Since this is my first blog, I thought I’d start off with one of my bucket list scuba diving experiences: Diving with dolphins!
I have always wanted to visit the Big Island of Hawaii. My sister lives in Hilo and used to show me videos of her adventures there. As an avid scuba diver, I knew my adventure in Hawaii would be great.
Growing up in Southern California, there is a natural tendency to love the ocean. I was no exception. When I was little, I developed an obsession with dolphins. Sweet 16? Forget it. I wanted to go swim with dolphins so my parents took me to Sea World, San Diego to do just that. After becoming scuba certified at the age of 17, every boat ride in the ocean took on new meaning. I began wondering “what could be right below us right now?”.
My adventure to the Big Island of Hawaii began with a couple of dives in Hilo. I received a guided tour from a local divemaster. I saw so many green sea turtles!
Next, I was off to Kona for a few days of diving with Big Island Divers. My very first day diving in Kona, I dove with dolphins, tiger sharks, and manta rays! Now, I told you my bucket list item for scuba was diving with dolphins. As soon as we were out of the harbor on the boat, the excitement grew strong as we were greeted by spinner dolphins playing on the surface. When we reached our nearby dive site, the captain recommended we get in the water quickly as the dolphins usually don’t stick around too long and it’s rare to see them while diving.
Diving with Dolphins
Much to my surprise, as soon as I got into the water, I hear the clicking and whistling sounds characteristic of dolphins. There I was sitting in the middle of the water column, nothing but that beautiful ocean blue to stare at and listening to the sounds of dolphins that I could not see. Then, out of nowhere, that first glimpse of something moving in the distance… it was a pod of dolphins!
They were coming right for me! The dolphins swam in and around our group, dancing with us. They looked so happy and content with life. I was smiling so hard my regulator was popping out of my mouth. That feeling of happiness cannot be explained only felt. I hope if you are a diver that you too have had that moment while diving. Check out my video here!
So after my first dive of the day with dolphins, we continued onto the harbor area where they were spotting tiger sharks the past month. Again, the crew said it’s rare to see them so no promises. We were gearing up to get in the water, and again, spinner dolphins on the surface! They were a sight to see. Unfortunately, they did not join us on that dive. However, after dropping down to the reef and seeing a really cool purple octopus, there it was… a tiger shark!
In my video, you can hear the divemaster scream with excitement. As I sat there, I thought “wow, this is really exciting”. I then realized “wait that’s a tiger shark!” and secretly hoped it would just continue on its way. It did. I am not surprised.
Sometimes sharks in the wild come check us out while diving, but for the most part they stay away. That is why divers are ecstatic when sharks come say “hi”. As a volunteer at my local aquarium, I can attest to that as I dive with sharks on a regular basis, but that is another story for another time.
Manta Ray Night Dive
After my first two dives in Kona, I was beyond excited. Seeing dolphins and tiger sharks was well beyond my expectations. I had a few hours for a surface interval before my twilight dive and night dive with manta rays. Night diving with manta rays is a big ticket item for those visiting Kona. However, as these animals are wild, their appearance cannot be guaranteed. I was lucky. I heard that the week I was there, they were seeing them every day.
First, we did the twilight dive. We saw some eagle rays and garden eels and a lot of fish. Then, a big dark mass was coming at us from above. A manta ray! He was early, but gracefully swam above us and moved on. This was promising for the night dive. After a brief surface interval, we were gearing up for the night dive with the manta rays. While on the boat, we received a great introduction to the conservation efforts of the manta rays taking place in Kona and how they track them. While learning these facts, a huge manta ray, not kidding, bigger than the boat, was swimming just below us. I have heard manta rays can reach 23 feet or so, but I didn’t believe I would ever see something so massive yet beautiful.
Before I knew it, we were off to descend to our “campfire” as they referred to it, about 30 feet below the surface. All the local dive shops participating drop big dive lights in the sand. The divers sit around in a circle. Most of us plopped rocks on our legs to keep us stable. Then, the plankton start to appear then some fish then manta rays!
On my trip they counted around 35 manta rays total that came to visit us. They came so close I had to hold my camera down or they would run into it. I am pretty sure I was slightly grazed by one or two of these beautiful creatures. After about 45 minutes of watching the amazing manta ray “dance” we were surfacing to end the dive. There were still manta rays everywhere! What a sight and something I will never forget.
One side note, my first impression descending on the reef was one of sorrow for how dead it seemed. The need to help restore and protect the coral reefs is evident everywhere we dive. Please help efforts to save the reefs in your local area or support one abroad. The reefs provide so much to the ecosystem of the ocean, and we need to preserve it for the health of our ocean and the quality of our lives!
So there you go. My first day diving in Kona, I had 4 amazing dives with dolphins, tiger sharks, octopus, eels, eagle rays, and manta rays! The next few days were amazing as well with some drift diving and exploring other local dive sites. However, nothing could beat that first day. During the boat rides, we also were lucky to spot some beaked whales, and an endangered Hawaiian monk seal was spotted basking in the sun on shore. Kona: amazing diving!