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jpk
June 17th, 2012, 08:54 PM
Hi All,

My buddy and I are going to leave our cold home waters of SoCal and be in the Kona area during the first week in July. I've been researching the dive ops, and it looks like although they all offer advanced and long-range dives, all of them require a minimum group. Has anyone had good/bad experiences with any of them in terms of their more advanced dive trips? I've read through the past threads and saw a lot of general recommendations, but few talking specifically about long-range or advanced dive trips.

The other question is that given they all have minimum group sizes, is anyone else going to be in Kona that week and interested in putting a group together? :D

-J.P.

Mr Carcharodon
June 17th, 2012, 09:12 PM
Go shore diving. Get some tanks, go do your own thing. No groups are required. Just don't do a face plant getting into or out of the water since the lava is sharp. Oh and don't step on the urchins which are much farther up into the surf zone than in southern California. Also if you dive the area just outside of Honokohau harbor it is recommended not to hand feed the tiger shark.

tracydr
June 17th, 2012, 09:16 PM
I would shore dive. If you want to boat dive, try Jack's Dive Locker.

DivemasterDennis
June 18th, 2012, 06:23 PM
Both Jack's and Kona Honu do a good volume and may have groups ready made that you can join for special request dives. I think your best bet is to get there and talk to these two operators. (They are about a 10 minute drive apart, at Kailua. However, their regular runs will take you to some very enjoyable sites, and since you haven't dove Kona before, don't eliminate those from you consideration. Have a great time. I wish I was going. Haven't been there since February!
DivemasterDennis

acooper
June 19th, 2012, 02:35 AM
Boat diving is convenient, but many of the sites used by the boats out of Honokohau are so easily reached from shore. It is disconcerting to be moored over the site looking at the guys getting their gear ready on a tailgate less than 100 yards away. How much did you pay for that boat dive?

Maybe mix it up? Try a little shore diving with the boat dives? Diving from the boat will give you a nice intro to the area. Diving from shore will stretch the budget. The guys here can give you good directions to nice sites all along the coast.

jpk
June 19th, 2012, 09:45 AM
Both Jack's and Kona Honu do a good volume and may have groups ready made that you can join for special request dives. I think your best bet is to get there and talk to these two operators. (They are about a 10 minute drive apart, at Kailua. However, their regular runs will take you to some very enjoyable sites, and since you haven't dove Kona before, don't eliminate those from you consideration. Have a great time. I wish I was going. Haven't been there since February!
DivemasterDennis

Thanks for the info, Dennis. I'll give them a call about some of the more advanced dives and see if there is a group already.

I should have mentioned in my OP, we are definitely planning on doing a couple 2-tank AM dives, the Manta dive, as well as shore diving while we're there - I was looking for something maybe more advanced to round out the trip. We have six diving days before we set off to explore the rest of the island, so I was thinking since most ops seem to have a 3-trip discount, maybe 2 days of 2-tank AM dives and the Manta dive somewhere in there to round out the three, a day for the advanced trip, and then the rest filled in with shore diving.


Boat diving is convenient, but many of the sites used by the boats out of Honokohau are so easily reached from shore. It is disconcerting to be moored over the site looking at the guys getting their gear ready on a tailgate less than 100 yards away. How much did you pay for that boat dive?

Maybe mix it up? Try a little shore diving with the boat dives? Diving from the boat will give you a nice intro to the area. Diving from shore will stretch the budget. The guys here can give you good directions to nice sites all along the coast.

That's also good to know - it would be a little bit strange to ride a boat to a shore dive spot. I've been poking through shorediving.com as well as the old LET'S GO SHORE DIVE'N' site (thank you, Wayback machine) for spots. It sounds like Place of Refuge is a must-do; any other sites in particular that you'd recommend? I'm willing to drive a bit, so sites up north towards Kohala/Puako are definitely fair game too.


Also if you dive the area just outside of Honokohau harbor it is recommended not to hand feed the tiger shark.

It's OK, I'm bringing my Kevlar lobster gloves...:D

joe8mofo
June 19th, 2012, 11:32 AM
I would recommend Place of Refuge, Alua Beach (This is a very popular paid for boat diving spot), Puako Village End, Old Kona Airport Beach, and Mahukona.

What do you mean when you say "advanced," do you mean deeper or more challenging conditions/navigation?

if Deeper is what you mean then you would be looking at Place of Refuge, Puako Village End, and Old Kona Airport Beach for sure.

You could easily plan on 3 dives at place of refuge and still not see it all, make sure you bring enough tanks so you don't have to run back to get them refilled as place of refuge is a bit of a drive from Kona.

spoolin01
June 19th, 2012, 01:44 PM
The advice about shore diving is spot on. Many of the sites within 1/2 day charter of the boat harbor are also accessible from shore, though many of those also require a very serious and sober assessment of conditions before jumping off the lava - getting out if the swell has come up even just a bit can be very tricky and requires careful selection of just the right spot and timing. Pick the exit spot before getting in - it is hard to assess from the water at that angle and if there's a lot of white water on top and bubbles at the exit point. There are a lot of boat-only sites north and south of the harbor, but they are generally not so different than the ones you can get to from shore from what I've seen.

I was there for 6 weeks in Feb/Mar, and while the big shops say they have more than 50 spots or whatever to choose from, it seemed they were hitting the same 3 or 4 spots most of the time even under great conditions - at least some of their boats were. I go with Big Island Divers, who I really like (esp. their shore gear rental policy), but at that time of the year they were doing both AM and PM dive and whale trips, and didn't offer any 3 tank long range trips - I don't know if that changes for the summer now with the whales gone. I suspect gas prices might have an effect on that as well. There are some great sites down south at Red Hill and beyond, but you'd have to ask specifically about going there.

If conditions are really good, it's worth a day or two of boat diving for the chance to see some different spots. If the seas are up at all - and from what I can tell the big charters are pretty conservative in their tolerance of current and surge - their site selection collapses to just a couple of spots.

It may be that you can figure out how to ensure a charter of advanced divers, and that the charter will tailor the dive correspondingly. I've found that information hard to get.

To the list of good shore sites, I'd add anywhere from the Kaholo Ponds north to Keahole Pt (just south of the airport). The NELHA energy lab road, and the next one south (goes by a big empty golf course who's name I forget) are the access - pick a car with good ground clearance, some of the access at NELHA is paved, the rest is not. There are a couple of relatively easy access spots there - relative being the operant term!! - and some that are more challenging.

Honaunau/Two Step has the nice quality of being both one of the best coral/fish/dolphin spots, good for two dives in a day, as well as in a class by itself when it comes to ease and safety of entry and exit.

jpk
June 19th, 2012, 09:43 PM
Thanks guys, great info!


I go with Big Island Divers, who I really like (esp. their shore gear rental policy)
I don't see anything on Big Island Divers' website about shore gear rental -- what in particular do you like about it?

spoolin01
June 19th, 2012, 11:45 PM
They took the rental info off the website some time ago. They have really good prices for extended rentals, but the main thing I like is the tank rental policy - $7 per day to keep the tank, much less at the weekly rate, and you can get air fills for $3.50-$4 with a multi-fill card purchase. When I checked around everyone else quoted a flat $10/day rate (unlimited fills) but no weekly discount. Another big difference was the weight rentals - for a few years we'd ship our weights in USPS flat rate boxes, because a couple of weeks' weight rentals was running almost $100/person - but BI has discounted their weight rates substantially for us the last couple of years.

They seem to have a lot of different pricing schemes, depending on what you want and how long so it's probably best to just go in and ask for what you want. We've done much better than the listed rates.

Midge907
June 20th, 2012, 12:34 AM
Check out Kona Dive Companys websit. I did the 5 dive package with them last summer. I ended up doing a 2-tank morning/2-tank manta dive on one day, a 2-tank morning/1tank night dive another day, and finished it up with a 3-tank long range heading north on another. We shore dive every day in between. I loved the crew and the shop, and it was easy to pick up tanks for shore diving, and you could pick them up, and drop them off at the boat if planned in advance. EASY!!! As for shore diving, we enjoyed Place of Refuge, Black Pebble Beach, and a place just south of the captain cook monument. Kerry the owner and primary Divemaster is a Fish finding nut, and knows what shes talking about. Out of all the shops ive dove with (9 total), they are by far my favorite.

tracydr
June 20th, 2012, 01:14 AM
Place of Refuge is one of my favorite sites, very cool topography.
two step is wonderful for a night dive! Gentle, easy entry and exit yet lots to see and deep enough with plenty of changes in topography and sea life.
Jack's does a pretty good job customizing on their Advanced dive trips. They took us out on an unforgettable deeper dive, a surge dive into lava tubes and some amazing dives where the whales were singing.
I also snorkeled with an Oceanic Whitetip on a surface interval and we even had a baby whale nursing a mama whale almost tip our boat over! Best videotape I ever bought as the DM ( who I believe actually owns the shop or part-owns it) was filming everything, including the shark, baby/mama whale and whale songs (audio). He was probably the best DM I've ever seen, spotting stuff everywhere. I dove with him the whole week since my ex husband was an air hog and the DM and I could sip air, staying down for a lot longer.
The manta dive is really easy at about 35 feet but a must-do dive, if they are doing it. Sometimes it's canceled do to a no-show of mantas.
The last time and I went to Kona, we only dived from shore and had a fantastic time diving our butts off.
We stay in a condo-by owner so that we can have a full kitchen. Saves a lot on eating out and we can pack a lunch/snacks for going farther out for our shore diving. I always bring a foldable, nylon cooler on dive trips. We do the same to places like Bonaire. It's really nice to pack cut fruit, boiled eggs, cheese/crackers and cold drinks for surface intervals. Plus, we can eat quick meals like breakfast at the condo, enjoying scrambled eggs, oatmeal, cereal or potatoes/fried eggs, just like at home for a fraction of restaurant costs and then enjoy maybe one nice meal out if we feel like it, or just spend the entire day and evening diving until we're exhausted and come home to cold beer and take-out pizza.

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Check out Kona Dive Companys websit. I did the 5 dive package with them last summer. I ended up doing a 2-tank morning/2-tank manta dive on one day, a 2-tank morning/1tank night dive another day, and finished it up with a 3-tank long range heading north on another. We shore dive every day in between. I loved the crew and the shop, and it was easy to pick up tanks for shore diving, and you could pick them up, and drop them off at the boat if planned in advance. EASY!!! As for shore diving, we enjoyed Place of Refuge, Black Pebble Beach, and a place just south of the captain cook monument. Kerry the owner and primary Divemaster is a Fish finding nut, and knows what shes talking about. Out of all the shops ive dove with (9 total), they are by far my favorite.
Are they a newer, small shop/boat? Just a young couple, DM'd in New Zealand for awhile? I think I did a two tank trip with them once and really, really liked them. They showed up at the marina with their boat, pulling it with their truck, just a website and advertisement in the local papers. They may be a little larger now, this was about 8-10 years ago and I think they had just opened up at the time.

Thalassamania
June 20th, 2012, 01:25 AM
There's also great shore diving at Hookena and South Point.

spoolin01
June 20th, 2012, 08:38 PM
Place of Refuge is one of my favorite sites, very cool topography.Are you talking about the park itself? - I agree, it's a favorite for all the places to explore.
I also snorkeled with an Oceanic Whitetip on a surface interval...
:wow: yikes!! I think I'd be snorkeling like mad the other way!

The last time and I went to Kona, we only dived from shore and had a fantastic time diving our butts off.
We stay in a condo-by owner so that we can have a full kitchen. Saves a lot on eating out and we can pack a lunch/snacks for going farther out for our shore diving.And if you get one on the shoreline, you don't even have to drive, for some great diving.

I second the recommendation for Hookena, I've seen some cool stuff there. And it has amenities like shade, tables, sand, showers, and bathrooms, and sometimes free music.

tracydr
June 21st, 2012, 12:38 AM
The Oceanic White tip was amazing. One of my most exciting ( and scarey) shark encounters. The DM has lived there for over 20 years and it was the second that he'd seen. The first had tried to take a bite out of his son when he was a kid!:scared: His son was our Captain that day. The DM says they are one of the most agressive sharks, although they are so rare nowadays that we never hear of OW attacks.
The DM got in first, with the camera and decided that the shark wasn't going to eat him so I jumped in. He may have recently fed as he was swimming in the middle of a dolphin group.
If we turned away from him, he would "stalk" us. If we looked at him he'd start swimming off into the deep, after the first 10 minutes of watching us from a short distance.
I have some amazing video footage. It's unfortunately not digital.
I suspect it may be the only Oceanic Whitetip that I ever see, since they are so uncommon.
Did you see the recent post about the OW research trip with those amazing pictures?
One thing I love about diving. Sometimes you see things in the ocean that aren't supposed to be there, fish and mammals visiting from thousands of miles away. It's always an exciting new world down there! One of these days, I'd love to do some "blue water" dives. Oh, these are also offered by Jack's Dive Locker. They take you into the blue water and you hang on a line, waiting for big marlins and other open ocean fishies to just happen by. I bet it's a good trip in August, during marlin season.

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This dive looks very cool: the video is done by Jeff, one of the co-owners of Jack's Dive Locker.
http://www.jacksdivinglocker.com/charters2/PelagicMagic.htm

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