My wife and I went tp Kona, Hawaii for ten days on our first “real” vacation since Covid started in March 2020. We wore “double masks” and flew United direct from LAX to KOA and felt relatively safe. We have been back for five days and neither of us has any symptoms so I’m hoping that we escaped unscathed. Hawaii is very strict when it comes to vaccination / proof of a negative Covid test, masks, etc. and so we felt as safe as we could in the midst of the Omicron variant. Given the nice climate in Hawaii, all of our meals were outdoors-ish on patios, etc. and, again, we felt relatively safe.
Enough about Covid, onto the diving…
I’ve been diving with a few different companies in Kona but almost always dive with Kona Diving Company (aka KDC). They run a great operation, are never rushed in the water, and are creature experts. I’m not a particularly good creature spotter but they are and always pay special attention to the many endemic species found in Hawaii. For this trip, I spent four days diving on their newer, smaller “6-pack” boat the Imi Kai. They generally use the Imi Kai for more advanced dives, drift dives, deeper dives, etc.
I highly recommend diving with Kona Dive Company if you are in the area. This isn’t a “sponsored post” and I don’t receive any discounts from them but I am a happy and repeat customer.
This was my first dive in a wetsuit in 2+ years and my first dive with a single Aluminum 80 tank in probably 4 years!
The water visibility was great (of course, it is all relative but after diving here in Southern California for the past two years, we get anything from 5 feet to 60+ feet and it change day-to-day). I find that the ocean is a particularly brilliant blue in Hawaii — likely due to the remoteness of the islands. Water temp was about 77 degrees and I wore a 5mm wetsuit and was still cold at the end of our longer dives.
I was traveling “light” so I only brought my regulator, dive computers, mask, and a GoPro with a single Big Blue VTL light. I was planning to see how well the GoPro 10 would do with single shot photography and also took some movies. I also played with a red-filter on the front of the camera housing for some of the pictures which didn’t involve artificial light (red wavelength is the first color to disappear as you dive and so a “trick” is to add some red back into the picture via filters).
Day 1 – Golden Arches & Black Hole
We were with DM Sara Keller and there was one other diver on board. We went to the Golden Arches area and then to a new site I had never been to called the Black Hole.
For the Golden Arches dive, we did it a little differently. We started at the south arch and then went “down slope” to a ghost net at about 100′ deep and then headed back up-slope and along the slope north until we got back up the North Arch and then headed back to the South Arch where the boat was on the mooring ball. The Arches are always fun, easy dives with plenty of critters to see and the chance for seeing bigger creatures out in the blue.
The Black Hole dive is through a natural “hole” in the rock that starts at about 50 feet and descends through to about 80 feet. After going down through the hole we explored the area around 80-90 feet for a while and then headed back up the slope and back to the boat. Instead of photos, I figured I would show two videos. The first is the swim from the mooring line to get to the Black Hole which gives a sense of the structure around the area formed by the lava. The second is the swim through the Black Hole. Both are downscaled to 480p.
Day 2 – Touch of Gray & Aquanaut
There was nobody else signed up for the “advanced” dives on the Imi Kai so I had to pay for the other seats to run the boat but what a joy it was. It was just me and DM Hailey Hawkins who I have been diving with on previous trips. When she asked where I wanted to go, I just simply said “whatever your favorite dive sites are.” Always trust the locals.
I have been to Touch of Gray a few times in the past. It is a site north of the airport that has very interesting structure and, in particular, a very nice natural arch into a grotto that often has baby sharks. Since there were only two of us, we did the dive slightly different by starting south of the main area, dropping down the slope and the going to parallel up to the area of the grotto. We then very slowly approached it as to not scare any sharks in the area. After a while, we went through the opening and hung out there for a little while before exploring further north and then inflating a SMB.
Aquanaut was a new site for me. It is a little further north from Touch of Gray and includes similar geographic structures. We did a live drop, swam out to the edge of the reef and then went north and parallel to the structure until we got to the end of our dive and again sent up a SMB for a live pickup. There is just a ton of sea-life in this general area.
Day 3 – Mantas & Unknown Site
For the third day of diving, we were out with DM Daniel Windberg. There were four of us diving on-board on that day. One of the divers had gone to see the famous mantas on the night dive two days earlier but had been skunked. Therefore, we went down to the same site where the mantas sometimes are “cleaned” by cleaner fish during the day. Daniel mentioned that if you move slow and don’t startle them, they might come close. At one point near the end of the dive, we had six or seven mantas all circling around us. What a thrill.
For the second dive, we went back north towards the harbor and dove a site called something like “Kuleko Harbor” but I’m honestly not entirely sure of the name.
Day 4 – Beechcraft Airplane & Predator Landing Craft
I have written about both of those dives already so I will just include a couple pictures below.
Hailey and I had a great day diving. She has been in Kona for 8 years and had never been on the airplane site before so it was a new experience for her as well. If you have the experience and you like wrecks, I highly recommend trying to get to see the airplane.