Monday, August 11, 2008

Which Hawaiian island is the best for scuba diving? Is it Oahu, Maui, Kauai, or the Kona side of the Big Island?

I may be biased, I'll bet you can guess my answer....

So I see this question come up occasionally on the scuba diving message boards. There's usually a bunch of responses by people who've only dove one island pushing for that island. I think in reality, diving almost anywhere in Hawaii beats the heck out diving in a lake or quarry somewhere back in North America.

I have done some limited diving on Maui and Lanai and Oahu, and I get a lot of customers coming here after diving on the other islands, and while the other islands do have their strengths, it's tough to match the diving we have here in Kona. I'll make a brief case...

Geologically the Big Island is much younger than the other islands... we're talking millions of years, not hundreds or thousands... so we've got fewer rivers and streams for runoff (Kona has NO permanent streams) and less sand to cloud things up when a storm passes by... so the day to day viz in Kona is tough to match as rain does not affect our visability here. Less sand means fewer beaches, so that can be a problem for some people, although we do have some very nice beaches here if you care to look for them, but rocky shores means clear water, which is great for the diving crowd. Being geologically younger, erosion hasn't had the time to shrink the island and create a widespread fringe reef, but that means at nearly all of our dive sites you can find both shallow reef AND dropoffs into deep water without having to cover a lot of distance... this can be great fun for divers who like a variety of terrain.

The Big Island also has more healthy reef surrounding it than the other islands... This recent report has 57% of the Big Island surrounded by reefs, the bulk of which is on the Kona side, while the other islands are averaging about 20% (I'd have to find another link on the report to show you that, and I'm feeling lazy today, it's out there in all the NOAA links).

Water condition-wise, Kona is unique in the Hawaiian islands in that we have a couple of great big volcanoes that block the tradewinds. What that does is basically gives us relatively flat water all day long, whereas in many diving areas elsewhere in the state you've got the trades kicking up wind chop and swell by noon or earlier that affects the viz and can make for a crummy boat ride back to port. I'm not saying we don't have our crummy days, but you can count on big wind several days a week, not several days a year like here, in many parts of the state. In winter months the other islands to the north and west of us often block out a good portion of the winter storm swells, which can make for OK to great diving conditions here while others aren't so lucky.

Dive operator-wise, Kona has a bunch of good ones. You should be able to find one that meets your needs. If you're looking for a 6 pack boat (6 passengers max, we'll go with as few as two on day dives) with plenty of shade, generous dive profiles and bottomtimes, a sandwich lunch along with snack crackers and trailmix and beverages, as well as very experienced dive guides that know their critters, please consider us and click on the Wanna Dive links in the sidebar of this page.

I could go on and on about why the Big Island is a great place for a vacation... and maybe some day I will... but that'll have to be saved for another day.

I was looking through a few photos I took a couple months ago and I'd forgotten I'd taken this one... it's cool if you know what you're looking at. Since we have dropoffs at most of our dive sites we'll see the deep water predators such as Jacks and Uluas come into the reef looking for prey. This Bluefin Trevally (Caranx melampygus) is activly soliciting a hunting partner - the small Whitemouth Moray (Gymnothorax meleagris) underneath him. The eel was cooperative, although I didn't manage to get a picture of it out actively hunting with the trevally (they move too quickly). When these two species work together, they'll swim along at the same speed and the eel will go through holes to potentially flush something out(or in from the trevally). We see several species of fish hunting together here on a reasonably frequent basis. Multiple species of fish hunting together is referred to as nuclear hunting.

This post sort of says "advertisement" all over it, but I really do believe Kona's the spot to dive in Hawaii if you want to dive. We had a couple on the boat last week who were quite quoteable (they referred to my boat as "beautiful" and "10 times way better than the skiffs we usually dive off of in the Carribean" - also they were very complimentary of Cathy's guide and critter finding skills). They'd done a significant amount of diving in the Carribean and had dove Maui several years back and were apparently quite unimpressed. Well, they were here for several days and decided to give Kona a day of diving... afterwards they'd said the dives had completly changed their opinion of Hawaiian diving. Kona's definitly got some great diving.



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