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Dive Review of Kohala Divers and Dive Makai/Fairmont Orchid in
Hawaii/Big Island

July, 2008, an Instant Reader Report by Joshua Deerman, CA, USA (1 report)
Report Number 4222
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Reporter and Travel
Dive Experience
26-50 dives
Where else diving
Southern California, French Polynesia
Closest Airport
Getting There


Dive Conditions

calm, surge, no currents  
Water Temp
78   to 80    Fahrenheit  
Wetsuit Thickness
Water Visibility
75   to 85    Feet  
Dive Policy
Dive own profile
Enforced diving restrictions  
Keep DM within sight.  Notify DM when half your psi is used up, then again
at 700 psi.  DM would lead you back to the mooring line to do your safety
stop, allowing others to continue on.  
Nitrox Available?
What I saw
1 or 2 
1 or 2 
Whale Sharks
> 2 
Ratings 1 (worst)- 5 (best):
  4 stars
Tropical Fish
5 stars  
Small Critters
  4 stars
Large Fish
3 stars  
Large Pelagics
  2 stars
Underwater Photography  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
Subject Matter
Boat Facilities
Overall rating for UWP's  
Shore Facilities  
Ratings and Overall Comments  1 (worst)- 5 (best):
4 stars
3 stars
Service and Attitude
5 stars
Environmental Sensitivity  
Dive Operation
5 stars  
Shore Diving  
3 stars  

Overall Rating

Value for $$
5 stars   
3 stars    
 Thursday morning I hopped in the car for a quick 15 minute drive north to
Kohala Divers' shop. Boat had plenty of covererd and uncovered seating,
marine head on board and lots of space for gear. We moored for our first
dive off of Puako at a site called Paniao. The underwater topography of
lava arches and swim throughs allowed for plenty of exploring. A big thank
you goes to DM Stephen for taking me to see the white tipped reefie in its
    After this dive we motored over to our second dive site which was also
off of Puako. The bottom sloped down to a sandy flat area, where we watched
a colony of garden eels.  This area is also a turtle cleaning station and
there were two hovering mid-water with their flippers down and enjoying
some grooming.  There were a few species here that I didn't see on the
previous dive including Moorish Idol, Potter's Angelfish and Puffers. 
 Friday I drove down to Honokohau Harbor to check in with Dive Makai. David
and Mark loaded my gear on the boat and the four other divers and myself
boarded.  Just outside the harbor entrance we were greeted by a pod of
Hawaiian Spinner Dolphin. Our DM for this dive, David, gave a very thorough
site briefing including what to look for, where to find them, and behaviors
to look for. There was more surge here and the vis was not as good as
yesterday but it still beat the best day of shore diving here in San Diego
by miles.  I had to cut short what should have been another great dive
after about 30 minutes. Apparently I stopped clearing my ears, not
realizing I was still increasing in depth. I've never experienced ear pain
like that.  Some highlights from this short dive:  Soldierfish hanging out
in the caves, nudibranchs and Spanish Dancer eggs that looked like a red
rose stuck the the underside of a ledge.  
    Second dive was at Turtle Arches.  Luckily my ear pain and pressure was
gone by this time.  We moored right next to the Kona Aggressor. Mark was
our DM this time and after another thorough briefing I made a nice sloooow
descent along the mooring line making sure to clear my ears the whole way.
The highlight for this dive was the BIG male Hawaiian Green Sea Turtle. 
This guy did not seem to mind being surrounded by all us divers.  He even
hung around the dome port of one of the Aggressor divers. We were told
after surfacing that male turtles are not seen as frequently as females so
we really lucked out. 
 Woke up Saturday morning with anticipation for what I was hoping would be
the event of the trip - Manta night dive. Drove down to Dive Makai's boat
the Lio Kai III. I met up with the same four guys from yesterday plus
another diver who would be making his first ocean dives.  The DM's this
time were David again and Mike, owner of Dive Makai.  We motored up to
Garden Eel Cove which would be our dive site for the evening.  Mike took us
for a great pre-sunset dive to acquaint us with the area before tonight's
main event.  Garden Eel Cove is a large coral covered reef that slopes down
to a sandy flat at about 60 feet.  The flats are home to of course Garden
Eels.  We also spotted flounder, Razor Wrasse, Hawaiian Knifefish and other
bottom dwellers.  Some other fish species of note which we saw were Black
Long-nosed Butterflyfish and incredibly colorful and ornate Oval
   After spending our surface interval watching the sun sink into the
Pacific Ocean we geared up for our night dive. As there were no Mantas yet,
David took us on a cruise around the reef where we saw some free-swimming
eels, Slipper Lobster, Coral Banded Shrimp and other nightime reef
dwellers.  After about 30 Manta-free minutes our little group was swimming
off in the direction of our mooring line when just to our left the star of
the night came swimming past us in the opposite direction. We immediately
turned around and followed her back towards the lights.  I say
"her" as I did not see any claspers on the ray's underside.  We
joined the circle of divers and settled on the rocky floor.  Watching this
big animal swim so gracefully, looping and diving while feeding was truly
awe-inspiring.  Every time she swam right above my head I had the biggest
smile and if it is possible to laugh in your regulator I'm sure I did.   
 As you can probably tell I had a fantastic time diving the Big Island.  We
had great vis, 80 degree water, an incredible variety of marine life, big
and small animals.  I was pleasantly surprised at how much coral there was
as I'd been told otherwise about Hawaii.  
   I recommend both Kohala Divers and Dive Makai.  The crews were helpful,
knowledgeable, gave thorough safety and site briefings and made the diving
a pleasure.  Divers were allowed to surface when they reached the pre
determined psi.  We always dove as a group but were able spread out and
explore on our own as long as the guide was kept in sight.  Of the two, I
would give Dive Makai an edge based on the fact that diving with them felt
like diving with friends.  David, Mark and Mike all taught me things about
Hawaii's marine life that I did not know and their genuine concern for the
well-being of Hawaii's marine ecosystem and their way of imparting that to
others impressed me. 
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Note: The information here was reported by the author above, but has NOT been reviewed nor edited by Undercurrent prior to posting on our website. Please report any major problems by writing to us and referencing the report number above.

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