We met Roberta and team early on the morning of September 30th. Roberta walked us to Jack’s Diving Locker boat, where we were introduced to Jeff and Kawika. We completed the paperwork and Roberta took some time to get to know each of our comfort levels in the water and what equipment we preferred to use when we were out in the ocean. There was only one other couple along with our group of four, so you could say that this was almost a private tour. Three of the four of us opted to wear wetsuits. One used a noodle and two brought their own flotation vests. None of this was an issue, which was great.
I had read about this tour and convinced the other three in our group to do this tour while we were in Kailua-Kona. In the time between the time we booked and the actual tour, I began to grow a tad concerned about the safety of swimming with wild dolphins. On the boat ride out to our first stop, Roberta, Jeff and Kawika spent time relaying what we could expect and going over other basic snorkel details. Any concerns that were built up in the lead up to the event were quickly allayed, the moment we saw dolphins swimming and jumping and spinning alongside our boat. The excitement mounted as we suited up and slid off the boat into the crystal clear water.
At first, we were taken simply by the clarity and calmness of that the Pacific Ocean, and the way the sunlight reflected down into the bottom of the coral. Shortly, we began to see dolphins swimming to the left, to the right, off in the distance. It was really something to see. We enjoyed our natural encounters with them and waited for them to swim more closely, which they ultimately did, as we were able to get some spectacular shots with our underwater camera. Roberta was generous with her time and her willingness to hang out with us, stay at our pace and take lots of pictures for us, swimming down below us to take shots of us up at the surface. When the dolphins seemed to have moved along, we decided to head back to the boat and find a new location. However, at this point, Jeff and Kawika said that they’d heard that Manta Rays were enjoying some time at a particular area of a coral reef. They asked if we’d like to head there next. Of course, we agreed. We hopped out again at this location and wow - there were three huge Manta Rays gliding gracefully along the bottom of the ocean. We admired them for a long time and snapped some shots of them. Jeff swam way down to their level to get some amazing photos of them and of us above. He made cool air circles in the water, which made for impressive pictures as well. We had one more stop at another nearby location, where we again saw Spinner dolphins – this time, in my view, closer than our first experience.
On our way back to Kailua Bay, where we had started our tour, they took us by some beautiful dark colored lava rocks, which set against the aquamarine blue color of the ocean, was a sight to behold. We each took photos at a nice backdrop they had picked out. We spotted a sea turtle swimming along the shore also.
All in all, it was a fun filled, safe, very unique experience. Roberta, Jeff & Kawika are a very relaxed group of folks who put safety first and very much seem to enjoy their own experience, not treating their duties toward us like a job in any way. We kidded them that this amazing venue is their “office” each day, and remarked how lucky they are to be able to enjoy such experiences as they make their living. Roberta knows so much about dolphins and was happy to share her knowledge with us. They all catered to us and pampered us throughout the tour, even to the point of pulling off our fins when we were ready to climb back up to the boat! There were delicious sandwiches and drinks, snacks to go around. We can’t say enough about the fun we had and how much we enjoyed this experience. We also purchased a personalized video of our experience from Jeff who filmed it on a Go Pro camera, unbeknownst to us at the time. Our party of four all agreed that this was well worth the money and our limited time in Kona.
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