Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Dive Log, January 24, 2005

Today we had a whale watch / fishing trip. So today's entry is actually
a "topside" log, but all you divers out there will absolutely drool
over the day we had!

Before we could get more than a quarter of a mile out from the
harbor... we saw a humpback whale... and then another... and then
another. So we headed in their direction to get a better look. Then
they went under, so we sat and waited. About 5 minutes later, they
started breaching. If you have never seen a 80,000 pound creature hoist
itself completely out of the water right in front of your eyes, it's
hard to imagine the power and the beauty.

After a half a dozen half breaches following the first full breach, the
whales dove once again. So, we waited and waited and waited... about
fifteen minutes went by with no sign of them so Nikki guessed that they
went under to sing, because it takes them a while to finish their song.
A guest on board expressed interest in hearing the song so, Nikki
lowered the ladder and slipped into the water to have a listen.

"I put my head in the water and my heart almost jumped out of my chest!
I couldn't hear them singing... but there before my eyes was a whale,
the size of a Mack truck coming right at me. Instantly and
instinctively I reached out for the ladder and tried to seek shelter by
clutching on to the boat. I was mesmerized. It came all the way up and
then surfaced right next to me. I was shaking with adrenaline and it
took me the better part of an hour to calm down from the encounter." -
Nikki Milligan

Thinking that this would be the highlight... having humpbacks surface
closer to the boat than ever before... we decided to get the fishing
lines out and ready for some fishing. However, before we could drive
another quarter mile, we spotted a mother and calf Humpback. They were
easy to see... the baby was practicing its breaching... it was so
incredibly cute. We all agreed it was the smallest whale we had ever
seen, it couldn't have been more that a week old. It breached at least
6 times and on one of those, mom breached right along side. A
simultaneous breach, what luck! It really put into perspective how huge
a full grown whale is and how young that calf was. WOW!

Finally we set out to do some fishing, enjoying the calm, lake-like
water of the day and the comfortable weather due to a cloud cover that
was keeping away the hot afternoon sun. As we were just hanging out
enjoying, without a care in the world... we hooked up. The fish was a
pretty good fighter and tugged and shook, reluctant to come close to
the boat. It was a good sized fish. As Jennifer, the angler,
persistently reeled on, the fish eventually came into view. Through the
crystal blue water, you could easily see its bright stripes. We had
ourselves a Striped Marlin, probably weighing around 100 pounds. As
Mike got the fish up to the boat we had to decide whether to keep it or
to let it go. Striped Marlin are very delicious, flavorful fish, but
upon close inspection, Mike realized that it was barely hooked and not
at all injured. It was a healthy, gorgeous fish. We took a photo and
let it go. A strange thing happened next.

Normally a fished just released would swim quickly away and out of
sight. This fish, paused behind the boat as if to say goodbye before it
slowly swam away. Or maybe is was taking a moment to reflect and learn
from the experience. Who knows? All of us on board for this trip will
not be forgetting any of it any time soon. It was one of those 'once in
a lifetime' days... the kind that makes you appreciate life just a bit

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Dive Log, January 22, 2005

The divers wanted to go a little deeper this morning, so we decided to
dive one of the points. We decided on Pine Trees point, just a couple
miles north of the marina. Viz was outstanding! We dropped down to
about 120 feet and checked out a several hundred schooling fish of a
dozen different varieties. We like to dive out at the points because
they tend to be very fishy due to the mixing of the current lines that
naturally occur in that environment.

Later, in the shallows of the dive site we encountered two leaf
scorpion fish. We've been seeing this particular pair there now for a
few weeks. One is a creamy white and the other a bright magenta. Leaf
scorpions like others in their family sit in one spot on the reef using
their pectoral fins like hands to hang on. They try to blend in and go
unnoticed which makes them hard to spot. Also, because they sit in one
spot all the time they tend to grow algae on their bodies. They get all
fuzzy and cruddy looking and then they molt revealing their bright,
new, shiny self. The magenta one has molted recently. Be-yew-tee-ful!

For the second dive...

The dolphins were hanging around Manta Ray Bay, so we decided to do it
again today in hopes of catching a glimpse of them underwater. Although
we could hear them throughout the dive, they eluded us. However, we
were blessed with a fabulous Eagle Ray encounter. This one was moving
so slowly, it seemed as if it was just hanging there in mid water. We
were able to get REALLY close. The divers got great photos and video.
Later we were fortunate enough to see two more! Other noteworthy
critters were; two Green Hawaiian Lionfish, (endemic!) and a baby
razorfish which dove into the sand to hide... but Mike scooped up the
sand and as it ran through his fingers, the tiny fish was left propped
up in the crook of Mike's fingers. Too cute!

It was another great day of Kona diving!

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Dive Log, January 21, 2005

It was so nice to get underwater today. After 5 days of a rather
sizable north swell, the familiar calm Kona water was so welcomed. We
couldn't wait to get under and blow some bubbles.

However, before we could get to our dive site we saw two different
Humpback Whales and a pod of dolphins. This pod was unusual. It was a
mixture of two varieties, both Hawaiian Spinner and Spotted. Also,
there was an unusual number of babies, we counted 7 or 8!

The first dive was at Manta Ray Bay... one of our favorites... because
it produces! Again, it did not disappoint. We saw big moray eels,
illusive peacock flounder, several octopus and a beautiful spotted
eagle ray.

Between dives we headed offshore to look for whales. A few miles out
from Kailua Bay, we found a pod of Pilot Whales! They were acting
fairly social, spy hopping and logging. So, we decided to go for a
swim. Before entering the water Nikki briefed the divers and informed
them of the appropriate behavior for interacting with these beautiful
creatures. Everyone did just as they were told and slipped quietly into
the water and gently swam in their direction stopping a good distance
away and just floated there, resisting the urge to try and get a closer
look. If they are feeling curious, they will come to you, if not, they
will dive deep and out of sight. Swimming too close and too fast will
always result in them diving down. Lucky for us, they were a bit
curious and came over to check us out there were 9 of them and a
juvenile who rolled sideways to get a better look at us. It was an
awesome encounter and everyone was soaring with adrenaline.

As if the day couldn't get any better, the second dive at Eel cove
produced three rare critters. We saw a lion fish, a zebra moray, and a
dragon moray!

What an unbelievable, epic day!

Sunday, January 16, 2005

Daily Dive BLog, Kona Hawaii

January 13, 2005

It was a beautiful sunny day. Not a cloud in the sky and the snow
covered peak of Mauna Loa was quite a site! After gazing at the
stunning topside scenery, we plunged into the 79 degree water.
Underwater, the viz was over 100 feet. Gorgeous.

Today we dove Pawai Bay Marine Sanctuary. There were Humpback whales
frolicking just off shore. We didn't see them underwater, but we could
hear them singing off in the distance.

The highlights of the day included two endemic fish species (that means
they can be seen no where else on the planet) A group of three Banded
Angel fish and a harem of about 8 female Psych-head Wrasses being lead
around by their guy. The females have really cool psychedelic spots and
a red tail, where as the male has a bright orange head and shimmery
golden spots.

Next we saw a HUGE, spiny lobster and a porcupine puffer fish hiding in
a crevice in the side of a pinnacle.

Everyone was really impressed with the health of the coral reef and the
abundance of fish. For all 6 divers, it was their first time in Kona
and had only Oahu and Maui reefs to compare it to. All agreed that Kona
is a very special place, indeed.

Best Fishes, Nikki and Mike