Adventure Travel: Hawaii – Kona Harbor Scuba Dives

By John M. Tipton

Just off the Kona Harbor located in the Big Island of Hawaii, two boats were sunk in about 100 feet of water for a local submarine tour. These  attracted local divers who visit them regularly. The first is a sailboat called the Naked Lady, with it’s engine intact and some mast in place. The second is a WWII Landing Craft called the Predator, with its engine and its bow loading ramp down.
Because the wrecks lie shallow, we use Nitrox dive tanks, instead of regular air tanks. The 32% oxygen mix allows us to stay down almost twice as long at 100 feet (almost 20 mins.) and not have to do a 15 foot decompression stop on the way back to the boat, where we would normally hang off drop lines. The tanks hold roughly 3100 lbs of gas, and on most dives, we normally head back to the surface when we reach less than a thousand pounds. Since we’re under the dive boat for these dives, 6-700 lbs is fine. Just for fun I measured how much I take for each breath, and it’s about 5 lbs of air.

Garden Eel Cove - South - Dolphins In The Harbor (7)

Garden Eel Cove – South – Dolphins In The Harbor

On our dives, we hit the Lady first and the Predator second, so that we’re on that wreck when the sub comes around. Gives us something else to photograph as well as gives the tourists a thrill. We’ve even heard the announcer on their transport boat call us the ‘Intreped Divers’ on occasion, as if we were part of the tour.

Predator Transport  - Submarine )

Predator Transport – Submarine

Naked Lady
One of the main features of this wreck is the white-tip sharks who like to live under the stern, but also the leafy scorpion-fish that live on the engine. For me, I hunt the Goby fish. They’re about an inch long and live on the growth of ropes and wire coral. They’re difficult to find and even harder to snap a picture of.

South Kona Reef - Black Coral (26)

South Kona Reef – Black Coral

Naked Lady Sailboat

Naked Lady Sailboat Wreck – Yellow Margin Moray Eel

 

I almost missed the sharks. They were holed up deep under the hull as you can see. Skittish as always, I couldn’t approach any closer than four or five feet.  They whipped around and stirred up the sand, but didn’t run, probably because I was blocking their escape route.  Some of the other fish didn’t care one way or the other until I swung the camera on them, then they left like I was an aquatic Papparazzi or something.

Garden Eel Cove; South Goatfish

Garden Eel Cove; South Goatfish

While we were under an approaching cruise ship set anchor. We heard everything as if it were right over our heads. They were about two hundred feet away, but underwater,it  felt much closer, so you can imagine how well whales can communicate.

At about 700 lbs of air, I headed for the surface, following the buoy line and spotted movement. There, following me up, was a Gogonian Goby. I placed one hand under it and it continued up while I took seven or eight pictures of it and managed to get two decent ones. Even without coaxing he was following me up, so I just kept snapping pictures. The last ones were the best. No matter how hard you try, the least bit of current will push you around, throwing the rope out of focus.

Peacock Grouper

Peacock Grouper

Predator
The Predator is just fun. You can swim under the bow ramp and find fish hiding there, you can swim to some rocks nearby where eels and flounder hang out, and you can see the plastic skeleton my Dad and his dive buddies tie up there every year for the sub riders, and especially, Halloween. On this dive, it was waving. This is a newer skeleton, since the growths have not crusted it over completely.

Predator (33) - Predator Wreck Whole

Predator Wreck

Old Bony

Old Bony

We saw that the sub loaded up with 14 people, so they loaded them all onto one side. The tour usually circles the wrecks twice, once for the Port and then for the Starboard viewers. With less than a full load, they don’t have to make the second swing, they just put everyone on one side. In 2014 the water was super clear and I managed to take several shots of the wreck and stitch them all together.

Transport

Transport

When it arrived, it circled us three times instead of the usual once-over before moving on. Since it kept the Port side facing the wreck and us, everyone must have been on that side. Waved at the tourists, took some pixs, and then ignored them after the second pass.

Didn’t find much exciting beyond the cool Surgeonfish under the bow and a Moorish Idol which would not stay still, except for a shy Whitley’s Boxfish I chased around some wreckage behind the Predator.

Moorish Idol

Moorish Idol

Before the sub’s final swing by, I was down to about 800 lbs of Nitrox, and figured I could snap a few more pixs from atop the boat before heading to the surface.  When my dive computer flickered and died my last reading was about 750 lbs.  To be safe, I cut the dive short to make sure I had enough air. Did pretty well, guessing when my last reading was to breaths on my way back to the Predator and up the line. I hit the surface with about 200 lbs left. Perfect. You do not want to suck a tank dry. If you do, the dive shop insists on performing a VIP (Visual Inspection Procedure) to make sure the tank is still good. Tanks still need them every so often, but if you run a tank out of air, they will VIP them every-single-time. It becomes costly.

rt Boat Wreck - Yellowfin Surgeonfish (30)

 Yellowfin Surgeonfish

 

John M. Tipton

John M. Tipton

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John M. Tipton is a professional writer residing in Camarillo with his wife Tina.  He has scuba dived for 35 years, combining the sport with a passion for photography and traveled extensively growing up when his father served in the US Navy.

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