Sunday, March 30, 2008

Adios Aloha. Aloha Airlines just announced tomorrow (March 31st) will be thier last day.

It's the end of an era of over 60 years. It'll be curious as to how this all shakes out. The State will ask the bankruptcy court to not allow the closure but that may not have any effect. Expect another airline to come in and purchase what remains of the company in a short time... hopefully.

Aloha and Hawaiian had attempted to merger a few years back to attempt to create a larger, healthy company. The state wouldn't allow it despite pricing lock guarantees. When that fell through prices went up and the two companies have been struggling to do well since. Go Airlines came in a couple years ago and has offered artificially low prices which has weakened both companies. While benefitting passengers for the short term, it's made it tough for everyone to operate. Both companies have sued Mesa, the parent company of Go. Hawaiian won thier suit and was awarded 80 million, Aloha's suit is ongoing.

Hopefully someone steps in soon to service the interisland traffic or things could get dicey for a number of businesses, as well as travelers, here. Custmers who have purchased tickets should contact their travel agencies or credit card companies. Those who paid for their tickets by cash or check will need to deal with the bankruptcy court.



Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Did a three tank dive trip today...

Today we did a three tank dive trip up north. We did Kua Bay and Makalawena dives along with a dive closer in to town. Kua Bay is a very nice dive, especially when you've done all the closer in dives. Makalawena is an exceptional dive (I don't want to describe it 'til I dive it... let's just today's divers said there were about 10 swimthrough archways within 100 feet of the boat) we'll probably start doing more often as the weather and swell conditions improve. I'd heard about the Makalawena dive but had never actually done it. Today's group was a bunch that had dove with Bob over the years so he did the diving, but I managed to snorkel the site and could tell it's really quite something. It's a bit of a haul up there so I'm trying to figure out how to work it charge-wise since I often just go out with two or three divers and that trip would make a break even charter into a money loser between fuel and extra time.

Speaking of pricing... just a note to anyone who's thinking about booking, I'm probably going to have to sit down and open my web page program and bump prices a bit in the next month. I'll honor all pre-existing prices on bookings, so if you are thinkiing about setting somethin up for later in the year, you might want to just book before the prices creep upward.

The pic above is of a Zooanthid colony that Pat took a couple of weeks back. This particular colony is absolutely HUGE, maybe 25-30 feet or more long, usually we see only small clusters of them if we see them at all as they aren't all that common.

I'm busy the next couple of days, so I'll probably post again on the weekend.



Tuesday, March 25, 2008

3 whales sighted underwater by our divers today....

Man I wish I was leading that dive. I was up on the boat and just as my divers went down a few whales went by. They (the whales, the divers had no idea what was coming) turned themselves around and passed outside of the divers as the divers hit the edge of the reef at "Hoover's" then turned around again and headed directly to the divers. A female and her calf went directly overhead while an escort whale passed about 50 feet outside of Cathy and the group.

All were thrilled. 2000 or so dives here and I've yet to see a whale underwater, bummer.

Anyway, it was a good day of diving. The whales were definitely the highlights, but Cathy also found a yellow frogfish she's been watching grow over the last month or two... and at the end of our second dive (at an undisclosed location) she came up and said she needed to borrow the camera again. This is what she found..... Despite not being familiar with my camera, and also in a pretty strong surge, she was able to get these shots of a Reticulated Frogfish (Antennatus tuberosus). These little guys aren't found all that often. There was one for a while at a popular dive site right outside of Honokohau Harbor a year or two back and hopefully this one will stick around for a while if it's left alone. I'm hoping to get some more pictures of this guy when the water settles down (it was a bit bumpy today later on). Here's another shot of the frogfish that shows it's entire body. These critters tend to hide deep within coral heads (they're not that big) so they aren't seen often.
In the top photo the frogfish is looking to the right - you can see it's eye and mouth pretty clearly. In the lower photo it's looking to the left, the eye and mouth are tougher to make out.



Monday, March 24, 2008

Hawaii volcano update....

This is a Potter's Angelfish (Centropyge Potteri), one of the dwarf angelfish species we have. They're a tough one to get a shot of because they dart into the coral as soon as you get reasonably close to them.

The volcano has been particularly active the last couple of weeks, first spewing great amounts, several times the usual, of sulfur dioxide into the air, then having it's first explosive event, along with large amounts of ash now, since the 1920's. No major danger yet, although they've considered evacuating nearby communities due to toxic gasses. All of the sulfur dioxide has brought tremendous amounts of VOG (volcanic fog) to the Kona side the last 8-10 days or so, although it was a hair less thick today and yesterday in comparison to earlier.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Happy National Corndog Day!

Yep, that's right, today is National Corndog Day. It all started back around the early 90's when a couple drunk basketball fans in Corvallis, Oregon (where I lived the 20 years previous to moving here - I don't know the guys though) realized they were hungry... It sorta took on a life of it's own after that, Google it for more history.

Pat and I are celebrating it by not eating corn dogs, although going down to the Roadhouse Cafe in Kainaliu to see if they have one of their delicious Louisiana hotlink pastry wraps (they bill it as a corndog for adults) sounds tempting.

Yesterday was a fun day of diving. The water was flat in the morning so we headed down south towards the Kealakekua Bay and Red Hill area. We dove "Chimney", which is a cool site with a vertical lava tube that starts at almost 50' of depth and once you are in it goes straight up to to the opening which is just shy of the surface - it's not a site for people with ear or buoyancy issues as you have to get negative and head straight back over the edge and down once you hit the top or you can end up on the rocks. After that we hit a dive site called "Ridges", which neither Bob nor I had ever dove (Cathy mentioned it as a cool dive the other week, so we thought we'd try it) but the group was into exploring it with Bob while I stayed up topside to enjoy the worsening weather conditions. Everyone liked the site for it's topography and reef structure.

The ride home was a wet ride.... a fairly strong northwest wind had come up in the afternoon and the surface chop was a terrific mess. The boat rides much better these days with the extended hull, so the ride was actually fairly smooth but spray tended to blow back at us on occasion... 'time to head to Walmart and look for a bunch of 2 buck ponchos in case we get caught in the weather again. Surprisingly, despite slowing down for the weather, we made it home, in horrible conditions, in about the same time I used to be able to get there at top speed in beautiful conditions before the boat rebuild... we're really pleased with how it turned out.

The nudibranch above is a good sized Pustulose Phyllidia (also know as a Strawberry Nudibranch) that Pat took a photo of the day she borrowed my camera. There were a bunch of them out that particular day and this was probably the best shot.

Don't eat too many corndogs today... save something for Easter tomorrow.



Thursday, March 20, 2008

3 tank boat dives in Kona Hawaii

The standard morning dive outing in Kona tends to be a two tank outing, diving one tank at each of two locations. Some operators do offer a three tank day on occasion. I'm not aware of any at this point that offer a regularly scheduled 3 tank trip, but several will do it when there are enough customers to make a go of it.

We did a three tanker yesterday. Our first dive was up north above the airport at a spot a handful of us go to on occasional basis. It's a great live boat dive with both deep and shallow reefs so we can do a deeper multilevel dive and still do a long dive. Highlights of that dive were a manta ray right off the bat, and the reef structure of the dive... lots of grand topography.

Our second dive was at Pipe Dream, which is right off the westernmost point of the island on a large dropoff. There are a number of large pipes in the water. The one pictured above is basically a 6-8 foot diameter culvert that begins at about 60' of depth and goes down to about 120'. I'm not exactly sure what the plan was for this particular pipe or if it was ever used, there are several deep water pipes in use there for collecting deep seawater for various uses at the Natural Energy Lab.

Our third dive was at the Lone Tree and Suck 'em up diving area, which features swim through lava tubes as well as reef.

In addition to the ray, highlights of the day were reef sharks, a young yellow frogfish, lots of eels, a turtle, a blue dragon nudibranch, Saddleback butterflyfish, lots of other interesting fish and critters, and lots of great reef structure.

We only run three tank dives when we get enough divers to make it a go. I have a policy on these trips that some people don't like, and others appreciate --- I'm not going to do them with divers I don't know --- The dives we do on these may be a slight bit more advanced, requiring a live boat (which means no down lines, and people who have ear problems or need a line for descents or safety stops probably shouldn't be trying it 'til they've worked through it) or have dropoffs that are deep enough that divers who don't pay attention can get themselves into trouble. It usually only takes a day of diving to tell if a diver's ready for this type of trip. --- Here's the reason I do this... I've been a paying customer on more "advanced" outings with other operators over the years, and on some occasions there have been a diver or divers who obviously were still working out bugs in either their skills or awareness, it inconvenienced both the crew and the other paying customers. This shouldn't be the case when you are billing an outing as a bit more advanced, as these dives really aren't all that advanced to the point that a day or two of diving (with the crew you are using, so you know how they run things) beforehand can't remedy most of the problems I've seen.

Prices for the three tankers run all over the board from what I've seen. I currently (I may be changing prices later this spring, hopefully not much of a bump if it occurs) charge $159 per person and up depending on how far we go (extra fuel, extra time, etc). Where we go will depend on the conditions, both water and weather, of the day - I'm not going to intentionally run an hour to hour and a half from port when the weather's supposed to be iffy. You tend to see a lot more of the 3 tank trips come together in the late summer and early fall when the water and weather conditions are generally consistant and nice. Yesterday we had some very good divers on board and the dives lasted about an average of 75-80 minutes or so... it was a nice long day of diving.



Friday, March 14, 2008

It's not the photographer... it's the camera....

Well in general it's usually the photographer, not the camera, that makes for a good photo... but a good camera doesn't hurt. I lent out my camera to Cathy under the boat and without any practice she got some good pictures of that puffer several posts back. I lent my camera (Canon G-9) out to my wife after her batteries pooped out on the first dive and she comes up with this right off the bat. Oooh, I've been trying to get a good shot of a Hawaiian Flame Angel for a long time and she gets it five minutes into the dive with an unfamiliar camera. OK, it wasn't the camera... it was her... and some luck - these fish are very flighty and usually dive into the coral the moment you get close enough to get a shot. Anyway, Pat really liked the camera (largely because of the large 3" LCD screen) and I wouldn't be surprised if we have a second Canon G9 in the household soon.

We've got a ton of diving coming up for about a month straight because of spring break stuff. It pretty much starts tonight for me and then I'll be quite busy for a while. On Sunday evening we're doing something that really isn't done all that often here... just a regular night dive. I had some people who wanted to skip the manta thing and just get out on the reef. Few operators here actually offer that as the manta dive is what Kona's known for even though the traditional night diving can be awesome here. I'm looking forward to it.



Thursday, March 13, 2008

Places to stay, finding a vacation rental in Kona, Hawaii and elsewhere....

I get inquiries through my business about places to stay when coming over here fairly frequently. Kona has lots of hotel options, what many people do not realize is how many condo, home and apartment options are available. Many people put up their unoccupied residences (there are a ton of part timers here) for rent through vacation rental services. There are many companies that do this, as well as many websites where the owners themselves list rentals.

We are big fans of We list our rental on it and have used it several times to book rentals for our own vacations. In many cases, if you are going to a resort/tourist area you can often find apartments or homes for comparable or lower pricing than many hotels. We just used it again to reserve a spot in Vegas for the dive show this fall... to my surprise, there are actually a few strip properties avaialable on We were able to book a unit at the MGM Signature (their luxury condos behind the hotel) for about 35% off rack rate, which puts them in line with, or lower than, a base room at many of the middle to high end resorts.

With VRBO you'll be dealing with individual owners generally, so you'll want to look at what they have to offer and look to see if there are comments and other information available to help you make your choice. Most of the listings often have links to their avaiability calendars and previous guest comments (although lack of comments may mean nothing as few people take the time to post them... we just had our renters say our place is the "cleanest place they've ever stayed at in Hawaii - two weeks and no ants or bugs" - hopefully we can get them to post one for our listing...) that you can browse through to answer some questions before contacting the owners.

Properties on can range from small studios to fancy estate style homes, and anywhwere in between. Anyway, there are lots of services out there that can help you get into something a little different than a hotel and it may be something worth checking into for those who want something other than the "resort" experience.

Here's a shot of a Flame Angel (Centropyge loriculus) that Pat took the other week. More on this fish in my next post....



Sunday, March 09, 2008

The Kona Classic 7 - an underwater photo and video festival, competition and seminars in May of 2008

There's an annual underwater photography event that's been held here in Kona for several years now that's supposed to be fun... so I thought I'd plug it.

This year it'll be held from May 24th through the 31st. Official sponsors for the event are Jack's Diving Locker, Kona Honu Divers, and Bottom Time. The event includes a week of diving along with seminars, photo critiques, social events and a competition with great prizes. It's a great opportunity to learn and develop some underwater photography skills. There will be several well known photo pros involved, who will be rotating on the boats of the official sponsors during the diving portion of the event as well as being present at the evening and social activities.

I'll be joining in on the fun myself as I've always wanted to do it but usually I've taken part of that week off to go elsewhere (slow season). It'll be a fun event and if anyone wants to join me on my boat I will be honoring the diving prices they've set up for the event. Since I'm not a sponsor this year I won't have a photo pro onboard, but we'll have the same access as everyone else after the dives. The cost of the event itself is $350 per person, which includes the receptions, a Body Glove evening cruise, all the seminars and more, with the dive operators having agreed to charge $650 for the diving for the week for participants.

As I know more I will post more information. Get yourself to Kona this May and take advantage of this opportunity.

The photo above is of a young Hawaiian Dragon Moray (Enchelycore pardalis) our divers found the other week. These spectacular eels have a lot of color in their faces and large hornlike tubes on thier foreheads. We've seen a couple of them lately so we're hoping to see more of them. I've yet to be lucky enough to have a camera in hand when I've seen them, this picture was forwarded by customer Melinda... thanks Mel.



Friday, March 07, 2008

Manta ray night snorkel in Kona Hawaii - swim with manta rays...

Wierd little video of people snorkeling with manta rays from Steve on Vimeo.

We've been pretty busy lately, I've got a lull coming for several days before the spring break rush kicks in for about a month.

Last night we did a manta dive. About half of our group was divers and the other half snorkelers. I posted plenty on this before, but this is a video of what it looks like to the boat Captains during the dives. The divers are down below in about 32-34 feet of water and the mantas spend their time between the divers on the bottom and the snorkelers on the surface. If you look real hard, you'll see brief instances where there's a real bright spot directly under a group or two of the snorkelers on the left side of the video about half way in... that's actually a manta ray doing belly rolls a foot or two below the snorkelers. It was kind of a bumpy night, so you'll notice the water isn't glass smooth, but it wasn't big surf by any means either.

The video doesn't do this justice, it's been listed as the world's top night dive, and people (last night included) come up raving about it. One of the best things about it is that it is also a great show for snorkelers.



Monday, March 03, 2008

Surf, Sand and Stars Buffet at the Four Seasons in Kona Hawaii

Surf, Sand and Stars Buffet at Four Seasons Kona Hawaii from Steve on Vimeo.

We went out for our big meal of the year this weekend. We went to the Four Seasons for their Saturday night beach buffet. It's a spendy (75/78 bucks or so a head) and very delicious meal. I'm getting old, so I restrained myself and only had 10 lobster tail halves, a couple pieces of steak, a bunch of lillikoi pork ribs, a pile of steamer clams, a few salads (I didn't know fried chicken could be a salad, but they had fried chicken salad... and here I'd been overlooking salads all this time) and a few deserts (the chocolate souffle was delicious)... I skipped the sushi table altogether. It's a delicious dinner, and even the kids at the place had fun... they break out a fairly sizeable telescope after dark.

Sometimes the video on the Canon G9 surprises me. I decided to see if it could handle the relatively low light at the buffet and it did just fine.

Scuba diving and protogynous hermaphrodites in Kona Hawaii...

Now there's a phrase that's probably not gonna be googled a lot. Something few people know is that several species of fish are actually hermaphroditic. In the case of these fish, Psychedelic Wrasses (Anampses chrysocephalus), they all start as females that form a harem under a dominant male. If the male ever disappears, then the dominant female will change sex and become a male.

Protogynous hermaphrodites go from female to male. The reverse is true in protandrous hermaphrodites. I suspect there are some Hawaiian fish that might do that, but you'd have to ask a marine biologist... but there are some recognizeable fish elsewhere that do just that. The most common ones I can think of are several of the clownfish (everyone seems to know them as "Nemo" these days) species. They start as male, and then the most dominant member becomes female as needed - this insures that if two young clownfish find each other they can successfully pair up and mate. Back in my aquarium shop days people would occasionally ask about why one of their clownfish wouldn't grow like the other one, that's the reason.

This group of wrasses was off one of our favorite dive sites yesterday and I got this shot with a bunch of females and the male in the same shot... too bad he's a bit blurry, but his brightly colored face still shows off very well.

Water temp yesterday was 75/76 - Yahoo! It jumped 2-3 degrees the last couple of weeks. We had an unusually early major south swell (been a rough, yet diveable, month) that apparently brought in warmer waters. It was very very flat water conditions the last couple of days, hopefully we're over most of our heavier winter swells.