The islands that together comprise the state of Hawaii are a well known to tourists and divers alike for their rugged beauty and unique culture within the United States. While Hawaii has always interested me with it’s blend of polynesian culture and available amenities, I had never really planned on going there. What did happen was a long series of events and calamities that resulted in nonrefundable tickets to Oahu and no plan for what to do when I arrived. What I did end up doing was hooking up with Dive Oahu and testing the limits of my dive computer’s tolerance to repetitive dives over a six day period. For this write up, I’ll concentrate on the reef dives and overall experiences of diving in Hawaii.
I ended up staying in a hotel literally within spitting distance of Waikiki beach and had made contact with the dive group to get things going so I could get a maximum amount of diving done before flying back to BC. This was where the only real hiccup occurred and an important lesson was learned. Dive Oahu is a excellent dive group with solid instructors and a good grasp on how to run things in an orderly and reasonable manner. However, because they have several locations on the military bases in the area, they have agents who will “assist” in scheduling and reservation making. Avoid talking to the agents. If you can’t actually talk to one of the Dive Oahu staff, use their excellent online system to make you reservation. Otherwise you end up hanging out with a bag of dive gear for a van that isn’t coming in front of your hotel. That being said, I will reiterate: talk to actual staff (call around: 0800-0930hrs, 1130-1330hrs, or 1600hrs), or use the online system.
So, onto the diving. Dive Oahu does the majority of it’s dives on the south shore of the island, four dives per day. On fridays they offer one or two night dives as well, and on weekends they sometimes have trips available. All the dives I did were boat dives, and consisted of wrecks and reefs. The general plan going out (weather and water dependant) is a dive on a wreck followed by a shallow reef dive. If there are courses occurring simultaneous with your dives, you may do two reef dives. Secret Reef, Kewalo Pipe, Turtle Canyon, and Kaiser Reef were the main reefs we spent time on. YO 275, Sea Tiger and the San Pedro were the three wrecks that we frequented as well. The water was a balmy 26˚C, vis was outstanding at all times, and currents were nil to slim. The bright blue water and pleasant conditions made the dives a treat and good staffing made it all the better.
Reefs off the southern coast of Oahu are generally low and lumpy for lack of a better description, and while not the stunners you may be used to from other tropical locations, have a unique charm and character to them. Plus, they hide a plethora of marine life, from resting white tip sharks to turtles, an abundance of eels, and a wide variety of fish that may initially escape notice on your first few passes over the reef. The reefs themselves rest between 12m and 20m depth for the most part, although you could potentially go a bit deeper on Kewalo Pipe. While I didn’t see any fire coral or similar hazards, it’s still a sound policy to avoid touching the reef.
It’s the Marine life is what made diving in the waters of Oahu a win in my books. Moray Eels, Hawkfish, Squirrelfish and all manner of trigger, surgeon and butterfly fish were in great abundance everywhere we went. White Tip reef sharks, sea turtles and dolphins all made appearances to, some of which were kind enough to pause for photography. This was the trip I broke in my Nikon Coolpix L22 camera with it’s Ikelite housing. Suffice to say it worked extremely well, and remains in use! The water was a beautiful blue colour, making it a fantastic background for the entire experience.