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

Kohala Divers and Dive Makai/Fairmont Orchid, Jul, 2008,

by Joshua Deerman, CA, USA ( 1 report). Report 4222.

Reporter and Travel

Dive Experience 26-50 dives
Where else diving Southern California, French Polynesia
Closest Airport Getting There

Dive Conditions

Weather sunny Seas calm, surge, no currents
Water Temp 78 to 80 Fahrenheit Wetsuit Thickness 3
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.
Liveaboard? no Nitrox Available? N/A

What I Saw

Sharks 1 or 2 Mantas 1 or 2
Dolphins None Whale Sharks None
Turtles > 2 Whales None
Corals 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 N/A Boat Facilities N/A
Overall rating for UWP's N/A Shore Facilities N/A
UW Photo Comments [None]

Ratings and Overall Comments 1 (worst) - 5 (best):

Accommodations 4 stars Food 3 stars
Service and Attitude 5 stars Environmental Sensitivity N/A
Dive Operation 5 stars Shore Diving 3 stars
Snorkeling N/A
Value for $$ N/A
Beginners 5 stars
Advanced 3 stars
Comments 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 cave.
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 Butterflyfish.
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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