January 7th - 14th, 2017
Air Temp. 82-87 F
Water Temp. 77 F
Wetsuit Recommendation: 3-5mm
Captain: Cliff Muse
2nd Captain: Chad Dolbeare
Instructor: Manuel Lassaletta
Instructor: Colin Gamez
DiveMaster: Shelby Penn
Chef: Kevin Bennett
Vitalii Kirilov Sr.
Victor Klipko Jr.
Sunday, January 8th
DIVE SITES: Shark Fin Rock and Garden Eel Cove
In addition to Colin, our newest crew member, the Kona Aggressor II warmly welcomes 14 visitors taking a week-long reprieve from Russias winter. Initially, communicating with our comrades proves a bit challenging, but we quickly rely on Alexeys ability to translate, and realize that were all fluent in the international language of underwater admiration and appreciation. Theres a Russian proverb that translates as, "a drop in the ocean." This universal idiom means some things are just a drop of water in the ocean, too small to matter. No words could be more applicable, as all worries wash away, and everyone soon gets settled in, anticipating the adventures that await.
After eggs to order, French toast and bacon, a pod of dolphins greets us at our first destination, Shark Fin Rock, where a rock structure bearing an uncanny resemblance to the dorsal fin of a prehistoric Megalodon breaks the surface of the white-tipped waves of the nearby coast. Descending through a school of Black Durgons, our guests get their first gander at the pastel colored pallet colored reefs with which theyll become familiar. In marshmellow tones of lilac, periwinkle, and gentle shades of cherry blossom speckled with earth tones of marmalade, merigold, cantaloupe, and cider, colonies of Finger Coral and Dense Leather soft coral spread like fingers towards the sky, complimented by the lemon and lime encrusting patches of Lobe Coral that grows atop the rocky substrate. Sputnik, Rock-Boring, and Long-Spine Urchins; Green and Spotted Linckia and Hemprich Sea Stars are found in the crevices and under overhangs, next to the Pearly, Brick and Whitetip Soldierfish, the feisty Hawaiian Gregories, the miniature Hawaiian puffers, and Chocolate-dipped Damsels. The lavender tinged Agile Chromis juxtaposed with the Yellow Tangs and Longnose Butterflyfish blend into the environment, appearing as moving parts of one breathtaking, expansive system. We set our sights on the large rock formations where the wall begins to drop, and sight a Spotted Eagle Ray that we begin to follow as it slowly waves its wing-like cartilaginous pectoral fins.
We lunch on mushroom soup, chicken and Rueben sandwiches, fruit and Ahi poke on our way to Garden Eel Cove. There, the pristine reef that slopes downwards into a sandy bottom. During the dive, we find a variety of nudibranchs, including Gloomy, Gold Lace, Varicose ("Fried Egg") and Pustulose Phyllidia. A delicious dinner of garden salad, Salmon, rice, mixed vegetables, and cheese cake precedes the last dive of the day, Manta Mayhem. In addition to their sheer size, the peculiar pair of cephalic flaps that funnel water into their mouths as they feed are the most distinguishing features of this family of rays. These Coastal Manta Rays (Hahalua) have pointed, triangular wings, and most range between eight and twelve feet in length. Their unique spots and blotches on their undersides allow researchers to identify, name, and track them (If you have photos of their undersides, you can help collect data by filing a report at www.mantapacific.com). The divers kneel or lay in the sand as this marvelous creature circles, majestically maneuvering up and down, mouth agape as it feeds on the plankton exposed by our torches and the lights from our cameras.
Monday, January 9th
DIVE SITES: Aquarium, Meadows, and The Dome
We awake to waffles, sausage, fruit, cereal, and breakfast breads as we make our way to Aquarium, where sea life swims around us on all sides while the Sun sends its rays into the shallows swim-throughs. Here, we find a Devil Scorpionfish and a White-tip Reef Shark (mano in Hawaiian).
After snacking on freshly baked Oatmeal cookies, we make our way to Meadows, where theres a shallow, gently sloping bottom, lava tubes and arches around 30 feet, and finger coral at 80 feet before the white sand flats. A Porcupine Pufferfish is the star of this dive, and then we eat a lunch composed of clam chowder, Italian meatloaf, stuffed pasta shells, bean salad, and garlic bread.
The days final destination is The Dome, named for the cathedral-like structure in which we see White Margin Nudibranchs as well as their egg casings. In addition to the Flame and Potters Angels, we see Manybar, Blue, and Island Goatfish; Long-Spine and Banded Urchins; a school of nine Hellers Barracuda; a young Spotted Eagle Ray; and Peacock Groupers before ascending amongst approximately 50 Thomspons Surgeonfish, and dine on Caesar salad, steak, mashed potatoes, broccoli, and brownie sundaes.
Tuesday, January 10th
DIVE SITES: Paradise Pinnacle and The Hive
We start our morning with macadamia nut pancakes and bacon before plunging into the the water at Paradise Pinnacle. We descend to the base and circle it, swim south, passing over the stretching garden eels and pause to inspect black coral in order to locate the Longnose Hawkfish that resides there. The dive concludes as we ascend among a school of Pyramid Butterfly Fish.
Following a lunch of vegetable soup, turkey sliders, grilled lamb, pasta salad, and fruit bowls, we arrived at The Hive, named after a large coral cropping in the shape of gigantic bees home. Here, we spot two Frogfish, Achilles Tangs, Pencil Eels, Whitebar Surgeonfish, and see an Orangespine Unicorn raise its dorsal fin at a cleaning station as though it were getting its mo-hawk styled at the salon. Inside the cave, we see a Bearded Cusk Eel; a Spanish Dancer; Wavy Cave Sponges; and Spiny, Red Reef, Regal, and fancy Sculpted Slipper Lobsters. Tonights dinner is antipasto, salad, game hens, roasted carrots, brown rice, and cookie pie.
Wednesday, January 11th
Dive Sites: Peles Playground, Never Never Land, and Manuka Bay
Once weve devoured our omelettes and Canadian bacon, we arrive Peles Playground, named after the goddess of fire, lightning, wind and volcanoes. It takes no stretch of the imagination to grasp why this place is within her domain, and where she might "blow off some steam," as the pillars of lava rock, outcroppings, fingers, and pinnacles that we explore all bear her fiery fingerprints. Its a happy hump day indeed, as, no sooner than we had moored, and throughout the surface interval, three Humpback Whales (Kohola) are seen spouting and displaying their flukes and pectoral fins. During the dive, our guests enjoy gliding among the reef next to Green Sea Turtles (Honu).
We lunch on ham & pea soup, pork tenderloin, BLTs, spaghetti squash, and fruit bowls before arriving at Never Never Land. Above the canyon at the wall, we swim over eggplant colored boulders with specks of apricot, salmon, amber, butterscotch and honey, admiring cowries and intermittent colonies of Oval Mushroom Coral (the species name means "shieldlike," and the Hawaiian name, “Ako Ako A Kohe" means "vagina coral"). Here, we see Bicolor Chubs (Nenue), find a Leaf Scorpionfish atop Cauliflower Coral, and witness a Huge Pelagic Manta Ray (some reportedly weigh upwards of 3000 lbs with a wingspan of more than 23 feet) gliding by in the deep blue. During the safety stop, we witness thousands of Mackerel Scad being herded by an Almaco Jack (Kahala) for its feeding convenience.
Our last destination of the day is Manuka Bay, where separate pods of Spinner and Bottlenose Dolphins prompt many to dawn snorkel gear in order to get a closer look. Here, we weave beneath the lava formed arches, find another Frogfish, and enjoy a dinner of Waldorf salad, Mahi Mahi, mashed cauliflower, mixed vegetables, and puff pastries with berries & cream.
Thursday, January 12th
DIVE SITES: Land of Oz, Au Au Crater, Amphitheater, and Mantaville
Sausage and omelets await our early risers before our descent into the Land of Oz. Collector and Rock Boring Urchins grace what appear to be the remains of ancient sand castles made of dripped lava. We see adult and juvenile (Chevron Tang) Black Surgeonfish; colorful Shortnose Wrasse; Yellow-Green Sea Squirt tunicates; Bullethead and Palenose Parrottfish; Bluefin Trevally; Pailtail Unicornfish; two Octopuses (Takos), each nestled in the rubble changing colors before our eyes; and a Viper Moray coiled in the coral beneath the boat. Before ascending, some of us witness dapper Black Durgons, usually colored as though dressed in tuxedos for a formal affair, swim to a cleaning station, and change to a shade of shamrock green as the Cleaner Wrasse do their job.
At Au Au Crater, where three sides, ranging from 30-70 and 50-200 feet, of a submerged volcanic crater opens to the sea, additional Honu, Tako, and Scorpionfish are seen. Many of the divers climb back into the boat claiming it was their favorite site so far.
The guests consume their lunch of chicken Posole soup, potstickers, fried rice, cole slaw, and fruit bowls as we make our way to Amphitheater. The carved reef appears to be where Neptune enjoyed underwater theater, and the shallower reefs have lava formed swim-throughs.
Yearning for closer encounters with more Mobulidae, we make our way to Mantaville. Before the first dive, one leaps from the water just off the Port side and makes a splash as it flops against the surface. Prior to the main event, Colin serenades the guests with the soothing sounds of his saxophone before supper: shrimp & tomato salad, Filet Mignon, herb potato, mixed vegetables, and creme brule. Afterwards, when night has fallen, we make our giant strides and swim over to where another boat of snorkelers has florescent lights attached beneath surfboards, illuminating the area below. As they look down from above, we select our observation spots between mounds of canary colored lobe coral. Amid a maelstrom of silvery Big Eye Trevally (Pake Ulua), and Island Jacks, (Ulua), at least five Manta Rays perform their somersaults, and repeatedly swoop down within inches of us. As we return to the ship, a Bottlenose Dolphin seems to be sratching its back on the mooringline. As we get closer, four more, including a calf, appear and circle us.
Friday, January 13th
DIVE SITES: Turtle PinnacleThe week of world-class diving concludes at Turtle Pinnacle, where we swim with a Honu, find another Frogfish, and spot a Sanbar Shark before the Divemaster begins to bang his tank. With everyones attention, he holds up a sign reading, "Happy Birthday Victor!" The divers all clap their hands beneath the waves in unison, as the birthday boy, grinning behind his regulator, raises his clasped hands, making the international sign for champion. We then come across another Tako, a Longspine Porcupinefish, and an enormous Oceanic Triggerfish in the sand. Near the pinnacle, a gigantic Yellowmargin eel watches as we swim past, and multiple Whitemouth eels slither through Finger Coral. As the ultimate dive comes to its conclusion, Goldring and Bluelined Surgeonfish dart in and out the bottom of the reef; atop it, fish seem to be collected in gatherings by family: schools of Hawaiian Dascyllus, Yellowfin Goatfish, Blue Stripe Snappers, and a dozen or so Big Eye Emperors (Mu) hover in a line, all facing us as we ascend to make our final safety stop beneath the stern. If these fish could talk, particularly in Russian, they would be saying, "Мы надеемся, что Вы наслаждались наши рифы. Безопасные путешествия и Днем России С Новым Годом! (We hope you enjoyed our reefs. Safe travels and Happy Russian New Year)."