Did a 2-tank boat dive with Linda the first day. The first dive was EXCELLENT, to that point the best dive that I have done in the pacific (20+ dives). Linda was personable and extremely competent. She has been diving in Kauai for a long time and has personally discovered many of the dive sites. I felt like she was willing to take into account the customer's wishes and needs.
Then, did 3 tanks out at Niihau. What an experience!!! It is worth the expense, the time and the boat ride, 110%
First dive on "Vertical":
saw a monk seal up close (there are only 1100 of these in the world, making them the most endangered mammal in the United States)\
saw a couple of smaller reef sharks
EXCELLENT topography (technically bathymetry), bottom dropping from 30 feet to 300 feet straight down!
Wonderful visibility, rivaling the Caribbean
Schools of angels and butterfly fish distributed through the water column as numerous as stars in the sky.
Surface interval, looked around Lehua rock, saw the keyhole and a sleeping Monk seal, then entered the inside of the crater to find a HUGE school of spinner dolphins. Maybe 200 of them!
Some of us got into the water with snorkel gear and swam around a bit. I was really enjoying seeing them and hearing all of the vocalizations. I ended up quite a ways from the boat. The thought of sharks crossed through my mind, but I thought that the dolphins would probably keep the sharks at bay because they had lots of little baby dolphins. I was about 1/4 mile away from the boat watching a group of mom's and babies resting and decided that I had better head back toward the boat. About halfway there, I did a double-take and realized that the animal headed toward me was not a dolphin, but rather a shark about 8' long. As I watched him, he swam right underneath me at a depth of about 15 feet. Once he was about 25 feet past me, he turned toward me and came closer to the surface, clearly watching me. He approached within about 10 feet and I kicked my fins at him and he jerked away, but didn't go far. For the next 10 minutes, he swam in a semi-circle pattern around me maintaining a distance of 15-25'. He stayed to my west and the boat was to the east, but I didn't want to take my eyes off of him to swim toward the boat. I realized one of the reasons why I liked diving so much better than snorkeling. If I was diving, I would have had by buoyancy control vest on, a large steel tank, at least one dive knife, etc. Plus, I would have been able to drop down to the bottom about 60' below and feel a little more secure instead of a floating target. Now snorkeling, I felt like my fins were the only thing that I had going for me. If the shark came at me, I would try to get him to take a bite of the plastic and rubber instead of me! So, I didn't want to move much and look like a wounded animal. I raised my head once, briefly taking my eyes off of my nemesis and tried to shout and wave for the boat...no luck. I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that the shark was going to try to take a bite of me and it was just a waiting game as the shark slowly swam around me. Videos of divers punching sharks in the nose play through my head. It always looked fairly easy when I was sitting on my couch, but now, looking at this shark's large mouth, it seems that I might miss his nose and shove my hand right down his throat...
Once more the shark, turned directly toward me and I braced for the worst when all of a sudden a lone dolphin streaked in from my left side and went diagonally across the shark's face, nearly colliding with him. The shark briefly turned away from me and then turned right back. I am focused on the shark, so I have no idea where the fast torpedo-like dolphin went off to. I don't wonder long because he comes back in from my right and, I think, just brushes the shark this time. This was enough to convince the shark to swim quickly away from me. I take one last look and quickly swim toward the boat watching for more sharks and being sure not to splash too much. I made it to the boat and practically flew out of the water without further incident.
As I reflected on this further, it occurred to me that the dolphin not only had intentionally pushed the shark AWAY from me, but TOWARD the mothers with babies. It seems that the dolphin sensed/knew that I was much more helpless alone and on the surface than the tiny baby dolphins. The dolphin that "saved" me wasn't even a big spinner dolphin (which max out at about 7') it was maybe 5' in length.
Later, playing back the video that I was VERY shakily able to take using the GoPro Hero HD video camera, I can hear a completely different tone that the dolphin was emitting when he was "dive-bombing" the shark. It was a very stark and aggressive tone, harsh clicks.
Anyhow, we also dove Arches which had some great tunnel swim-throughs and then another site that I don't recall the name of. It was just slightly north of Vertical. We saw a seal or two, some spotted eagle rays and several reef sharks, the largest of which was maybe 5'.
Oh, and lunch was GREAT!
Definitely some experiences there that I will never forget!
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