I am a volunteer diver for the Shedd Aquarium. When I was telling my fellow divers I was going to Hawaii and asking them who should I dive with on the Big Island, the same name kept coming up - Kona Honu Divers. Keith Pamper, the Shedd's Diving Safety Officer recommended this operation to other divers who in turn told me. Well, Kona Honu lived up to its reputation.
Prior to leaving for Hawaii I had a number of emails with Maggie Anderson and she was very helpful in answering my many questions. Upon arriving at the dive shop I was impressed with the amount and variety of inventory it had. Staff was great in getting me scheduled for the dives me and my husband were doing.
On the morning I went to the shop to check in Kona Honu was running a whale watching trip. When I expressed interest in going they immediately called the Captain and told him I was coming. Within 15 minutes I was on the boat. Within 10 minutes of being on the boat John spotted spinner dolphins. While watching the dolphins I wistfully said I wished I could be in the water with them. John said why not? Frank, another helpful crew member, quickly found me mask, fins and snorkel and in I went! John had positioned the boat perfectly so that when I hit the water the dolphins swam right by me. Dolphins were all around me. I saw three pairs of mamas and babies. At one point two mamas and babies were within a arm's length of me! When I temporarily lost sight of the dolphins the crew shouted instructions so I could be back in the thick of things. It was an amazing experience I will freeze frame in my mind. When one is on a whale watching tour you don't expected to get to snorkel with dolphins but the Kona Honu crew made it happen.
On my first day of diving, owner Glenn Anderson was at the boat introducing himself to the divers and helping the crew ready the boat. While chatting with Glenn I discovered he lived in Chicago and worked in one of the dive shops I frequent. Small world! It was great to see that Glenn takes pride in his boat and crew. John Haut was our divemaster for the day and he was wonderful. He was very safe, maintained contact with all the divers and was great at pointing out critters and natural behaviors. I liked that he carried an erasable underwater slate so he could communicate really effectively with us. For example, he spotted an octopus in between two corals. When I saw he was motioning over the other divers and seemed pretty excited at his find I was thinking, yes, it is cool to see an octopus out in the daytime. So when I gave him a quizzical look he wrote on his slate "OCTO SEX". Only then was I able to see there was not one but TWO octopus there! Now that was cool!
My husband and went on the Manta night dive at Garden Eel Cove. On the way there we saw humpback whales. The crew obliged our desire to see them up close and we did! Fantastic!
There was a twilight dive first that was really good - lots of garden eels of course and an eagle ray but most of all a manta. So it was a good sign we would be seeing mantas on the night dive. John Hodson was our dive guide for the night and gave us a a really thorough dive briefing on what we were going to do on the manta dive. The way they set up the manta dive is pretty neat. On the twilight dive John put a basket of lights down on the bottom to draw in the mantas. We all get the same type of torch so it is uniform light. Then we arrange ourselves in a circle. Above us are snorkelers in a circle directing their lights down so we form a column of light. The crew turned the lights on and within 5 minutes some mantas were at the back of the boat!
For the next 40 minutes it was a manta ballet - 5 mantas swooping, summersaulting and flying past us. The mantas were so close to us we could see down their gill rakers. The crew is so familiar with the mantas they were able to identify each one. It was one of the most memorable dives of my life.
Needless to say, I highly recommend Kona Honu Divers!
Thanks guys for some awesome dives.