Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Getaway to Oahu

With Summer almost here and the kids watching movies in school it seemed like a perfect time to sneak over to Oahu for a long weekend. We stayed with friends, but the real reason for the trip was to get in a few days of diving.

There are a lot of dive ops on Oahu, but I knew I'd made the right choice to go with Island Divers in Hawaii Kai as soon as I pulled into the parking lot, saw the Sea Fox parked right behind the shop and L&L Drive-In right next door.

For those of you who don't know L&L Drive-In, it's one of the very best places to get great local food in the islands. We ended up having lunch there every day. I recommend the garlic shrimp, and the teriyaki beef plate lunch is hard to beat.

Dive ops on Oahu offer both morning and afternoon boat dives. So we had the option of sleeping in, having a relaxed breakfast, and then heading over to Hawaii Kai at about 11:30am, just in time for lunch at L&L.

When we got to the islands the weather was hot and muggy from Kona Wind, and there was a lot of vog in the air from the Big Island volcano. However, Kona Weather is really great for diving, with calm seas and basically no wind.

Here is the Sea Fox loading divers on Sunday afternoon.



We dropped Saturday onto the sunlit, circular porches of low reef off Hawaii Kai called "Koko's Crater." We descended onto intermittent sand channels and reef in about 35 feet of 77-degree water with about 50' viz, and wandered around looking at leaf scorpionfish, three different types of eels, and the usual assortment of colorful butterflies.

About a third of the way into our dive the DM, Judi, brought us to the large reef platform on which sits a Buddha statue. Naturally we all had to rub the Buddha's belly.

Our next dive was at "Turtle Canyons," a site featuring large reef walls with sand channels in the hollows between. We were rewarded for snooping around under ledges when we found a very large turtle trying to get some solitude. We moved on across the reef and immediately we stumbled on a very large Eel sitting about 8 inches out of his hole. He was waving in the current like a garden eel, except much bigger and with a very large mouth, which he didn't mind displaying to anyone dumb enough to get too close.

On Sunday the trade winds had come back up a bit and brought relief from the mugginess of the preceding days, but not enough to disturb the surface so the water remained calm until a small chop appeared in the late afternoon.

We took advantage of the great weather and Captain Scotty pointed the Sea Fox toward Diamond Head. We stopped just on the Kahala side of the extinct volcano at a spot called "Fantasy Reef." This was a spectacular site featuring large outcroppings of coral and rock with sheer walls and extending roughly north - south. In between the coral ledges were white sand channels.

We swam with our DM, Matt, on about a 30 degree heading toward the island and along one of the large coral dikes. Suddenly ahead we could see a hole in the wall where two expanses of reef came together. It was a very small arch, actually, providing the tiniest clearance off the bottom.

A bit later in the dive we encountered a cylindrical depression in the reef. A lava tube, and like the ones at Sheraton Caverns on Kauai, it had a branch tunnel leading off under the rock. On the other side we emerged into a small canyon with steep sides. Ahead of us on the north wall was a turtle pressed up against the coral.

After turning back we cruised along one of the walls and marveled at the intricate patterns and texture on the coral and rock face. Inside little holes were small eels, a zebra eel and a snowflake eel. I came around a corner and out from under an outcropping swam a large puffer fish.

Current was getting stronger as we approached the boat, and divers were grasping at the tag line. Eventually everyone pulled their way to the stern, climbed up the ladder and began the process of organizing their gear for the ride home.

Later that night we dined on take out from Mekong II, that we'd picked up on the way back to the house. Have I ever said that diving makes you hungry? There wasn't much left for the cats that night, and we slept without packing for the trip home the next day.

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