Garden Eel Cove, also known as Old Airport, is another typical scuba diving site on the Kona side of the Island. It is a fairly shallow dive, 60 feet and less along a gradual slope of stony corals. This site can be very good as a late afternoon dive, prior to a night-time Manta Ray dive as you will often find the Manta’s beginning to gather in anticipation of their “feast” that will come later in the evening. The corals on the site are very healthy as they are for the most part around the Kona area. However, for those scuba divers who are use to warmer water, you will not find soft coral in Hawaii and you might think the reef looks less healthy than in warmer climates. The answer is you just need to understand what you are looking at on Hawaiian reefs. These reefs are in fact teeming with life. You just have to understand your environment. So before you dive in Hawaii I would encourage you to read a bit about the reef so you can appreciate it on your dives.
Garden Eel Cove Rating = 3.41 out of 5
- Visibility – moderate to good
- Access – Moderate; boat only and 30 minutes from Honokohau Marina & Small Boat Harbor, Kailua Kona
- Current – moderate to strong most of time
- Depth to 60 ft / 18 m
- Reef health Hard / Soft Corals – Good
- Marine species variety – Good
- Pelagics / Mammals / Turtles / Rays – moderate to good, typical at least 1 to 3 sightings up close, sometimes many more
On this dive site you can also find dolphins, sea turtles and a number of marine species. It can be a very relaxing and interesting dive. Make sure you keep your ears and eyes open on this dive. If the dolphins are present you will hear them long before you see them.
Garden Eel Cove Overview
Garden Eel Cove site gets it name from a sandy area just offshore of the coral reef where there is a colony of Garden Eels. These shy eels will quickly retreat into their burrows if approached quickly so if you want to get a close look you will have to approach slowly and be very patient. After you have checked out the Garden Eels you will make your way along the reef and can find a large variety of fish, crustaceans, and many others. There are typically a number of “Crown of Thorns” starfish (Acanthaster planci) is a large nocturnal sea star that preys upon coral polyps. The crown-of-thorns receives its name from venomous thorn-like spines that cover its body. There are typically a large number of Hawkfish on the site and they make great photos sitting on top of corals against a beautiful blue background.
During my last dive on Garden Eel Cove, we had 17 Manta Rays that decided to join us for a cruise along the reef on a late afternoon dive. Although it is not a common occurrence to see this many rays during the day, it was fantastic. That same day we dove at night and had another 37 Manta Rays swimming with us. Truly a great experience. Check out the video that I posted from the night dive at https://blog.stevenwsmeltzer.com/2012/06/28/manta-rays-silent-sentinels-of-the-sea/. This video will give you a sense of the beauty and grace of these amazing creatures. We dove with Big Island Divers on our last trip and they treated us very well. There are a number of other dive operators in the area but make sure to book a Manta Ray dive it can be a once in a life-time experience.
As in all dives I recommend going slowly and take time to appreciate the site. Read other dive site reviews on my blog and see other underwater photographs on my website and follow me on Twitter @ images2inspire. The pool is open…