Monday, January 30, 2006

Very enjoyable diving in Kona today

As I said yesterday, we had a charter with a nice couple today. I dove the first dive, we dove right outside Honokohau Harbor at manta ray bay/eagle ray bay/naia bay (the name basically depends on what you saw last and who you work for). Whales were singing the entire dive. It's really cool being able to listen to them while you dive. This was my first dive this year I heard them the entire dive. They weren't real loud so they were likely some distance off. The Captain was watching for whales up top but apparently saw none. We saw all the usual stuff at this dive site, which is a very fishy site. Pat (my wife) joined the group for the dive and did see a Curious Wormfish (Gunnellichthys curiosus), I wish I'd noticed, we don't see them all that often. They are often confused for the ewa blenny or scale eating blenny (pretends to be a cleaner wrasse, then eats the scales of their mistaken victim).

We did Pawai Bay for the second dive. I Captained the boat for that one and saw 5 whales pass by, funny thing, they didn't really hear much in the way of whale songs during that dive.

Today the water was flat, temperature was 75 (by my computer, Pat says her's said 73, all's I know is it's down about 6 degrees sicne early December). There weren't a whole lot of dive boats out on the water today. We're in the middle of our post-holiday slow spell so not everyone's going out every day....Spring break's coming though and everyone will be hitting the water most every day.

Here's one of my favorite eel photos I took a couple years back. This is a nearly full sized Dwarf Moray eel (Gymnothorax melatremus). These guys max out about the size of a pencil. To give you an idea of size, the rock boring urchins are usually smaller than a golf ball. When I find them, their heads are usually poking out of a crack in a rock wall. They're typically very shy and will cower back inside their holes if you look at them too closely, sometimes they'll stay put though.



Sunday, January 29, 2006

Not a whole lot going on the last couple of days.

I do have a charter in the morning, but otherwise much of the last several days has been maintenance type of things. Re-up the boat biz insurance and commercial ramp permits, do some maintenance on the boat, replace the stereo in the vacation rental, replace our over the stove microwave (large ants had moved into the electronics and it started going off and on rapidly and repeately on it's own, one of the prices of living in paradise is living with bugs and geckos, last year a gecko crawled into our laserjet and fried the machine) and such.

The rain we had I mentioned earlier lasted about a day and a half. It apparently dumped a fair amount of snow on at least one of the mountains, I haven't been out and about to check it out though. One of these years I need to get the obligatory doofy guy (me) in a swimsuit in the snow in Hawaii photo.

Today we had lunch at Senor Billy's, I beleive I've mentioned it before, the nice little mexican place up the hill. I had their "big ass burrito special" (actually two of them) for $3.99. I was surprised to find it really was fairly big and a good deal by any standards, I wouldn't have ordered two if I had believed them (my idea of big is usually bigger than most) ahead of time. I was quite full for the day. While I'm on the topic of food... I mentioned the Phillysophical Deli in a "biggest burger" post a couple of months back - Sad news, the owner passed away a few nights ago. I'm not sure what this does to the restaurant, it's been closed with wreaths on the door the last couple of days.

I played with the blog a bit to give it some more color and keep it from looking exactly like every other blog using this same template. I hope it isn't too irritating. Here's a Sailfin Tang. They're not super common, but if you keep an eye open for them you might notice them while snorkeling or diving at places like the Place of Refuge.



Thursday, January 26, 2006

Kona manta ray scuba diving video

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Free video hosting, video codes at

Ok, I had this video that I took a year and a half ago sitting on my computer so I thought I'd put it on the blog. It's about a minute and a half long clip of the manta dive on a night when we had mantas. I beleive there's 5 in this video. Keep in mind I did this without the aid of video lights, and the divers who are right in the action get a much better and brighter view. We, as well as most of the boats, work with videographers who have all the gear to produce professional videos for customers who want it.

The manta ray dive is, in my opinion anyway, one of the two world class adventures (the other being a walk out to the lava flow, if active at the time, to stand next to a live river -OK, moving goop pile - of flowing lava) most anyone in reasonably active contidion can do in Hawaii. It can be done by both divers and snorkelers, although snorkelers really should be comfortable in the water.

Remember, this is only about 87 seconds out of a 40-50 minute show... it's quite amazing!!! Sometimes it's not this great, sometimes it's better. There's no guarantees when it comes to live animals. The most mantas I've personally counted at one time (we're talking in my immediate field of view) on one of these dives is 17. The video guys can check to see how may different mantas have shown by comparing spot patterns on the manta's bellies, I've heard of reports of as many as 22 showing up on a single night.

We don't always have mantas, but it's getting to where they are pretty conditioned to show up when the divers are around as plankton is attracted to the divers' lights and it pretty much becomes an all-you-can-eat buffet for the mantas.

This is likely the last video I have to share for a while. I'll try to get some short clips on dives the next couple of weeks.



Some much needed rain in Kona today.

We had our first real rain in a month or two last night, at least at our altitude. Not sure if it rained down on the shore or over in Kailua. Winter is Kona's "dry" season typically. When the ocean warms up (it's 75 right now, on the cool side) we tend to see convection rains in the afternoon and evening. During this part of year it takes actual storms to give us much rain, with tradewinds generally blowing weather in from the east, the other side of the island gets the brunt of the wet stuff.

Last night we had another manta charter for a family of 5. It was probably the calmest the water's been in a while.... glassy smooth practically on the way up. We saw 5 humpback whales on the way up to the dive site.

I did the first dive. We were hopefull of hearing whale songs during the dives but I could barely hear a little in the backgound at one point in the dive and that was it. Highlights were garden eels and Heller's barracuda as well as some good sized eels. The first dive we usually do up at the site, which is a very nice reef area, and is done in the late afternoon prior to sunset. There's lots of activity on the reef at this time as some of the nighttime fish are starting to come out of their holes and lots of others are grouping up and doing whatever it is they do (fish behavior changes about this time of day, the reef is just different) before the sun goes down.

We had 4 mantas on the night dive. I captained the boat for this one. The wind direction had us blowing directly adjacent to the dive site so I got to hear just about everything the snorkelers (our group was diving, several of the other boats had snorkelers) were saying... they were having a great time.

Here's an older pic, you'll be able to tell my older stuff because I used to write information on the pictures for my business website. This one mentions the poison spines, we're talking more than a little owee here, more like a bad spider bite where the wound goes bad, erodes away and you've got a quarter sized painful wound for months and might be picking at it for a couple of years... you don't generally want to touch these guys.



Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Turtle cleaning station video?

Ok, this is an experiment....

I took some video with my digital camera, not super high quality, but enough to give you an idea of what I see from time to time. If this works, you'll be able to see a video of one of the turtle cleaning stations I've been talking about. There were 6 or 7 turtles in the area this particular day, 4 are on the video. Not a whole lot of cleaning was going on at the time, but you'll see some of it.

Free video hosting, video codes at

Cool, it looks as though this works, at least on IE - if any of you are on other browsers, feel free to let me know if this works. This opens up a whole lot of possibilities!



Sunday, January 22, 2006

First big snow of the winter season in Hawaii today.

Yep, Hawaii does get snow. The news tonight said they had to close access and evacuate people from Mauna Kea because of snow.

We get snow pretty much every year on our two largest mountains on the Big Island. It's been a dry winter so this is the first this year. People often think we can't get snow because it's the tropics... but 14,000 feet altitudes can get cold no matter where you are on the globe.

Here's a shot I took last January after a real good snow on Mauna Loa, with Kailua in the foreground, probably the heaviest one since I moved here. I hadn't seen it down this far on the mountain before. We had snow on the mountain for a couple weeks after that one. The view is often blocked by clouds so I was glad I was out on the boat to catch this shot.



Friday, January 20, 2006

Six manta rays on the night dive today.

Tonight was a blast. We did a late afternoon dive up at "Garden Eel Cove" off the Kona airport, which is the home of the manta dive. I captained the boat for dive one and did the night dive with the mantas.

We had one manta looping under the boat feeding under our floodlights while we were putting our divers in. Moving on over to the site where the dive operators set up we had 2 mantas right away. There were four within about 10-12 minutes and the other two arrived minutes later. We bascically had 6 mantas for the better part of 35-40 minutes of so 'til the dive groups began to split off.

People are often surprised by this dive as they are expecting to see a ray or two or more swim by a few times and that's it - hardly the case on a decent night - Tonight we had 5 boats of divers and snorkelers sharing the 6 mantas, my guess is that everyone who dove tonight had mantas within arms length of them for a solid 10 minutes as the mantas swam from group to group, with mantas within 20-30 feet of them, well within visual range, for a full 35 minutes at least.

It's an amazing dive, and a great snorkeling event for non-divers. I'd consider this to be probably the single biggest "must do" activity in Kona for those who enjoy the water and want something more than just the typical snorkeling or dive.

Here's a photo of a smallish White Mouth Moray. These are our most common moray. Color paterns are basically spotted, but the white mouth is always there even if the spot pattern may vary from eel to eel. These guy are relatively harmless under normal circumstances. Eels have very small gill openings so they can crawl through, and back out of, coral formations. They have to actively pump their gills to breath, hence the typical open mouth that some people think might be a threatening behavior.



Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dancing with the stars....

OK, I threw that title in there as an experiment to see if I get clicks on this specific post strictly based on the title. When I first heard of the show, I thought to myself, "how lame can television get?", but I gotta admit I am strangely compelled to watch that show if it's on and I'm home (it's on tonight) ... could it be because ballroom dance class was one of the better grades I got in college?

Back to Kona and diving. We had an even bigger little earthquake yesterday over off the east side of the island yesterday, it was a 4.7 and apparently it was only felt on the Kona side depending on where you were at the time. I was on the "highway" ( what passes as a highway here on the west side of the island - two lanes, one each direction) so I didn't feel it, my wife Pat didn't feel it at the hospital either, but others elsewhere in the area did.

I had charters the last two days with a fun group who've been diving together off and on for years. It's aways a kick to be with a laid back group of people who know each other, not that every other day isn't fun too. We're planning on an afternoon/evening charter tomorrow.

Here's a pair of reticulated cowries. You sometimes find them this close together, but not often. If you find one, look around, you might find another within a few feet away in a crack in the rock. Many cowries mate for life. It is important that if you find one and you feel you want a souvenir, if you are a person who picks things up, not to move it. Cowries follow their mate's slime trail, if you pick it up and don't put it down in the exact same spot, you may have broken up a happy couple. I try to avoid picking up cowries that haven't obviously moved on to the great sea shell home in the sky.



Monday, January 16, 2006

Went scuba diving today...

...just for fun.

I've had a couple of days off so I decided to head on down to the Place of Refuge and take a few photos. Nothing really turned out quite like I wanted it to, which is kind of a bummer as I did see some neat stuff - multiple turtles, an eagle ray, anthias, cleaner shrimp. I did get a keeper of a sea cucumber I'll likely post some day. Conditions were excellent - very good viz, temperature is down to about 75 these days though.

I'm finishing off cleaning the vacation rental this afternoon for tenants coming in tonight and getting some other chores done today as several of the next days are booked for the boat. We're supposed to have a monster swell coming in tomorrow. I'll be watching the news tonight to see what happened in Oahu today. I'm hoping Oahu and Maui get the brunt of it and we are shaded - it all depends on the direction of the swell.

Here's some Heller's Barracuda (hope I haven't posted these before, I didn't take time to look back and between this blog and my website I'm starting to get mixed up on what I posted where). They are a harmless barracuda that hang out in large schools. They tend to group up in a doughnut shape (round with a hole in the middle). This is a pic I took before understanding manual white balance, I had to put it into grayscale to really look OK, I'll try to get a decent full color photo some day (although it may not look much different as they are a silver fish).



Saturday, January 14, 2006

Whoohoo! Just had another little Kona earthquake at 11:04pm

NOTE: If you are looking for info on a current earthquake, please click on the link to the home main page of the blog at the bottom of this post.

Click on the title for the preliminary report. The map at should have a location soon. It was a 3.4 magnitude (although it didn't feel quite like it at my place) up around Hualalai, the volcano overlooking Kailua.

This is the Hawaiian Lionfish Pterois Sphex. It looks a heck of a lot like an antennata lion (pterois antennata - aka spotfin lion) that I used to sell back in the days I had my aquarium shop. It's pretty much just missing some spots over the fins and I'm sure there are other differences those who are into classification would notice.

I've not mentioned my former days as an aquarium shop owner... no wonder I love scuba. Nowadays I just dive to get my fish fix. I can't see having an aquarium anymore personally when I can just go down the hill and be immersed in it.



Thursday, January 12, 2006

A Kona landmark goes bye bye

I checked out our local paper today and saw the lead article and thought it might be of interest to divers who've dove here over the years.

"Pinetrees" is coming down. Hopefully this is a permanent link (you may have to register to see it, I don't know as I am already registered and get it when I click on the link) - . The "Pinetrees" area sees thousands of divers each year as several of our more popular dive sites featuring lava tubes are along this stretch of coastline. It's been referred to as "Pintrees" for years by surfers and divers, even though they are mangroves.

This is a Goldlace Nudibranch. They feature neat eyestalks and a prominent feathery gill structure that nudibranchs - "naked gill" in latin - are named for.

Living on Mauna Loa

I have a few days off right now, I won't have my next real busy spell 'til March/April. So I'll get away from quite as much dive talk.

If you'd have asked me a decade ago if I'd consider living on the side of an "active" volcano, I'd have chuckled... yet here I am. My wife and I came here on a trip back in '97 and by day two she's saying "Wouldn't this be an interesting place to live for a while?"... 16 months later we were here.

We live down south in the Captain Cook area. It's a nice green and comfortable area to live. I am continuously amazed at the number of people I meet who come to the Big Island and say it's nothing but a big lava field. They've obviously stayed up at the resorts in South Kohala and not traveled around - there's lots of varied terrain and climates here, even on the west side. So if you are ever visiting Kona, do take a trip to Kealakekua Bay or the Place of Refuge and check out the green part of Kona.

In our area the mountain comes up pretty much to the water, this ensures a fair amount of afternoon rain on the hills during the warmer months. Living here is like living in a botanical paradise. I have roughly 50 pounds of ripe apple bananas (better than the grocery variety - have a sweet green apple aftertaste) outside my back door right now. Also very common in the area are papayas, mangos, pineapple (including white pineapple which are non-acid pineapple and completely delicious), avocados, all sort of citrus, plus oddballs like jaboticaba (looks like a laurel with concord grapes growing off the bark), lilikoi passion fruit, jackfruit and some things I can't even pronounce.

Anyway, it all could be gone in a day or two if Madam Pele (basically the Hawaiian volcano goddess) decides it to be so. Our particular plot of land hasn't had a flow in hundreds, maybe a thousand years or more, however there is a flow a half mile to mile from here that occured within the lifetimes of people I know living in the area. You tend not to think of the possibilities, but you never know. We had another earthquake felt at the house two days ago. I was also in the water for that one but didn't notice anything. Pat was here and said it was just a bump and a shake. She looked it up and it was a small one centered about a mile from our place. Here's a great link to see recent quakes on the Big Island... We get quakes on the island all the time but generally only feel them in Kona a couple times a year, if that.

I did do a dive yesterday just for fun. I was playing with the video function on my digital camera, and it's not that bad. I nearly killed my computer trying to download a program to try to get the video to where I could blog it. I'll try something else when I have some free time and maybe one day I'll be able to throw some quick video clips on here. Here's a pair of Redstripe Pipefish from a year or so ago. Lucky shot on my part to get both of them in the frame. They were back in a dark hole and I sort of just stuck my hand with camera in and started shooting.

Take care,


Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Kona Chinese Buffet restaurants... totally non-diving-related

Day off today, so I'll blabber..... I thought I'd talk briefly about a couple of Kona restaurants I visited recently... they're the two all you can eats I can think of in Kona.

I was downtown running errands today so I stopped in at Ocean Seafood. It's a small Chinese buffet down in the King Kam Mall next to the King Kam Hotel. Not huge, but tasty. My wife and I have been trying a new buffet in Kealakekua in South Kona near where we live. It's called the Ocean View Chinese Restaurant. Cheap and a very good selection of foods on the buffet line, serves hungry South Kona residents well. There was one other Chinese buffet in the shops down on Alii Drive, but it's been so long since I've been there I don't know if it's even open anymore. So much for my food reviews.... both places fill me to my satisfaction, that's good enough for me.

Here's an oldie I took maybe four years back of a bullseye lobster on a night dive.



Monday, January 09, 2006

Just got back from the manta dive.

We had two mantas for the entire dive tonight. It was nice to do the dive again. We'd cancelled a couple night trips due to big surf, and then rescheduled a trip to tonight because there'd been no mantas for a few night after the heavy surf. It worked out well. Nice dive, good conditions, water was 75 degrees.

Yesterday I dove the bay where we do the night dive and there was lots of apparent change due to the surf. We run the dive at a site called "Garden Eel Cove". The garden eels have been viewable at about 52, feet but yesterday I had to go down to 72 to see them. The group in shallow had moved out, hopefully they'll return quickly. Throughout the bay, wherever there wasn't something living, there was a fine layer of sand to be found. No serious coral damage though.

Yesterday there was another whale shark in the area. A couple boats were able to spend some time with it while we were on our first dive. We went looking for it after our first dive, and saw it on the surface for a few moments, but it moved on before we could get people in the water with it.

Here's a pic taken at a turtle cleaning station the other day. Turtles will lay down and present themselves and tangs (aka surgeonfish), in this case yellow tangs, will come to the turtle and eat the algae off the turtle.



Saturday, January 07, 2006

Very calm seas today.

Today was the best water conditions we've had in a couple of weeks. It was glassy smooth in several areas early on. We had a couple of women on the boat doing intro dives. They had a great time. My co-worker today also is a Captain/Instructor, so he got the honor of the first dive and I did the second.

Viz was great. The temp is starting to inch down with the last several swells.My computer was reading 77 the entire dive and the analog thermometer on the pressure gauge was in the 75 range. Something kind of interesting MAY have happend while underwater. I dropped off one of the divers at about 36 minutes and then continued on with the other diver as she had plenty of air. We were at "Turtle Heaven", aka Turtle Haven and probably a couple of other names, which is outside the harbor and near a fair amount of boat traffic. While heading back down I heard a loud boom/roar followed by a rumble and all of the fish in my line of sight dropped strainght down about 3-4 feet for just a moment. I figured it was likely one loud diesel engine boat coming in. When I arrived home my wife asked if I noticed the earthquake at 1:17 - that would have been around the time. Well, I can only speculate. Nice 63 minute 40 foot intro dive though.

I don't carry a camera on intros and OW classes so nothing from today. Here's one from yesterday. It's a parrotfish, a Bullethead I think, busy eating coral. Parrotfish eat coral, sand comes out the other end of the fish. You can hear them scraping and crushing the coral if you pay attention. Depending on who you listen to, a single parrotfish can produce up to a ton or two of sand a year. Yep... for those of you who sunbathe when in the tropics, you're likely laying on stuff that's passed through a fish. It's my first decent parrotfish pic. Hooray for a nicer camera and manual white balance. Parrotfish are tough to get a good photo of. Even the pics in "Hawaii's Fishes" by John Hoover (One of the very best Hawaii fish ID books) aren't all that great because of the difficulties of taking blue on blue pictures.



Friday, January 06, 2006

Day off today... I went scuba diving.

Yesterday we had a nice charter, it was the last day for one of my return groups. I had a stuffy left ear (perils of the business) so my DM/Captain did both dives while I captained the boat. We did two drift dives off the Old Airport area.

Today both my wife and I had days off together, that's getting fewer and farther between. We had a couple of full 63s (cubic foot tanks for non-divers who may be reading) in the garage so we decided to do a dive down at the Place of Refuge at the spot commonly called "2 steps". It was a much nicer day than we had for shore diving from time to time the last couple of weeks. It was still stirred up a bit, but we had good solid 80'+ viz. Today's dive - 97' for 57 minutes diving at various depths. Nothing spectacular, but a relaxing dive and I was able to get 3 or 4 keeper shots with the camera.

Here's a shot of a spotted puffer.



Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Wanna Dive?

Ok, I'm going to talk a bit specifically about my scuba business today.

I moved to Kona as a new diving instructor from Corvallis, Oregon back in early '99. I started working for a "dive shop" which didn't have a boat, it booked other boats, and moved to a dive shop with their own boat later that year. I've been teaching scuba and leading dives ever since.

Back in '01 I began teaching and leading dives on my own part time while working for other shops roughly half time. I picked up the boat in early '03 and have been building the business since.

The boat, pictured above, is a Radon boat built in Califiornia. They were basically built for urchin diving and are a popular design for fishermen and dive operators over here. We are a registered passenger vessel and carry a maximum of 6 passengers. It's not the biggest or most beautiful boat in Hawaii, but it's a nice little dive boat for 6 passengers. We have a licensed Captain on board at all times and all dives are guided. We provide sandwiches for lunch and carry cold beverages and towels on board.

I run day trips whenever I get two or more divers lined up for the day. Going out with just two divers seems to be a rare thing in the dive business these days, but I like it as it's an easy/fun day, we get to know each other, and it keeps my crew working and happy. I run night trips on Tuesdays and Thursdays if I have passengers booked. We generally like 3 or more for the night dive and will happily refer people to other operators if we don't have enough to make an evening of it. We also will do night trips on other nights if we have larger groups interested. Private charters are available. Booking in advance is extremely helpful.

The title of this blog links directly to my website if you want to check it out. If you, or anyone you know, are interested in diving Hawaii, check it out, I have a fair amount of pictures and information on it.

Now ends the blatant self-promotion portion of this blog for a while.

Have a nice evening,


Monday, January 02, 2006

OK, I was just looking at today's pics...

.... and checked out one I'd completely underexposed. I kinda like it, so I thought I'd pass it along. You'll need to click on the pic in the blog to enlarge it to really see it as it's very dark.

Nice day on the water.

We did a couple of dives today. I lead the second one. Highlights of the dive for me were a trio of Bandit Angels, 2 different flame angels (a smaller one at 60' and one that's a fairly reliable sight at a spot in 22' or so) a white tip shark, a group of 8 firedart fish, lots of blue trevally and a group of 3 Bigeye Jacks which I rarely have noticed. The boat which was leaving the mooring reported seeing a manta ray on their dive.

Here's a mediocre picture of one of the Bandit Angels. They weren't cooperative today. I've see some that you could approach to within a foot or two, these ones were tough to get within 5 feet of. Hopefully some day I'll have a real good shot of them, but this will give you an idea of what they are like. Hawaii has 4 species of angel fish that we frequently (if we are lucky) see - Flame, Bandit, Fisher's, Potter's - of which the Potter's is by far the most common. The Bandit, topping out at about 7 inches, is the only species of relatively large angel fish we have here, the others are considered to be dwarf angel fish, maxing out at roughly 2-4 inches depending on the species.

Tomorrow I have both morning and evening charters planned. My day should start around 7am and at around 10pm or so. So far Wednesday is planned to be a day off, unless I get calls.

Have a good evening.


Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year to all!!

We had some huge surf yesterday and it's still up today so I cancelled the dive. It should settle down enough to go tomorrwo. I've yet to hear of any predictions for the next swell, so it hopefully will be business as usual for a bit. Today will be spent cleaning the vacation rental as we have guests coming in tonight.

Well, I blew it bigtime the other day. I woke up with sore sinuses so I figured my other crew member would do the dives. When I put the camera in the housing I noticed a bit of lint on the o-ring. Rather than take the time to clean it up and re-house the camera I decided to leave the camera home.

Man- O -Man, am I regretting that now. We had a 35 foot whaleshark offshore for over an hour. Boats were coming an going for at least that long. We spent probably 20 or so minutes on it. It was quite inquisitive, going from boat to boat and checking things out. After my other crew got his fill, I donned my gear and went down to about 15' depth for 5 or 6 minutes to watch. At one point the shark turned and came right to me head on, I had to lean back to keep from getting bumped. Pretty cool seeing a 3-4' wide mouth 3 inches from your face. It wasn't open so I didn't get a look inside to see if it resembles a manta's mouth. It's interesting that an animal so large has eyeballs roughly the size of a quarter.

Well, hopefully there will be other opportunities in the coming weeks. I've heard of 4-5 sightings in the last 3 weeks or so, but none where so many boats got to spend so much time with the sharks.

Here's a helmet snail. They feed on collector urchins. When we find one of these snails we can offer them an urchin. Sometimes they go for it.

Happy diving!