Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Kona Hawaii is blessed with a lot of the best snorkeling and scuba diving in the state. There's lots of great snorkeling and lots of people love it. If you're one of those people, keep intro dives in mind. With a short briefing and practice of a few skills on and just below the surface with a qualified instructor, you can be diving in no time.
Pretty much all the dive companies offer intro dives off of their boats. Due to the fact that Kona has excellent reefs next to shore, with drop offs and both deep and shallow water near the boat moorings, it's easy to put both intro divers and experienced divers on the same boat, give them separate instructors or guides, and tour the reef without interfering with each other's dive experience.
As an intro diver you'll be with an instructor at all times. You'll be shown a video or a flip chart explaining the what's, why's and how's of scuba diving, then do some practice before diving. Once everyone's comfortable with their skills,it's time to dive!!! Whoohoo!!! You'll generally be diving the very same reefs the experienced divers are diving, but there are some depth and other restrictions. Depth limit for intros with an instructor is to 40', most all of our best fish and reef life is in the top 40' of water so this works great. 40' sounds scary for some, but generally it's the top 10-20 feet where the nerves kick in if there are any apprehensions. Once down to the bottom of the moorings, most intro divers calm right down and are comfortable in quick order.... they're usually too amazed to be nervous by that point.
My recommendation to anyone curious about trying scuba for the first time is to plan the outing ahead, leave a couple days in advance open to get some snorkeling in... snorkeling in the days prior to intro dives increases the success rate immensely... and plan on having lots of fun! Standards can vary from dive agency to dive agency, but the biggest one allows up to 4 intro divers per instructor. I try to limit it to 3 intro divers per instructor on my charters, and I typcially don't mix groups with an instructor, so if there are only 2 of you, expect an instructor for yourselves and don't worry about extra divers competing for the instructor's attention. I reserve the right, if there's only 1 student, to add another student if the opportunity arises, but I think that's happened only once in the years I've been doing intros off my boat.
I'm not sure what other companies price their intros at, but I currently charge $189 for a single, or $159 each for two or more, for intro dives (September of '10, prices could change at some point down the line). That's 2 boat dives (we typically move for the second dive), all the gear, a light lunch and beverages and such, and the instruction. Other than Hawaii's 4.166% tax, it's all included in the price.
It's a great experience for most people that are comfortable snorkelers. If you're in the water a lot on your vacation, you might want to call a dive company (pick me, pick me) and give it a shot. Advance notice is helpful, it's a good idea to call or e-mail before the trip as there is a medical history waiver that may require a physician's signature involved... once you get to a certain age it's easy to have a health history that might need a signature, better to find out ahead of time than having to play the fax game back and forth with your doctor on short notice.
This is a great way to find out if you're interested in going for a scuba certification without any time or financial committments. If you decide you want to get certified after trying intro dives, you've pretty much done the hardest part (getting underwater that first time) and the class should be much easier after the experience.
Here's an underwater photo of a spotted puffer I saw while diving for fun on my day off yesterday. I found it interesting as it was quite golden brown, compared to the usual black with white spots we usually see.