It has been over a year ago now that Shane and I got our PADI certification on the south shores of Maui during our first trip to the island in 2009. Since, we’ve only had the opportunity to dive once in the Florida Keys. Although we only had six dives under our belts when we returned for our month-long stay in Wailea last December, we quickly eased back into the routine of life aquatic. Because I’m not equipped for underwater photography just yet (but plan to one day!), I can only offer a description of the marine life and the dive sites from our most memorable dives. Diving has become one of our favorite activities together as we explore the underwater wonders that leave us wanting more after making each journey below.
Molokini Crater, Maui, Hawaii
Maui Dive Shop, Dec. 11
As we waited for the sun to set and our surface interval to expire after our first dive at Molokini Crater, we could only envision the darkness and eerie calm that set on the vibrant, lively reef below as nighttime fell over the ocean. The water was smooth as ice, and almost as cold, too.
Equipped with green glow sticks attached to our tanks and an underwater spotlight in my grip, we slowly descended to the bottom of the ocean floor to find an unfamiliar reef. The nocturnal marine life had come out to play, including squid that looked as if belonged in the over 35,000-mile-deep crevasses of Mariana Trench. But they were friendly and slow-moving, unlike the other giants that lurked beyond the reef.
Sharks, they told us, were a common sighting at night. The other tropical friendly fish were not. As we neared the end of the dive (and the end of my air), I made an early exit to the surface, but not before the group spotted a six-foot white tip reef shark in the distance sitting motionless about 50 yards away. It was our first night dive, and this shark was exactly what we’d descended below to see.
Cathedrals II, Lanai, Hawaii
Maui Dive Shop, Dec. 18
The Cathedral dive is one that comes highly recommended by many diving outfitters. A two-hour boat ride off the coast of neighboring Lanai, this dive site is home to the only black coral in the world found above 200 feet.
After entering the chilly waters off the coast of Maui’s southern neighbor, we made our way into a large underwater cavern surrounded by walls of volcanic rock with minimal light streaming in from small openings in the rock above. (We later learned of a fellow diver who was married in this cathedral! Very fitting.)
Upon exiting the room, we passed by the black coral that hung from the ceiling in stalactite-like form. With claustrophobia setting in as we finished our first-ever cave dive, I swam toward the nearest exit as my mind began to be overcome with fear of suffocation. But before I made my exit, I was greeted by a curious Yellow Hawaiian Tang staring directly into my mask, seeming to find me more interesting than I did him. My fears were replaced with fascination with the fearlessness and friendliness of the small reef fish, as I’ve found usually happens on almost every dive we make.
Turtle Point, Maui, Hawaii
Trilogy Maui, Dec. 23
Our last dive before our departure from Maui was with Shane’s mom in tow, an avid snorkeler, so we opted to take a dive boat that accommodated her as well. We had just made our third dive from Molokini Crater where we encountered few marine life due to the large masses of divers and snorkelers that pour in during the holidays. When the crew dropped us off at Turtle Point, we were guaranteed a better experience. We found that “better” was an understatement.
The reef, not far from the shores of the beaches we frequent in Makena, was our favorite dive in Maui. Visibility was low (only about 30 feet) due to torrential downpours the previous day, but what we found hiding in the coves at the bottom of the reef didn’t require much visibility. We rounded the first corner of the reef to find a green sea turtle, about 6 ft. x 4 ft., just a feet from us resting beneath the overhang of the volcanic rock. Our dive master Cynthia explained later that the turtle was probably about 100 years old and had more than likely inhabited these waters for most of her life. We saw two other green sea turtles similar in size on the opposite side of the reef, but not before we encountered the resident white tip reef shark.
Cynthia assured us that this particular shark is a regular among the turtles and keeps to himself for the most part. She led us to his usual hiding spot, but due to the low visibility, I found myself crouching in a tight corner of the reef inching in closer to get a glimpse of the shark. As the sand settled, I was greeted with two beady eyes and a half-opened mouth staring straight at me. There I was, this time face-to-face with the resident shark of Turtle Point. Although he made no indication that I was a threat, it only took me about five seconds before I made my rapid exit. But needless to say, I would do it again in a heartbeat just for the sheer rush of being up close and personal to the most feared fish in the sea.