Postcard from the Reef – Caving

the Kona Coast is riddled with caves, old lava tubes, wave carved openings in ancient sea cliffs, or simple small openings in the coral. The caves are high on many diver’s priority lists when exploring the reef. In these caves you find many species that hide during the light of day, lobsters and night active fish. The larger caves offer a sheltered environment, safe from the pounding winter surf. The walls are covered with colorful sponges and the nudibranchs that feed on them.

If there is a cave, you will probably note my fins disappearing into it.

Olivier Martin exploring a cave at O’oma

Postcard from the Reef – Hawaiian Spiky Sea Cucumber

These sea cucumbers are well known to divers and can be found in the local guide books. There is no scientific name, the species has never been properly described. An odd state of affairs for a relatively common critter. As for the name? I could come up with a few other common names that seem to describe the appearance. However, naming a species after a pile of doo-doo is not generally acceptable.

Hawaiian Spiky Sea Cucumber
Hawaiian Spiky Sea Cucumber (Stichopus sp.) at 100ft depth off O’oma, the species is well known but undescribed in the literature

Postcard from the Reef – Pyramid Butterflyfish

You do not see these fish everywhere, just a few specific spots. But when you do see them, they are hovering in large schools. Exposed sites with large drop-offs are the usual places to find Pyramid Butterflyfish…

Pyramid Butterflyfish
Pyramid Butterflyfish (Hemitaurichthys polylepis) at 60ft, Black Point, Kohala

Postcard from the Reef – Red Reef Lobster

Supposedly common, I have been poking about in caves for over four years without seeing these attractive lobsters. In this cave were several of them. I caught this guy in a corner, he wanted to get past me, but could not get past the light. Good thing for him it isn’t lobster season.

Red Reef Lobster
Red Reef Lobster (Enoplometopus occidentalis) in a cave at 30ft off the Kohala Coast

Postcard from the Reef – Gold Lace

Endemic to the Hawaiian Islands the Gold Lace Nudibranch is common, very common. I find these critters nearly every time I poke my head into a cave along the Kohala coast. I was thrilled when I found my first one, but now? Still a pretty animal and worth an exposure or two.

Gold Lace Nudibranch
A Gold Lace Nudibranch (Halgerda terramtuentis) in a cave at 40ft depth, Malae Point

Postcard from the Reef – Surface

The needle on the air gauge is edging into the red, time to consider the inevitable. I must soon head for the surface, the end of the dive.

For over an hour I have lived in a world so different than the normal human existence. I have navigated in three dimensions, swimming not only down and around obstacles, but over them, sometimes hovering above the terrain. A breath in, maybe a breath out, I fine trim my buoyancy to glide up or down, maneuvering just inches above the coral. A few times in the dive I add or release air from the BCD to trim buoyancy. This is a form of locomotion so very different than walking on land. It is so much like flying that you can not help but to make the comparison.

I have no choice, my tank exhausted, I turn and head upwards. Just below the surface I hit the button, air hisses and the BCD fills, I am soon floating amongst the waves. Removing the regulator I take a first breath of un-bottled air. Looking about, I consider the blue water, the waves and beauty of the moment. It is nice to be back into the world above water. As I swim back to shore I wonder about getting a drink of water, maybe some food for my tired body. How soon can I download the memory card to check the photos? Was that last shot in focus?

There is always another thought… I roll and look downwards to the coral below… How soon will I be back?

Arrival at the surface to see a setting sun