In October we spent two weeks touring the islands of the Hawaiian archipelago. There are over 100 islands, eight of which are inhabited and the majority of the population occupies four of these. Our itinerary covered these four with a day’s coach tour on each, followed by a couple of days to ourselves. We found that the islands were very mountainous and picturesque and home to dozens of volcanoes, some still active, and hundreds of waterfalls – very impressive from a 55 minute helicopter ride we took on Kauai Island. Hawaii Island hosts Mauna Kea, the highest mountain on Earth if measured to the sea bed. It was also evident that all the islands had been involved as film sets for Hawaii Five-0, Gilligan’s Island and, especially, Jurassic Park and its sequels – all four island tours showed us numerous filming sites.
It was not a diving holiday but we hoped to fit in lots of snorkelling and a couple of dives – dives in the most remote islands in the world in the middle of the Pacific would look good in our logbooks!
In fact, because we were flying between islands every few days, there was
only one day on which we could dive, on Oahu, near the end of our holiday. As it turned out, snorkelling was a bit limited – on Kauai there was a heavy swell on the hotel beach, ideal for surfing, but not for snorkelling and swimming. On Maui, the hotel beach was sand with little life although we walked half a mile to Black Rock and I was able to snorkel a couple of times despite a strong current across the end of the rocky outcrop. Frances was limited by her broken ankle as the beach was steep and uneven and managed only to swim.
On our third island, Hawaii (Big Island) there was no access to the sea but the hotel had its own small lagoon, protected by a rock barrage which provided some good snorkelling but was inaccessible to the broken-ankled!
We then transferred to the most populated island, Oahu, home to Honolulu, Waikiki Beach and Diamond Head, bringing back memories of Beach Boys hits. The hotel backed on to Waikiki Beach which was like Blackpool (but warmer!) with sunbathers, swimmers, li-los, sailboats, powerboats and, of course, surfers. A sandy beach and crowds of people meant unsatisfactory snorkelling once again although there was a highly recommended snorkelling beach a long bus ride and an entrance fee away. We didn’t have time for this.
At last we were in a position to arrange diving, two days before our final flight home. Not sure exactly what to expect nor whether we could manage at all given our current infirmities, on Sunday we booked two 45 minute shallow dives, giving the deep wreck dive (30m or “100 feet” as they called it!) a miss. The two dives were promised to be less than 60 feet each, on Turtle Canyon and Kewalo Pipe, and would cost $99 plus $25 for the equipment, a total equivalent to about £100. We were picked up from our hotel at 7 a.m. on Tuesday to be taken to Honolulu Scuba Company shop for paperwork signing (managed to avoid the medical form!) and then to the boat where we found equipment set up with our names attached. Correct sizing was assured as we been asked our height and weight when booking.
Apart from the boat captain, we were accompanied by guide Justin, not long working in Hawaii, plus a couple on their first open-water dive, having trained in lakes in Las Vegas, and a U.S. Marine who was doing his own thing with a rebreather and large camera.
A 15 minute boat ride had us moored to a buoy a mile or so off Waikiki Beach and we went in to rather murky water after a violent thunderstorm the night before. At 12 metres the rocks were bare with not much coral growth but quite a lot of fish and a couple of moray eels. Various gullies were explored and we eventually spotted one large green turtle which pleased Justin as he’d promised the novices turtles galore - we knew better!
Drinks and biscuits were provided and another 15 minute boat ride took us to a buoy fastened to a disused sewer pipe off Honolulu Harbour. Down at 18 metres the visibility was much better (10m +) and the fish life much more abundant. It was interesting to find that the fish were all familiar in shape but the patterns were different. “It’s fish, Jim, but not as we know them”! The trumpetfish and goatfish were heavily striped and the butterflyfish, angel fish and wrasses showed patterning we haven’t seen before. An interesting variant was the frequent shoals of large, bright Yellow Tangs evident in the shallows around all the islands – normally we see them only occasionally, as individuals. This is, we gathered, peculiar to Hawaii. Also found were several different urchins and we came across a pair of nudibranchs which appeared to be mating.
Although we saw a couple of types of triggerfish, we were disappointed not to find the Hawaiian national fish, the humuhumunukunukuapua'a (wedge-tail triggerfish). Luckily this is known as humuhumu for short.
Frances made it to the open end of the pipe to see shoals of fish inside but John did not get that far as he was photographing. Making our way back to the buoy line we ascended to the boat and were soon back to the harbour then the shop for logbook stamping before being taken back to our hotel where we ordered a Mai Tai cocktail each to celebrate successful diving.