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Hi , we are Alan and Debbie from Pensacola Florida. We are considering a trip to Kona Hawaii in May 2003. Anyone know anything about the area and diving conditions? We have heard it can be quite challenging, we have also heard it is easy diving. Any info would be greatly appreciated.
I did a couple of dives off the Kona coast with Jack's Dive Locker. Didn't find them to be hard dives at all. We did a late afternoon/early evening dive, and then during the surface interval, the DM's set up flood lights. At about dusk, we went in for the second (night) dive and wathced the manta feed. The lights were lighting up the plankton, and they came right in for it!
Jacks has a web site. If you do a search for Jacks Dive Locker, you shouldn't have any trouble finding it. You could also do a search for Hawaii SCUBA Diving. You will find a ton of sites from several of the Islands.
My wife and I dove with Eco-Adventures in June 2001. We had a good time (even did Nitrox certification with them). They are right down the street from Jack's Diving Locker (actually most everything is down the street in Kona *grin*)
Anyway, the diving is fairly easy unless there is moderate surge, then some of the lava tubes/swim thru's can get a little more challenging (I still don't think that difficult, but that's me). They had a great package - About $600 (if memory serves) for daytime and nighttime (gotta see the manta rays - awesome) dives, rental car and hotel (with full breakfast every morning) at the Royal Kona - basic, but good for dives.
Eco has a full line of training, from open water thru tec (decompression, trimix, etc.) so can handle most anything. Michael Hendershot did work there, and was a wonderful DM (let me and my wife both try his Atomic split fins - his offer) and the rest of the guys were good too. They store dive gear between dives so you only have to lug your computers/toys with you between dives.
If you head there, I also would be willing to offer food recommendations; just email me and I'll give you all the information I can. Good luck, and enjoy HI.
Keith A. Trimels
Laramie County Underwater Search and Rescue
Wife and I were there in Feb and did about 6-7 dives. All w/ Jacks Diving Locker. Crew was phenomenal and I would highly recommend going with them.
My other recommendation, although it should be considered a REQUIREMENT is to do the Manta Night Dive. This was a unbelivable dive!! I've done alot of cool stuff in my many many years underwater.... this dive as among the top 3. It really cannot be described... you can only experience this one. My follow on recommendation would be to purchase the video of your Manta dive if the video guy is there. It aint cheap at $60 bucks, but well worth it. We often forget how cool it all was, and the video has paid for itself in the amazement we get from our non-diving friends who watch it. You get to feel like you were in a National Geographic Documentary.
Other hint... wear at least a full 5mm suit. The water was 75 but I got chilled in a 3mm, my wife was great in a 7mm. (long bottom times)
Thanks for all the info. We just returned from Cabo San Lucas where Skin Diver magazine held a dive fiesta and it was great. They are doing the same in Kona sometime in May 03, which is why we were asking.
I have to put in a recommendation for Dive Makai. I tried several Kona operators before finding thiem about 5-6 years ago and they are really superior...unparalleled knowledge about the dive sites and marine life and superb care & attention from the dive masters. It's a family operation and truly dedicated to their customers and to the environment.
I only changed last year when I discovered Aloha Divers and will now probably be going out with Mike and Earl whenever I go to Kona (usually at least 1x per year). The main reason for the change is the dive sites. Mike goes to the remote sites that I love, especially in the south - that Dive Makai only go to at the most once a week and no one else goes to at all. It's a long boat ride but well worth it. Aloha is also a quality operation and runs a 6 pack so the dive-mastering is very individual.
I was there in Sep. Don't know if there is a difference from one part of the year to the next. Although, I have been told not to dive on Oahu in the winter (Dec-Mar or Apr, I think). Did it anyway last March, and it was fine.
I do find the water a little colder than I expected (and like). I only had a 1.5 when I did Kona and on the Manta dive, we were sitting still for over 30 minutes. I wouldn't do that again without my farmer john and shorty (each 3m).
The vis was fine. I found the coral (or lack) of to be really disappointing. But there are some fish that you won't see anywhere else. And I don't think you can dive anywhere in Hawaii and not see at least one turtle. And the lava tubes can be a really neat experience.
Kona viz is oftentimes in the 100 foot range depending on how close to sand you might be. In March the water will likely be in the 74-75 degree range and the water should be calm unless a swell happens to be coming in at the time.
Critter-wise Kona can be very good depending on the dive site. Many of the popular spots with moorings were hit hard by hurricane Iniki back in '92 and lost their coral overnight. There are a number of locations protected from the southwest which still have nice hard coral structure, but there is a lack of colorful soft corals and sponges compared to some parts of the world due to it's relatively young geological age. There are some dives with nice topography due the Hawaii's volcanic nature.
Fish-wise, you'll likely see far more varieties wrasses, butterflies, surgeons and triggers than around the Caribbean but you'll see few if any angels. Sharks aren't seen often unless looked for, turtles are found on almost every dive.
I'd consider most of the diving to be beginner to intermediate level, challenging only during bad weather or if you choose to try shorediving in a spot you shouldn't be diving on your own. There are a few more advanced dives available.
As mentioned earlier, the manta dive is a must. I wouldn't do it as the first dive of your trip though.
We have been diving Kona for years and love it! The vis always seems to be 100+ feet during the day and the sea life is abundant. One nice thing about Kona (if you are not a sailor) is that is it is protected from the trade winds. That means some dive shops have later starts and you can have a more leisurely morning compared to, say, Maui.
We have tried a number of shops and prefer Sandwich Isle Divers. They take only 6 divers at a time and usually there are 2 DM's + the boat captain: talk about personal attention! And the price of their dives is the same as the other shops. One of their DM's, Walt, is the amongst the best fish finders we have ever dived with. Want to see a Titan Scorpionfish? Just ask Walt!
One other nice thing about Kona is that the geography features a very steep drop-off and, so, you get out to most dive sites quickly. In addition, there is precious little current on most days, so the diving is easy. However, if you like drift dives, Kona may not be the place for you.
The Big Island is our favorite in the Hawaiin Archepelago--lots to see under the sea and lots to see on the land. It is not as "touristy" as Maui, so do not expect the same kind of night life: but, heck, you are there to dive!
Scorpionfish--Only Its Mother Could Love This Fish!