Archives for Maui

Back in Maui and I cannot wait for my first Scalloped Hammerhead Shark dive off of Molokai.  We come back here each year for this dive and it is one of my favorite dives on the planet.  The rich biodiversity of this dive site, the great topography and of course, the Scalloped Hammerheads.

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Sphyrna lewini, Molokai Hawaii, Moku Ho’oniki Rock

I have been diving on this site now for over 10 years and it never gets old.  It is an advanced dive and the seas can be quite rough but oh, what a dive.  I dive the site with Lahaina Divers, which is the only dive operator on Maui that goes to this site.  Lahaina Divers is a great dive company, extremely professional and competent with a number of diver professionals that have been on Maui for a number of years.

 

 

Mokuhooniki Rock

Mokuhooniki rock is situated off the northeastern point of Molokai in the Pailolo Channel. The trip takes about an hour from of Lahaina Harbor.  You do a two-tank dive on the site with a surface interval of about 45 minutes.  I dive this on Nitrox to help with bottom time, especially given the short surface interval.  This will also allow you to descend to depth when needed for that perfect shot. The dive site ranges from 60 to 110 feet although at the end of the dive you could be in water that is over 150 feet.

The Scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Sphyrna lewini is an amazing creature. The adult can reach up to 14 feet in length but those found around Mokuhooniki rock tend to be around 6 to 10 feet in length.   They typically can be found swimming alone or in small groups of 2 and 3s.  However, there are times when these sharks begin to gather especially towards the summer where you can see dozens swimming together on this site.

Scalloped Hammerhead

The Scalloped Hammerhead Shark tends to be a very shy shark.  The worse thing any diver can do is to swim aggressively toward the

Scalloped Hammerhead Shark

Interaction – Scalloped Hammerhead Shark, Sphyrna lewini, Molokai Hawaii

shark with their GoPro hoping for that amazing shot.  The result, of this behavior, is the shark will turn and swim away and deny the rest of the dive group a chance to interact with the shark.  The best way to observe most sharks is to stay still or move slowly.  The Scalloped Hammerhead is curious and if your dive group is still and chill you may well get an encounter you will never forget.  I have had these marvelous sharks circle me for over 7 minutes on on a dive.  But again, your group typically needs to be very relaxed to be able to get these sharks interact with you and the rest of your dive buddies.

I like to stay around 60 to 65 feet and look into the blue to spot the sharks.  When I see some that are close or look like they may come in close I slowly descend to their depth, typically about 80 to 90 feet.  However, these sharks can be anywhere in the water column so make sure you keep your head on a swivel.  I like to stay on the outside of  the dive group and towards Molokai on this dive.  Typically, I stay about 10  meters away from Dive Master.  This position allows me to better interact with the sharks without worrying as much about other divers behavior.  However, you will encounter sharks close to Mokuhooniki Rock and in the middle of the channel.  So don’t worry, just keep looking and watching your dive guide.

This is amazing dive site.  Take your time and enjoy.

The pool is open

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Molokini Crater is one of my favorite dive sites in Maui County.  The boat ride from Lahaina Harbor is around 45 minutes and provides spectacular scenery of the islands of Maui and Lanai.  The crater has abundant hard corals on the inside and outside “wall”  White-tip Reef Shark, Triaenodon obesus, (Rüppell, 1837), mano lalakea, Molokini Crater, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)and provides great dive opportunities for both beginner and advanced divers.  If you like a drift dive, then the outer wall dives are for you.  If you like a dive taken at a more leisurely pace with lots of exploration, then the inside crater dives are great.  There is a tremendous amount of marine life at the site, including anything from very small shrimps to a variety of sharks and rays, and, yes, even Humpback whales, which have been seen on Blunt-Slipper-Lobstervery rare occasions.

There are a number of dive sites on the inside of the crater including Reef’s End, Enenui, Middle Reef, and Taco Flats.  There is also a site near Enenui at about 110 feet that use to be referred to as Shark Condos, which as the name implies, is a rocky alcove where Green Sea Turtle, Chelonia mydas, (Linnaeus, 1758), Damaged Bill, Maui Hawaii (StevenWSmeltzer.com (949)290-6367)you can usually find 2 to 4 white-tip reef sharks.  Unfortunately, many of the dive boats do not take divers to this depth.  

From late December to early April you can usually hear the Humpback Whales singing throughout the dive, which is just awesome.  I have seen a number of different sharks and rays on this site over the years and it is one of my favorite dive sites in Maui.  Lots of “critters” to photograph and the coral is very healthy all around the crater.

I typically use Lahanina Divers when I go to Molokini Crater and they have always treated us very well.  The captains are very experienced with the channels and conditions around Maui and manage the dives safely and efficiently.  The boats are fairly roomy with ample space for gear  (StevenWSmeltzer.com (949)290-6367)and getting “kitted-up” prior to the dive.  I have tried some of the dive operators off of Kihei, Hawaii, including the guy with the “fastest-boat on Maui”, but I find those boats a good bit smaller (they are launched from a boat ramp by Kihei) and very cramped. If you’re are staying in or near Ka’anapali or Lahaina, I highly recommend not making the drive to Kihei, but using a dive operator out of Lahaina.

Follow this link for other Maui and Hawaiian dive site reviews

 

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From December to late April and even early May is the time of the Humpback Whales in Hawaii.  We were excited to be back on Maui, it is definitely one of our favorite places on the planet.

Humpback Whales Welcome

What a wonderful start to the always magical island of Maui, Hawaii.  We arrived in Maui around noon after a very pleasant flight from Los Angeles.  We left the Kahului airport heading south on the Kuihelani Highway heading to our destination in Kaanapali.  Just as we got to the furthest point south at a “scenic lookout” from the bluffs looking toward the island of Lanai,  we saw a Kohola (Humpback  whale) do a full breach in the distance.

Humpback Whales, Maui Hawaii (Steven W Smeltzer)

Breaching Humpback Whale, Maui Hawaii

We pulled over to the lookout and watched 6 to 10 of these wonderful creatures playing in the waters between Maui, Lanai and Kaho’Olawe.

What a wonderful welcome to the island. We are looking forward to numerous whale-watching excursions and lots of scuba diving – chasing after Hammerhead sharks and other marine life.  But this time of year is always about the Humpback Whales.  They are some of natures truly most inspiring animals.

When we arrived in Ka’anapali, we started getting settled into the room, which faces the islands of Lanai and Molokai, and I had my camera out, as always, just taking in the sights when I saw another whale breach offshore.   A whale breached several times, photo above, making our welcome to the islands complete. The Humpback Whales had bid us a very wonderful welcome and I am looking forward to some extraordinary adventures over the next several weeks.  If you have not been to Hawaii during the season to see the Humpback Whales I would highly encourage you to come.  It is certainly a once in a life-time adventure.  I am both blessed and lucky that I get to do it almost every year.

Time for a great dinner and a little relaxation.

Mahalo nui loa to the great Kohola.

The pool is open….

 

 

 

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Getting Ready, Grand Cayman (StevenWSmeltzer.com)When you are diving, especially in new locations, it is great to have a dive guide and especially one that knows the local area well and also understands the diving environment.  When traveling to various locations around our planet, in search of that ever illusive photograph, I actively seek out local dive professionals that can help me get to those “great” spots and who can also help me understand the local conditions and what to expect on the dive.  There are almost always a number of dive operators in every location from which to choose.  So invest a little time to find out about local operators before your trip.

In Maui, there are a number of good companies to choose from when you dive so I thought I would profile a great smaller company that highly tailors your dive based upon your level of experience and your goals for the specific dive and your trip.

In2Scuba provides a little more personal touch as a smaller company, check out their website here – In2Scuba.  This shop is located in Lahaina and is run by Ty Burnett.  Ty has been diving in Maui since 2001 with various dive companies until he decided to branch out on his own.  Ty is both a skilled instructor and dive guide and also an underwater photographer (a man after my own heart).  Ty can provide a highly tailored dive experience and excels at providing excellent shore diving experiences.

Remember dive conditions change very rapidly and constantly so whether you dive with In2Scuba in Maui or not, please at least consult with a local company regarding conditions before you hit the water.  You will certainly benefit and it will help ensure your diving is safe and enjoyable.

Dive Operator Rating Guide:

– Experience: This is the most critical criteria that I look for in a dive operator.  I rate experience not just by numScuba Diving, Safety, Molokai Hawaii (Steven W SMeltzer)ber of years diving but also by the attention to safety given by the instructor prior to each and every dive.  I know those “briefings” can get a bit boring but they are extremely important.  So pay attention…you never know when you might have to react to an emergency situation.

– Knowledge: This is another key criteria for me as I want a dive guide to be at least somewhat knowledgeable regarding the marine species that we can potentially see.  They should know the habits of marine creatures in their area and how to best approach these creatures so we can enjoy them but also so we do not cause additional stress to the animal.  For example, I hate being on a night dive and the guide is shining his or her light directly on everything in site and causing tremendous stress on the animals and resulting in a poor experience for the diver and the creatures being observed.  I don’t expect every dive master to be Jacques Cousteau but I do expect at least a minimum level of training. I should not have to lead the dive guide.

– Equipment: If you are renting gear this is also an extremely important criteria.  I carry my regulator and camera gear everywhere.  My BC, Fins, Wetsuit are non-essentials and can be rented reliably and usually fairly cheaply in most dive locations.

– Boat (s): This is an important criteria if you are going for locations that require a boat trip.  There are many sizes of boats used by operators with various capabilities.  I have been diving out of dug-out canoes in Indonesia, to luxury dive boats in Australia and Hawaii, to pontoon boats in the Caribbean.  I had good diving experiences from each (even from the dug-out believe it or not).  A key is the “captain” and crew and their relative experience, the level of maintenance on the boat and their attention to detail, yes it is a good idea to count the number of divers before and after a dive.

Number of divers:  This is also a key criteria as I do not like to dive with “a herd”.  Especially when I am shooting, having to large a group of divers can cause conditions to deteriorate considerably and waste my time.  So if I am diving with larger groups, you want to make sure that they divide the groups into manageable sizes and by level of experience.  Typically the more experienced divers will be in the water first.  This helps to maintain conditions and also makes it more realistic for a guide to effectively manage their group.

There are other considerations that I look at as well when going to a new place to dive and one of the other key requirements would be location.  I need a dive operator that is at least relatively close to where I am going to be staying as I don’t want to spend hours on the road each day just getting to the “shop”.

I hope this helps you in determining with whom you would like to dive and remember if you are heading to a specific location and would like a recommendation, just ask and I will see if I can help.

The Humpback whale season is in fully swing in Hawaii as is the Gray Whale season off the coast of Southern California may you be lucky enough to have one swim by you…

A hui hou kakou, until we meet again…

The pool is open……

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