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Kona Aggressor trip report, Aug 12 - 19

Discussion in 'Hawai'i' started by elgoog, Aug 30, 2017.

  1. elgoog

    elgoog DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: San Francisco Bay area
    Hi -

    I recently spent a week on the Kona Aggressor. Outside of the 2-3 day California boat trips, this was my very first liveaboard and I was using it as a barometer to see how much I actually liked week long liveaboard diving. I got the 33% off deal when I booked and a relatively cheap direct flight from my home airport meant I got fantastic bang for buck. This is the fairly haphazard and rambling trip report.

    The cabins were very comfortable and the food was beyond excellent. Chef Kevin's menu got better and better with every meal. I don't have anything to compare it to but almost everyone on board had done other liveaboards and they all said it was some of the best they'd had. We had an almost full boat but the dive stations never felt cramped. Gas fills were very consistent and around 30-32% EAN every time.
    I loved how easy getting in and out of my gear was and how little I had to do between dives. Also, the fact that I could get completely dry, warm and fed after every dive was awesome.

    We had amazing conditions all week long. Bright and sunny on the surface and around 50-80ft of bluewater viz on practically every dive. The conditions were very calm as well with hardly any current, surge or surface chop. Water temps were 77-80F and I wore a rental 7mm fullsuit all week, adding a hood after day 3. Many were in shortys and the DMs were mostly in board shorts and T-shirts but they didn't do all the dives. I get cold pretty easily but I think if you want to do many if not all the dives offered, you'd want at least a 5mm fullsuit.

    Considering we weren't moving very far on a day by day basis, the diving was a lot more varied than I thought it would be. The reefs are very healthy and the topography is quite dramatic. The latter definitely removed any feelings of repetitiveness and was something I enjoyed as much as the marine life - Au Au Crater was my favorite due to this. The corals aren't as colorful as in certain parts of the world but the fish life more than makes up for that. We had a couple on-board from Oahu who had done this trip every year for the last 6 years and they said that the reefs and marine life are as healthy as they've ever seen (which is super encouraging). I can't even begin to list all the fish we saw but the memorable ones were the frogfish, goatfish, scorpionfish, eagle rays and the dolphins. I'm a big fan of nudibranch and I was not disappointed - fried egg and speckled nudibranch were pretty common and we also some some blue dragons, Spanish dancers and one jolly green giant (which I'm told is super rare - photo in the Captain's log link below).
    vlcsnap-2017-08-30-10h04m05s550.png vlcsnap-2017-08-30-11h45m18s923.png vlcsnap-2017-08-30-11h43m36s486.png vlcsnap-2017-08-30-11h46m17s820.png vlcsnap-2017-08-30-11h38m35s221.png vlcsnap-2017-08-30-11h37m11s395.png vlcsnap-2017-08-30-10h23m34s750.png
    We did both of the signature night dives that Big Island is known for - the manta dive and the pelagic dive. I was a little underwhelmed by the manta dive. We had 3 show up and hang out for 20min and then nothing. More than that, what actually made it a meh dive for me was the number of people in the water - at least a 100 divers from 10 different boats. Kinda ruined whatever magic/mayhem/madness this dive is normally known for.
    The pelagic magic dive, on the other hand, was absolutely epic. At least after the first 5min, once I was done freaking out about being in 3000ft of water and then released the death grip I had on the tether. I can't even describe all the things we saw; all I can say is that you need to go do it. Capt Randy's dive briefing for it was a gem.
    vlcsnap-2017-08-30-10h28m49s068.png 0 pelagic magic.jpg

    Overall, this was a fantastic trip for me. I did all 27 dives offered, which was a lot easier than I thought it would. The diving was excellent and the boat and crew made the week even better. I suppose Big Island isn't a traditional liveaboard destination, due to the fact that all the dive sites are accessible by day boats, but it is a great option for those looking to hit dive sites all along the west coast without dealing with the "extended range" boat trips. The crew on this boat has also stabilized in the last year or so and the overall experience for the guests is much better as a result.
    I don't know if this trip generally attracts more seasoned divers but, on this one, I was by far the least experience diver on board in terms of destinations dove, number of liveaboards done, number of dives, etc.

    The Captain's log has the list of all the sites we dove and the daily menus. I'm the "a Californian" and on the far right in the Iron Diver photo.
  2. Dogbowl

    Dogbowl Contributor

    # of Dives: None - Not Certified
    Location: Somewhere
    Great trip report! Thank you!

    What's the Iron Diver certificate for?
  3. drrich2

    drrich2 ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    Sounds great! Fine report. Any idea if they can tanks larger than 80-cf, such as 100-cf? How long were your flights to & from Hawaii?

  4. elgoog

    elgoog DIR Practitioner

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: San Francisco Bay area
    Iron Diver is the certificate/medal you get on the Aggressor liveaboards if you do every dive that was offered. I was told, on this trip, that it actually originated on the Kona Aggressor as a play on the Ironman Triathlon Championships that are hosted there every year.

    Yes, they had 100cf tanks available on-board, I think you have to tell them ahead of time for those.
    Another option is you can bring your own tank on-board - the couple from Oahu flew in with their own steel tanks. Not so practical for us but I'm sure one of the many dive ops on the island rents out large steel tanks. Fills are 3000psi only so getting an HP tank might not give you all the gas you might want.

    I had a direct flight on Alaska Airlines from OAK (Oakand) to KOA (Kona) which was 5hr long. United has direct flights from SFO as well but OAK is just closer to my home and I don't have any airline preferences. There are flights with other airlines as well in case you want to use miles but those connect usually through LAX or HNL (Honolulu)
    Dogbowl and drrich2 like this.
  5. KathyV

    KathyV ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 500 - 999
    Location: Midwestern US
    Great report! It's been a long time since we did the Kona Aggressor but I remember it as a fantastic experience and the night dive with mantas was spectacular. I am sorry to learn that there were so many divers in the water, that's a shame.
  6. iamrushman

    iamrushman Contributor

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: ft. lauderdale, florida
    really enjoyed reading your report and seeing your photos...thanks for sharing.

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