I had the pleasure of diving with Big Island Divers for the first of what I hope will be many more this January. I did a two-tank morning dive and the evening manta ray night followed by the black water, all on the same day.
I am a divemaster myself and travel with all my own gear. After I handed it up to the crew on the boat and they launched, I found it very professionally set up. They even bothered to strap my dry suit hose into my tank band velcro rather than let it hang alongside the rest of my gear where it gets in the way and could damage coral.
In the morning the divemaster was Flipper who took our group on two very fun dives, the first of which had a 70-minute bottom time! Awesome! Anytime someone was low on air he'd take them back to the boat and then continue with the remaining divers rather than ending everyone's dive when one person was low. For the surface interval they took the boat a little farther out from shore and we saw a Hawaiian humpback whale and her very recently born baby. Their underwater hydrophone (the only boat I've ever been on that has one!) didn't pick up any singing, sadly. Our second dive had a 60-minute bottom time featuring garden eels and the largest moray I have ever seen.
For the evening, Mikey B gave a very informative Manta briefing including how mantas are born and grow up, something I had been curious about. He answered all of our questions. Martina came to our boat and made sure everyone was OK with having the mantas up close and personal, which I felt was a very polite and considerate thing to do. The mantas are very clearly drawn to her camera and lights more than any other in the cove and that makes for a spectacular diving experience. I did purchase her video after the dives and it has already become a prized souvenir of my trip.
We returned to the dock prior to the black water dive while they prepared the rigging on the boat. I can't lie... I was petrified. 3 miles offshore on what seemed like a very little boat in 5,500-7,000 feet of water, thinking about what might be below... I didn't want to go in. Mikey B gave a very very informative and exhilarating dive site briefing. "If you feel threatened, uncomfortable, cold, or for any reason want to end your dive... you can at any time. Ascend up your line, make a 3-minute safety stop, and swim to the ladder before you surface. The captain will help you out of the water. I would not be out here tonight if I didn't feel this dive was completely safe. This is my favorite dive. I've come out here at least once a week for the last two years and still am amazed by the things I see. Most of them don't even have common names, just Latin ones, and keep in mind you may see something that has never been classified before. Sometimes we come up and draw what we saw and show it to our friends and search against it on the web and come up blank. Everyone who does today will have a different dive, because this dive is mostly about the very small things in the water. I just know you're going to love it." He said more than what I've written, but by the end of his briefing I had gone from petrified to a state where I couldn't wait to get in the water. Our dive time limit was 45 minutes. I eventually got cold after 35 minutes and went up but I wish I could have stayed down forever. I saw things so beautiful and unique that I am literally at a loss for words to describe them to my friends. Thinking about the size of the ocean and the number of things myself and four other divers encountered on our brief foray into the darkness, then looking up at the stars after coming up was the most magnificent and humbling experience I have ever had. Humans are but incredibly tiny organisms that are vastly outnumbered by the things around us. I don't think Big Island Divers set out to change my perspective on life, but they did.
A few last notes now that I've rambled on for long enough: I found $12 per tank of Nitrox to be very reasonable and dove all four of my dives with it. DRY TOWELS after every dive. No other dive operator I've been on does that. They had no trouble accommodating my very sensitive food allergy, which is more than I can say about one of the other leading dive charter operators in Kona. When you have so many choices side by side, it's the little things that really make a difference and in my opinion BID delivers on both the big and the little. If you can only do two dives when you visit Kona, do the manta night dive and the black water. Only downside (the only one I found at all): No head on the smaller boats.
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