A Perfect Day for a Dive

It really was one of those perfect days to live in Hawaii.

First stop on the way was to get some air. Our tanks were empty, something we needed to change. This was accomplished at The Scuba Shack, a great dive shop just below Costco on the Kaloko business park. It is a funky place, with anything and everything a diver needs. One of the best services offered is quick fills… In and out in about five minutes with two full tanks of air, $5 each.

Relaxing After the Dive
Relaxing after the dive at O’oma, Patti, Mark, Deb and Kirk (left to right)
We met up with the usual gang at O’oma. Mark had suggested we try a dive just north of what the surfers call Pine Trees. The area is classic Big Island beach… Drive along the shore over sand and lava, check out the surfers enjoying a small swell over the breaks, smell the barbeques from families set up for a weekend on the beach.

The dive site we used is right where the O’oma development road hits the water. Opposite the access road is a small lava point. Just north of this point is a dive mooring called Golden Arches. The choice was simply excellent. We followed Mark to a big lava ledge right at water level, from which we could drop off into 15′ of crystal clear water. We immediately dubbed the launch point the “Swimming Pool”, for the similarity to dropping off the edge of a pool.

Conditions were beautiful, deep blue water under a cloudless sky. Conditions under water were just as good, with easy 100+ visibility. The terrain here was similar to many North Kona and Kohala sites, cross the shallows to a ledge at about 20′ that drops to 40′, a sheer wall pocked with caves. This feature is so common along this coast I have come to believe we are looking at an old shoreline, with caves carved by the surf during a period of lower sea levels. Perhaps this old shoreline was carved during the Pleistocene, it would match with the age of many of the volcanic features in the area.

Another fifty yards out from the shelf the reef slope breaks for the abyss, a steep slope dropping into intense dark blue water. It is one of those places where you have to remember your limits. As we explored the deep slope I found myself in a garden of wire coral. I was moving from coral to coral looking for wire coral gobies or shrimp to photograph when I looked at my depth gauge. Oops!! I was at 140′! Time to head back up the slope for more reasonable depths. Deb notes her computer started beeping at her at 130′, mine did not, a feature to look for when shopping for a dive computer.

Hawaiian Spiky Sea Cucumber
Hawaiian Spiky Sea Cucumber (Stichopus sp.) at 100ft at O’oma, the species is well known but undescribed in the literature
At around 100′ I happened across a species of sea cucumber that was new to me. It looked like… Well? A pile of crap. Deb called it a coyote dropping, a coyote eating cactus fruit. I can not argue with her. It turns out to be a Hawaiian Spiky Sea Cucumber. Generally found below 75′ the species is well known to divers, plenty of photos out there on the web. However, it has never been properly described in the literature and has no scientific name.

Returning to 40′ we explored the wall, finding eels, banded coral shrimp, and a couple colorful flatworms. The last half of the dive was spent just working along that sheer 20′ high wall, in and out of small crevices. The area was more productive photographically than the base of the reef 100′ below.

Despite dropping to record depths, a new personal record at least, we still got in a decent length dive, about fifty minutes. As we swam to shore we located one of the arches the site is named for. There were also a few inviting caves in the old shoreline to check out. I could only look at my air gauge and plan to visit the caves next time to the site. There will be a next time, we all agreed this site needs to be further explored. Easy to get to, a nice entry into the water, and great reef to explore.

Author: Andrew

An electrical engineer, amateur astronomer, and diver, living and working on the island of Hawaiʻi.

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