day before my first dive (a little leary to be honest), and all my gear was on the boat the next morning rigged up. They changed over my gear between dives and took all my gear back to the office, washed and dried it and had it on the boat set up the next morning. Kinda luxurious but I got used to it. Nothing lost or misplaced. They have 2 large electronics rinse buckets (large size rubbermaid bins) that fit my Ikelite w/ 2x strobes. The staff was very friendly and good at spotting the small critters. ~ 3-4 divers per divemaster. Good food (lunch or dinner) onboard.  No trouble handing down my gear.

 

They did take snorkellers with us on the manta dive, but unfortunately I couldn't coax my kids and wife to come after all. I'm very comfortable on night dives but for those who are leary of the dark--don't be. There were so many divers/snorkellers from so many boats in the water that it wasn't dark at all. More like a swimming pool at night with the lights on. I dove with only my strobe lights, then when my strobes ran out no lights at all and was quite comfortable.   I've done the stingray city in Grand Cayman and Stingray/nurse shark alley in Belize but the manta dive tops them all.

 

I can't say if these guys are better than annother operator on the Big Island but I'd choose them again easilly.


UWPhotoNewbie: Not such a newbie to diving and UW photography.

Nikon D70: 60 mm, 11-16mm, 105mm, 15mm, 10.5mm

Ikelite iTTL Housing, dual Ikelite DS125

Nikon D600 topside 14-24, 28-300, 70-200, 35,50,85


#10 gina

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Posted 21 August 2013 - 01:24 PM

I dove Kona Diving Company at Gina's suggestion. I went for their 3-dive package (2 2-tank days and their 2 tank evening/manta night dive). They were perfect. I can't say how they compare to other operators there (and there are many choices), but my experience with Kona Diving Company was awesome. The reefs on the big island are impecciable and the vis was amazing. Lots of wildlife. Mantas, tiger sharks on 2 dives, one whitetip shark, dolphins, turtles, a whole school of eagle rays, 2 octopus, 5 kinds of eels, one nudi, plus all the reef fish. Lots more to see I'm sure. I only did 6 dives! The manta night dive was the most incredible dive I have ever made. We had 28 mantas doing loops over our heads (almost scraping the tops of my strobes). We stayed for an hour of this and I shot until my strobes ran out, then shot available light for a while then just kicked back and took it all in. Amazing!

 

I'm very glad you liked KDC.  And wow, you had an amazing trip!  You saw all the cool stuff, what great luck :)

 

-Gina



#11 KohalaDiver

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 12:36 PM

Coming late to this, but I wanted to pass along my top picks for the Kona and Kohala Coasts most photogenic sites. Seriously - these are must-shoot.
 
Kona Coast
 
Place of Refuge (aka "Two-Step")
Ridiculously easy shore access to a pristine reef with some of the best visibility on the island. The cove also features a pod of spinner dolphins! If you're timing is right, you can get some great shots both above and below the surface.
 
Mile Marker 4
This is a personal favorite - visibility is not as good as nearby sites, but the topology to the south of the entry point features fissures and caves with "skylights" opening to the reef-top. You can get some surreal photographic effects with the shafts of light filtering through the suspended particles in the water. Give it a try and you won't regret it.
 
Site of the Kona Manta Ray Night Dive
If the Mantas show up, which they usually do, it is impossible to NOT take some awesome pictures or video. This is a must-do dive, mentioned in the top 10 lists of every major scuba magazine
 
 
Kohala Coast
 
Village End - Puako
An amazing shore accessible site - one of many in the Puako area. Two words sum it up: Garden Eels. Out on the sand at about 80 feet are very large fields of garden eels. Very difficult to get close to, probably easier with video than with still, but these shy little guys make for some epic shots if you have patience.
 
Blackwater Dive
Also available out of Kona Harbors. You go out about 3 miles, its black night, you clip onto a 50 foot line and hang under the boat, just you, your camera and light, and whatever the sea brings you. A macro photographers dream.
 
Ulua Caverns
Make this dive at night, and the cave walls come alive with bright orange tube corals, polyps fully extended to feed. Whether macro or wide angle, you're golden.


#12 SteveB

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Posted 30 September 2013 - 08:17 PM

Thanks for that KohalaDiver. We'll be visiting around New Year and a few shore dives might be a welcome break and a bit easier on the budget.