Trip Report: Family Vacation, Kauai, Hawaii, July 2003

This trip really was a family vacation to the island of Kauai in the Hawaiian Islands, but I managed to squeeze in one day of diving, between the site seeing, surfing, relaxing by the pool, working on my tan, etc.

I dove with Bubbles Below this time around. I had heard good things from several folks I work with who had used them in the past, and postings on Scuba Board and Rodale’s Scuba Diving. Bubble’s Below operates out of the harbor at Port Allen on the south side of the island.

Byron, our dive master for the day, was very personable and easy going, met us at the dock, along with Peter the boat captain, and Cammie, Byron’s daughter. Their boat, the Kaimanu, is a 35’ Radon custom dive boat. It has a 9’ beam and is reasonably comfortable with the 6 divers, plus crew, we had the day we went out. There were ample dry lockers for you to stow anything you didn’t want wet. The only shortcoming was there was no place to stow, work on, nor soak my camera. I kept it in one of the dry lockers on the way out and rolled in a damp towel on top of the engine cover between dives and on the way back in. 

Once everyone and their equipment was on board we headed out to our first dive of the day, Turtle Bluffs.

Turtle Bluffs was aptly named, turtles were everywhere. As we moored, a Hawaiian Monk Seal lounged about keeping a watchful eye on us. By the time we hit the water, he had decided he’d seen enough and was gone. The turtles on the other hand weren’t disturbed by our presence, in fact one came up to Byron to have his head scratched. 

We were also treated to a rare sight, a Whiskered Boarfish, which is endemic to Kauai and the northern islands only. There was plenty of other life, Pyramid Butterfly’s, Moorish Idol’s, Long Nose Butterfly’s, Hawaiian Domino’s, Orange Band Surgeonfish, and the usual array of wrasse’s and triggerfish. One little guy did catch my eye, a Hawaiian White Spotted Toby, similar to the spotted boxfish, but smaller in size, and with larger spots. 

Our next site was Sheraton Caverns, a series of lava tubes, caverns, and channels just out from the Sheraton Hotel and Resort, hence their name, although Byron claims the hotel chain is named after the caverns. Spinner dolphins cruised the boat as we were mooring, what a sight!

There was a very strong easterly current running here forcing us to immediately drop to the bottom after entering the water. This current would also lead to my only issue this trip. On the return to the mooring line, I was running low on NDL (no decompression limit). I kept going up to preserve what NDL I had, but, unfortunately I was going against the current, and was blowing through air like no tomorrow. Suffice to say, with about 100’ left to get to the mooring line I heard that ominous beep from my computer. I now had a 7 minute deco/safety stop, and 300psi left in my tank. Not one of my more stellar moments. 

There didn’t seem to be as much life here as at Turtle Bluffs, but the scenery was spectacular! The caverns and tubes were interesting and created quite a labyrinth of passages. There were turtles here as well. One particularly large one appeared to be asleep with his head pushed into a small hole in the side of the cavern wall. Trumpet fish, a White Mouthed Moray, Bandit Angelfish, and Orange Spine Unicorn fish were just some of the creatures we saw here. 

The visibility wasn’t great at either location at around 50’, but by local Southern California standards it was spectacular. Water temperature a warm 79F at depth and on the surface. I dove with my 3mm full suit and was quite comfortable all day. 

Bubble’s Below provided a great diving experience. Their equipment (their boat) was clean and in excellent condition. Since I had my own gear I cannot speak for their rental gear. The crew was first rate; Byron was knowledgeable of both the marine life and the dive sites. Captain Peter pleasant and cheerful (although I saw him a couple of days later playing volleyball on the beach, and there he is a fierce competitor). The only drawback as I mentioned earlier was the lack of camera work area, and soak tank. 

Would I dive with Bubble Below again? Absolutely!
Rating, on scale of 1 to 10, 10 being best: 8