Postcard from the Reef – A Beautiful Sunday

A very nice day. True, the weather was not great, scattered clouds and vog in Kona. It was a great day to be underwater. We dove Pipe Dreams and Hoover’s Tower, for a pair of pleasant dives on a Sunday.

Pete was playing with a new toy, a very nice Fix housing for his G12 with a wide angle dome. The results are some very nice photos

Pipe Dreams
The author diving the intake pipes at OTEC, photo by Pete Tucker

Kakapa Bay

Access is through the Hualalai Resort. You must check in at the security shack just off the highway at the southern entrance, just 1/4 mile south of the main entrance to the resort. There you get a beach pass from the guard and head down to the public parking area. Get directions from security, you have to double back and take a right. There are only so many public parking spaces available, to ensure entry just get there early, arrival before 8am is pretty much guaranteed access.

Kakapa Bay Entry
The entry point for diving at Kakapa Bay
From the parking area a nice concrete path leads to the Kukio Bay beach, a few hundred yards further north along the shoreline. The beach is not where you want to go! The beach is on Kukio Bay, we want Kakapa on the south side of the point. Divers only need walk a short distance to the dive entry into Kakapa bay, a good thing when weighed down by tanks, weights, and in a wetsuit.

A small sign noting the presence of public restrooms at the beach is the marker to turn off the path and head straight to the water. Head to the little inlet where a small point of rock creates a protected pool where you can finish gearing up and swim. The pool is deeper towards to the right and the small rocky point.

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Killer Tacos

Killer Tacos is not a tourist place. Hidden back in one of the little business strips in the old industrial park it is not likely to be found by wandering visitors.

Killer Tacos
The service counter at Killer Tacos, Kona
We often find ourselves looking for lunch in North Kona. Target, Pet Smart, and more, this is where the stores are, this is where we go shopping. There are a number of eating places in the Kona Commons shopping center, where we have often eaten in the past. This time Deb remembered another option, why not give it a try?

You can find Killer Tacos a couple blocks behind Target on Luhia, just past the four way stop at Kaiwi. Look makai for a busy little place in the middle of a strip mall of other, more industrial, businesses.

Killer Tacos
The storefront of Killer Tacos, Kona
The shop is a little reminiscent of mainland chains like Chipoltle Grill, with much the same basic concept. Bins and tubs of ingredients served in either tortillas or tacos, assembled in front of you the way you like it. It is a good formula, it works. As long as the ingredients are good the end product is good. No problems at Killer Taco.

When asked what meat I wanted my burro filled with I said “carnitas”. This received a funny look. Pork? Oh! I found it fun that staff serving Mexican food did not know the Spanish names of the items they were selling. Years past I often enjoyed eating Mexican meals in south Tucson, sometimes at places where you could not order without ordering in Spanish. This is however Hawai‘i after all. I continued to order in Spanish, it became a game, the gals behind the counter having fun trying to remember what each of the items was. Mexican food not made by Mexicans? It didn’t matter, it was still good food.

The food was a nice surprise, the prices were also a pleasant surprise. I suspect that not having to pay rent in a fancy neighborhood is an advantage. A meal for two cost us about what I would have expected to pay for myself alone. Fourteen dollars for two lunches and drinks. Good food, decent prices, and substantial portions… I may just be back here if I need a meal in North Kona.

Christmas Eve Diving

What else would I do on a Christmas Eve? Go shopping? Not really my ideal plan for the day. What about going diving? Not a bad idea at all…

Pete and I had already planned to go diving, but the plan had been to go shore diving somewhere. Then Dennis extended an invitation to join him on the boat, a gracious invitation we quickly accepted. As a result, the morning of the 24th saw us leaving Honokohau Harbor looking for a dive site to try.

Facing the Deep
Pete attempting to photograph garden eels at the base of the reef at Eel Cove
The surf was definitely up a bit, with a long swell rocking the boat and breakers hitting the rocks. Conditions in the water were pretty nice, visibility to near 100ft and just a gentle surge to be felt nearer the shore.

We did not go far from the harbor. First choice was a dive site called Sharkfin Rock just off Old Airport Park about two miles south of Honokohau. It is always a good sign when you can see the bottom 60 feet below through the blue water. Just inshore from the mooring a few surfers enjoyed the breaks along the park. Except for the one bodyboarder who was yelling at us to stop blocking his waves, as if a mere boat can have any significant effect on waves of any real size!

Strobe Effects
Pete imitating an old fashioned photographer with his strobe held away from the camera
The second site was a spot even closer to the harbor, a site called Eel Cove. The little indent in the shoreline that is right at the tip of the peninsula that protects Honokohau Harbor from the south. It is a very exposed site that drops off steeply. The cove offered just a bit of protection from the southerly swell and gave access to great diving conditions.

Eel Cove Profile
A typical Hawaiian dive profile, start deep and work your way up
The sites we dove this day allow access to deep water, we dropped to the base of the coral reef and explored our way up the slope. At Eel Cove there were indeed garden eels below 80ft on the sand slope. We dropped down to see them for a few minutes before heading back up the slope.

We found nothing truly unusual.. There were a number of nice encounters with reef regulars, some uncommon species of butterflyfish, a large day octopus, a young whitemouth moray. The second site at Eel cove was definitely one of the fishiest sites I have seen in quite a while. A lot of young fish to be seen. I expect the the more exposed site offers good feeding opportunities and less abuse from the aquarium collectors. I got a few good photos, particularly of the octopus. I have not seen what results Pete got from his efforts.

The day was simply a nice day to be out on the water, with good dive conditions that provided two nice dives. In the end I did do a little shopping. A stop at Costco was convenient as it is right above the harbor. There I grabbed a quick lunch and a couple things to keep our refrigerator stocked over the holiday.

Three Dives on a Holiday Weekend

We managed three dives last weekend. It was a holiday weekend, Kamehameha Day, that helped. But still, we average a couple dives a month, three dives in a weekend was a bit unusual. We dove with some friends at Pukao on Saturday. Then two more on the following Monday. This was conservative, a few of the guys dove on Sunday too!

Diver Down
Diver Mark Devenot cruising the reef at Hoover’s Towers north of Honokohau
Monday’s diving was with Dennis. Again he invited us out on his boat. The Aqua Safari is quite comfortable, a 42′ cabin cruiser outfitted for diving. There are plenty of tank racks, a big swim deck and a very nice ladder. Dennis is quick to point out one of the best features… A warm fresh water shower on the swim deck! Which, I have to admit, is rather nice.

Thus, Monday morning saw us packing up the dive gear, a cooler with drinks and sandwich makings for everyone, and heading for Honokohau. There Deb and I joined Dennis and Mark for a very nice day diving.

We have been diving a lot in the NELHA area lately, I expect we will be diving some more there. It is some spectacular diving in the area. A rich reef sloping out to a steep drop-off that descends far beyond scuba depths. You look into the deep blue and know that somewhere down there is the abyssal plain, 8,000 feet below.

As usual I had my face in the coral, in and out of every crevice or small cave I came across. This is a great way to find the little stuff I love to photograph, but you can miss the big stuff… A series a sharp clangs gets my attention, the sound of Mark’s tank banger. I pull myself out of an alcove and swim over the large coral outcropping just in time to see a ten foot manta sweep by! The manta was just beyond the reef drop-off, against the deep blue of open water.

The find of the day was a Spanish Dancer, the largest nudibranch found in the islands. I do mean large, while most nudi’s I locate are an inch or two long, this fellow was the size of a dinner plate. Dancers have another feature… They Dance! Actually a form of swimming through undulating the body. I flushed him out of a crevice in the cave and the nudi proceeded to dance for us, everyone got a good look. After a few photos, actually quite a few photos, I carefully shepherded the pretty fellow back into the crevice I found him in.

No dives this weekend, I was on call. But we are already planning another outing next weekend. Summer diving season is here, bringing calm and clear water to the Kona side. The crew is ready to go, discussing where we will dive next.

Diving South of Kona

I have not done much diving south of Kona, usually diving the shores close to home, the reefs of North and South Kohala. I have done a couple dives at Two Step, at Hōnaunau. The terrain is different further south, there are different species to see. Last weekend I got a chance to do some more diving down south.

This was made possible through a friend and fellow Keck engineer. Dennis owns a boat. Not just any boat… The Aqua Safari… A big boat, a fast boat, a dive boat, equipped for scuba, actually a pretty nice boat. I was invited to join the guys for a dive outing. I didn’t even ask where we were going, it really didn’t matter, I just wanted to dive.

Mark Devenot exploring the reef drop-off at Tanks
We headed south of Kona to a dive site I had never explored before, a place called Amphitheater. Just around the corner from the famous Kealakekua Bay, the site features some large sea caves carved into the cliffs by the winter waves. An excellent site, featuring good fish, numerous lava tubes, and good coral cover. Visibility was great, allowing good photographic conditions.

A find of the dive was a Bearded Cusk Eel hiding in a crevice at the base of a rock wall. I managed one half-decent photograph before it disappeared further into the crevice, out of sight. I guess it did not like the strobe, cusk eels are notoriously shy.

Mark, Patti and I shared the meal preparations. They had brought sandwich makings, I brought tuna mac, drinks and chips. Deb even sent a long a batch of home-made chocolate chip cookies. We ate well indeed.

The second dive site was Tanks, a site just north of the old Kona Airport and south of Honokohau. A fair amount of surge made mooring quite a challenge, we actually gave up on one mooring buoy, too close to the rocks where we were getting bounced around. There was quite a bit of surge underneath as well, and visibility was poor. At least poor by Kona standards, fairly good for most anywhere else. The surge and vis did not preclude a decent dive, we descended to the edge of the dropoff, where the slope plunges into the deep blue abyss. A few good photos, including a Undulated Moray. We spent the last part of the dive exploring a number of small caves just under the shoreline, where we found several white tip reef sharks, including one of the largest I had ever seen. This shark was a bit more than six feet, and quite rotund. He lived up to the scientific name for the species Triaenodon obesus.

A great day and a couple good dives. That was the goal, and that was what we achieved. Thanks Dennis!