This past spring during my Open Water certification course, my instructor asked me where I wanted to dive once I was certified, and I immediately responded with an excited, “I want to dive with the manta rays off of the Big Island in Hawaii.”
When the time came to make a reservation I took to the internet to do some research. Of course, one of the first places that I stopped was my absolute favorite travel blog, Alex in Wanderland. Alex recommended Kona Diving Company for the top-notch equipment, abundance of food, and the awesome staff. After also checking out Hawaii Revealed and Trip Advisor, I decided
to take the plunge (sorry for the terrible pun 🙂 ), to take the recommendation from Alex, and dive with Kona Diving Company.
Because this was my first open water dive, I obviously do not have a lot of experience with different dive boats, but I can say that this day was one of the best days of my entire life!
We arrived at the Honokohau Marina and were greeted with friendly faces and a warm Aloha as we boarded the boat and met our Captain, Captain “Shaggy,” and our two divemasters, David and Jordan. Before heading out of the harbor, Captain Shaggy quickly-yet-thoroughly went over the safety briefing and informed us of where the life-jackets, fire extinguisher, and restrooms could be found. It was then time to head to our first dive location and en route David took a moment to review all of the dive gear and safety procedures–while the thorough explanation of the dive gear reminded me of my Open Water course, I appreciated his attention to detail.
Our first dive location was a small lagoon known as Garden Eel Cove. Black rock sea cliffs surrounded the backside of the cove and the turquoise water was so crystal clear that we could see the colorful reef over 20 feet down.
I looked around the cove and noticed four other dive boats all packed with divers. Our dive boat had ten people–four staff, and six divers/snorkelers and I truly believe that this personal experience with a smaller group helped to make the evening so magical.
The majority of our first dive was spent exploring the beautiful reef. Staghorn coral, brain coral, clubbed finger coral, and lettuce coral of all different shapes and sizes created an amazing backdrop against the kaleidoscope of colorful fish who call this reef “home.” Sea urchins, snails, sea cucumbers, and small eels were scattered throughout the reef and all kinds of tropical fish swam nearby.
The deepest part of our dive was around 70 feet, which is the deepest I’ve gone so far. We went down into the sand in order to check out the namesake of the location: The Garden Eels. I was a kind of creeped out by these little critters because I’m not a huge fan of snakes (or eels for that matter), but I quickly learned that I had nothing to fear. The Garden Eels live in the sand and are very shy; they were much more scared of me than I was of them. In fact, if you get too close they disappear into the sand and as you move away they reappear. It was incredible to watch.
Photo credit: Dallon’s Blog (click on the link to check out his awesome photos)
During our dive we spotted a Hawaiian Honu (turtle) near the reef and back up on the boat we were told that turtles are not very common in this area–little did we know this was only the beginning of our good luck, it would continue well into the evening…
Up next: Our Manta Ray Night Dive