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Kona Aggressor Trip Review

Discussion in 'Hawai'i' started by nashwl, Feb 9, 2019.

How late was this review?

  1. Very late.

    1 vote(s)
  2. Very, very late.

    2 vote(s)
  1. nashwl

    nashwl Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: WV
    Sorry for the ultra-late review. Coming back right before Christmas, and then the after-Christmas aftermath at work zapped all my free time.

    Kona Aggressor

    Getting there: Coming from the east coast I wanted to get in a day before to acclimated to the time change while leaving plenty of time in case of flight delays. Also, who passes up an extra night in Hawaii? My last flight from LAX to Kona was delayed by nearly three hours, so luckily I had that extra time. As an American, it was also great to be on dive trip that doesn't require a treck through customs and immigration. Nothing like just grabbing your bag at the carousal and out the door you go!

    I rented a car and stayed at the Kona Sheraton. Nice hotel, no beach (huge and nice pool), but great views of the ocean and surrounding hills/mountains. I woke up the morning of my departure to see a cruise ship in the harbor. That complicated arrival to the boat, since I was unable to drop my bags off at the pier ahead of time. I spent the day cruising around the area, visiting the beach and taking in a coffee planation. When it was finally time to head to the pier, not only did the cruise ship mess get in the way, but it was the same time as the Christmas Parade. A small inconvenience, but I was able to get to the boat on time, where I was welcomed promptly by the ship's first officer.

    Boarding and dive deck: Immediately after boarding, I was shown my spot on the dive deck. I had requested a 100cf tank, but they had already assigned both 100s before I arrived. Even though I am usually a bit of an air hog (and I am use to the 120s in Cozumel), the majority of the dives stayed pretty shallow (I think I averaged around 50 for the week), and the 80cf was more than enough. I was always one of the last to surface. The dive deck isn't huge, but it isn't cramped either. There is plenty of storage and room to get ready. But if everyone is diving that dive, and when everyone is geared up, you don't have much room to maneuver. You take a few steps backwards down to the platform where they hand you your fins and into the water you go. Overall, it is well-layed out and solid set-up.

    Boat: The boat is spacious and well designed. Plenty of common rooms and plenty of privacy if you needed. The air conditioned dining area was huge, plenty of room for the 12 divers and 6 crew members on the trip. She is showing her age a little, but will be going into dry dock later this year. Even then, the boat is kept spotless and features daily housekeeping in the cabins.

    Diving: 27 dives are offered over 6 dive days, including a night dive each evening. There is a guide on each dive, or you are free to dive your own tank and plan. Most divers just followed the guide. Me and two other divers followed the guide until they came back to the boat (usually around the 40 minute mark) then we headed off on our own for the last 20 minutes. The ask you to cap your dives at 60 minutes. Me and three others divers were able to complete all 27 dives, and were given a small medal and a certificate as ``Iron Divers.'' A cool little reward from Aggressor.

    The diving itself ranges from average to fantastic, depending greatly on chance encounters. The reefs are hard coral and don't have a lot of color. Nor do they have a lot of larger fish. However, there is a great variety of smaller fish, hiding everywhere you look. There is always the treat of a White-tip reef shark in a cave or under a large ledge. Eels and flame angelfish a plenty. Peacock groupers patrol the reefs. Tons of fish I have no clue what they are (sorry). There was always plenty of life on the reef, and plenty of creature finding if that is your pleasure. I was never bored on any dive. While lacking current, you can run into some decent surge, as most of the dives are right against the shoreline. Only 1 or 2 walls, but it was easy to moderate level diving all week. Almost no current, and a few swim-through make for a non-challenging week. The night dives featured plenty of hunting Eels, lobsters and crabs. Bonus is the warm towel waiting for you at the end of every dive, and the hot cocoa waiting for you at the end of the night dive.

    Large animals: This was the treat of the trip and really made the week. We saw two Whale sharks. One while we were on the surface, resulting in a fire-drill snorkel excursion. A juvenile around 12 feet that was checking out the boat. It was close enough to our group that I could have touched it if I put my hand out. The other came the next day, while we were under water. Both hung out with the group for a solid 10 minutes before moving on. The second one was probably 18-20 feet and took an interest in one of our new divers on his safety stop.

    Earlier in that same dive, we were treated to a school of 6 Hammerheads that swam right in front of us. Then, at the end of the dive, a Manta Ray swam past the boat over the deep blue. That was one of the coolest dives I have ever been on, just from the status of seeing three different biggies all in one dive.

    The pelagic dive was also interesting. They take the boat out three miles from shore with a depth of about 3000 feet. Then the boat drops lines and you hold on to lines and look for the tiny pelagics that make up their voyage to the surface to feed on plankton. While looking for creatures the size of your fingernail, we were joined by a large dolphin. I was a very interesting and very cool dive. I compare it to looking at microbiology on a macro level. Even if you think you might be nervous, give it a try, you can always come up if you don't the dark and the deep.

    Exposure protection: I took a bibbed hood and a 3mm full, a 3mm shorty and gloves.
    I never used the hood, only my shorty. Only used the gloves on dives were they said we might have to touch bottom or caves. There were other dives in 3mm shorties as well, including the male dive guides. However, others were using a 5mm full. We had temps mostly around 78. We never went overly deep, usually 70 was my max depth and they limit you to one hour dives, most people were up around 40-45.

    Food and Crew: I can not stress how amazing the food was on this boat. Chef Guy is a true asset to the company. I have a close friend who is a Michelin-reviewed chef, and Chef Guy can easily give him a run for his money. Every meal was incredible. Not only extremely well presented, but perfectly balanced and amazingly flavorful. You would gladly pay to visit a restaurant if this man ran it. Aggressor doesn't skimp on the food budget either. Filet, Prime Rib, and plenty of seafood highlight the menu. You will not hungry on the boat. In fact, despite diving non-stop, you will probably gain weight by the end of the trip.

    The Crew is also amazing. They balance professionalism and friendliness perfectly. Always polite, always looking to serve, but also always willing to just hang out and share stories. This is well-run boat, with a great crew.

    Overall: This was a great week. It was one of the best dive vacations I have been on. It didn't have the color of Cozumel or the diversity of Thailand, but it was a lot of fun. The reefs have plenty of life and treats both big and small to find. The boat is clean and the crew at your beck and call. The food was simply amazing and the fellow divers were fun and lively. I would recommend this boat, crew and itinerary to anyone, both new or advanced.

    Tips and hints: Take some bonine or non-drowsy motion sickness meds with you. Better to have it and not need it, then need it and not have it. While I didn't feel the boat was overly rocky, but several other passengers did.

    Use nitrox and don't be afraid to take naps. While the diving there is easy, 27 dives adds up fast. I did both and felt fine through the day and I wasn't exhausted by the end of the week.

    If you are coming from the east coast, and you have the vacation time, you might as well pad a couple days to see Oahu or Maui. Inter-islands flights are only around $100, and Oahu is just beautiful. Pearl Harbor itself is worth the extra day and flight.

    Bottom line: Aggressor does it right, and the Kona Aggressor really sets a high bar for the rest of the company. I look forward to another trip with Aggressor, most likely Grand Cayman or Belize.

    Bonus: See poll.

    Bonus, Bonus: See Captain Matt's log from our week. Aggressor® | Official Site | Liveaboards, Safaris & River Cruises
  2. drrich2

    drrich2 Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Southwestern Kentucky
    Enjoyed your report. Sounds like a lot of fun. Of course, as a family man, if I ran off to Hawaii and didn't take my wife and daughter I imagine there might be potential flack... Congrat.s on the Iron Diver award and doing fine with 80-cf tanks.

  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL ScubaBoard Supporter ScubaBoard Supporter

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Orlando, FL
    Good trip report. My dive buddy and I did the Kona Aggressor last year; and ended up having the last two days cut short by a hurricane....very rare in HI. Long story; previously reported; due to very generous offers from the yacht owners, we are going back in May....hopefully we will get the Pelagic dive and more mantas.....only one showed up for our manta dive; the rest got the memo about the approaching hurricane I guess.
  4. Damselfish

    Damselfish Solo Diver

    # of Dives: 1,000 - 2,499
    Location: Boston
    I don't know if it is still the same chef as when we did that boat many years ago, but I still remember the food. Outstanding and maybe better than any land-based restaurants we've been to there. And we're fussy. It probably doesn't hurt that they can easily get whatever they want on the Big Island, compared to the places most liveaboards leave from.
  5. nashwl

    nashwl Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: WV
    Chef Guy was new to the boat and Aggressor, however, he had lived and worked on the Big Island for many years.
    Damselfish likes this.
  6. Sneeg

    Sneeg Angel Fish

    # of Dives: 25 - 49
    Location: WA
    Nashwl, thank you so much for your review. Counting down the 34 days until our trip.

    One question, are there many plug-ins in the rooms? We want to bring a small fan and I am debating whether I need to get one which is battery operated.

    I am so envious that you got to see whale sharks - may be we will luck out too...
  7. nashwl

    nashwl Barracuda

    # of Dives: 100 - 199
    Location: WV
    There are outlets in the rooms. You would be fine bringing a small fan.

    Hopefully you get to see a couple Whale sharks! They are really a sight to see in the water.
    KathyV likes this.

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