Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Austin's Second PADI Open Water Dive

Dennis and I were lucky to dive together on this dive and although we didn't scuba with Austin's class (they were all students) we caught a glimpse of them from time to time doing their requirements for certification. Dennis caught this video on his safety stop where he was hovering at the bow of the boat at about fifteen feet for three minutes.

We enjoyed holding hands for a little while looking at all the interesting coral that was on this particular mooring called Air Tanks. It reminded me somewhat of the reef at Garden Eels because of how the whole wall stretching closer and closer to shore was covered with a plethera of varieties of coral and life. >This is a drop off shelf where the coral ends and deep sea begins. We like to keep a lookout that direction from time to time because once in a while you might see whales, sharks, mantas, or other large fish swim by.

Dennis and I hung back from the other four divers in our group, they were even less experienced than we are and one even swum directly on top of me pushing me towards the coral below. (I was a little irked) but that's what happens when you don't know how to properly control your buoyancy. After that I kept even farther distance between myself and the guide, not to worry , we made it back on the boat or you wouldn't be reading this.

Here are a few pictures that Dennis was able to capture on the first dive at Lone Tree Arch. There was a significant surge today which inhibited their ability to scuba through Suck 'em Up which is a short swim away. They did swim through the lone arch there.

After returning to the dive shop Dennis thought it would be funny to video me. I wasn't in a very happy mood at the time. Vacation doesn't always mean that you are exhuberant all of the time right?? Enjoy my moment of irritation!

The Tommy Bahama Incident

Yesterday afternoon we had lunch at Tommy Bahamas in Mauna Lani. We had eaten there many times because they have great bread and spiced butter, coconut shrimp, and pina-colada cake for dessert. That really covers all of the food groups for me (the rest of the menu isn't too bad either)! Anyway we stop in for a leisurely bite before we had plans for the afternoon and manta dive that you see posted below.
Unfortunately service was less than stellar and it seemed that we waited forever for any part of our meal to arrive. Then the server spilled a huge plate of food directly by and into Dennis. Our lunch meals finally arrived after almost forty five minutes of waiting and thus we had almost all finished our drinks that had been brought by earlier. So as our server was strolling by (a rare moment this day) we mentioned to please get Austin one more guava juice as his had been exhausted fifteen minutes prior to his meal. We again lingered around eating our meals with no water to spare.
Finally after eating all we could muster into our guts she came around with the bill and another guava juice for Austin he then quickly put the straw to his lips and swallowed a huge gulp of his favorite nectar. Sputtering, choking, gagging, spitting then ensued....why you ask? We did to. Thinking perhaps it was just a more bitter or maybe less than par Dennis sipped the concoction to find that, in fact, it was guava juice and vodka on the rocks. I immediately notified the manager on duty that her server had just served my son alcohol. Dennis and I were furious! I just couldn't believe it! After a lengthy discussion with her she did help the situation slightly by decreasing our bill, but not by much, I think a mistake like that should have rendered lunch on the house, but that's just my opinion.
On the way home we inquired of Austin what he thought of his brush with an alcoholic beverage to which he responded,"That stuff is nasty, why would anyone ever want to burn their esophagus on purpose,
I mean what's the point?" I asked him if he would ever try it again and to my delight he replied, "Heck no!"
Maybe a lesson learned from experience is more persuasive than a lesson taught only by warnings. Anyway that was our Tommy Bahama incident. I even went back to capture some pictures of the now infamous site!

Garden Eel Cove

Where to Darby?

Today we dove with Big Island Divers on a two tank evening dive. Captain Russ was with us again,

he has been exceptional with our family and helping with our sometimes finicky Darby. Thanks Russ!

Yep, this is what he has to put up with...

Luke was our dive master again, he is very knowledgeable with scuba in general but also in many of the fish that are endemic to this region and has a great knack for spotting ones that might not be seen.

He's also a really nice guy and I think he's somewhat famous for his sense of humor in the shop! :) The first dive I scuba dove with the group and Austin dove with his own instructor, Mike, to explore the cove. It was a very interesting site as it looked more similar to the vivid coral and reef fish that animate the "Finding Nemo" story. Where the coral ends at the "drop off" the sea bed is sandy and covered in string like eels that burrow into the sand but allow their heads to sway with the sea and resemble long blades of grass that need a good trim. I dove to a depth of 83 feet and traveled back and forth along the reef spotting a different variety of fish than I had seen at many other sites. Although it was overcast and somewhat rainy on the surface, the reef and sea were crystal clear and you wouldn't think that the sun wasn't shining brightly above us. I didn't bring the camera this dive because we were saving battery life for Dennis' dive. This is the same cove where later this evening we were able to experience the Manta Ray Dive again. After watching a beautiful sunset from the boat everyone geared up for the night manta dive.

Dennis scuba dove the night dive this time and was able to capture some better images and video on our small portable mini-reef camera. There was a terrible amount of surge that was thrashing all of the divers back and forth amongst the lava rocks they typically just sit and enjoy the show. Despite the unruly conditions Dennis managed to capture a pretty decent film of Vinny Ray who greeted the divers with a wide mouthed smile!

On the way up Dennis and Mike spotted a cuttle fish and he caught a quick shot of that as well.
After a long day of shopping then diving the inevitable sleepiness crept into the car ride home, unfortunately the ailment affected only Austin.

The Aftermath

The second consecutive day of two confined water dives for Austin was extremely tiring for my little guy. At one point he felt to exhausted to continue. He was tremendously motivated to finish (after a little pep talk from dad reminding him of how much money might be coming out of his allowance). Knowing he only had three or four exercises to finish, with overbearing parenting he trudged through the last bit and was finished with all of the class and confined water dives at five o'clock.

We then had reservations to try a place here called Roy's at six with about a forty-five minute drive back to our townhouse to quickly change and dash out the door to get there within the remaining fifteen. When Dennis, Darby, Austin and I all look pretty much like Darby's photo here,
it seemed like mission impossible and we might have had to make alternate plans. But we were all able (in say five minutes) to get dressed and sprint out the door.

The food was phenomenal. It had beautiful presentations, good service and Ahi seared rare just how I like it! Austin and Dad both had the macademia nut crusted Mahi Mahi and Darby with an unusual twist opted for the pasta Alfredo. We finished off the meal with a scrumptious chocolate souffle, easily probably one of the best I've had! By now the time had lingered on to about eight o'clock and Austin's fatigue was clearly beginning to set in. The tell tail signal to mom and dad that he has reached his limit is when his hands begin to finger their way through the hair atop his head.

It was bed time...the good thing he slept in 'till 9:30am!

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Close Encounter

As I was floating along enjoying the scenery of mother nature, I had an inquisitive raccoon butterfly fish that I had noticed hiding under some coral vacate his shelter to investigate me. He came right up to my mask and I had hardly any time to change my camera to macro mode because he was simply so close. It was surreal and fantastic! Check out these great shots! He was a very photogenic little fish!

Honu Haven

One of our most beloved creatures to see are the green sea turtles known as Honu here in the islands. I'm not sure why but they are simply captivating creatures. I spent probably ten minutes just hanging out with this particular turtle.
They are not afraid of people and sometimes can be a little curious about you. This one was just hungry but it was fun to watch it eat the grasses that grow on the lava rocks and then surface for a second to catch a breath of fresh air and then head back down for more yummy algae!

This next shot I dove down closer to the turtle because I noticed what I think is some type of a wrasse fish hanging out underneath the turtle, maybe he was looking for sloppy seconds?

Darby had already swum back to shore so I made sure to take lots of pictures hoping to get a few nice shots for her to view later. I can't wait to get home and work on the digital imaging of them all. I hope that you all can experience a little bit through the captured lens! Next time you are all invited to join us right!

Kahalu'u Beach Park

Extraordinary snorkeling here! Now, I am a scuba diver by heart and soul but this adventure with Darby and Dennis while Austin was in his second day of class to Kahalu'u Bay really was a highlight of our trip. Kahalu'u Beach has black pebbled sand and is somewhat sheltered by an ancient breakwater offshore that since been weathered away by countless waves. This cove now is an excellent fish environment. I thought I would give you a tour of some of the fish we were able to see. It was like swimming in an enormous salt water aquarium, only with bigger and a much larger variety of fish. Here Darby and I go snorkeling out to the great beyond!

Dennis went snorkeling with Darby and found some sea cucumbers, they collect sand on them and are safe to touch so Dennis wrote Darby's name on the back of this one.

Dennis filmed Darby and I for a little while although it is a little choppy you can see me motion that I found a shell for Darby and later in the video Darby is talking through her scuba that she can spot an eel! She was extremely excited about her discovery and perhaps you can spot it too in the frame.

I think that one of my favorite fish species are the butterfly fish. This one is aptly named lined butterfly, Darby might refer to it as a zebra fish. I had to race a little to catch a photo of a very large sail fin tang, as these tang normally swim in pairs I did happen to snap a photo of each although neither photo shows the size of these fish as they can grow to up to 38cm in length.

The state fish of Hawaii is a triggerfish by the name "humuhumu-nukunuku-a-pua'a." Yep, say that five times fast! These are really beautiful fish to watch they are also appropriately named Picasso triggerfish due to their vibrant coloring and somewhat cubistic striping. The kids love finding the humu's and will point them out every chance they spot one!

This, at first, I believed to be a kind of puffer fish but upon closer inspection and some research I found that this is a male spotted boxfish. It has a gorgeous bluish purple face with a yellow striped masking across it's eye line. It was a fun fish to observe.

Okay, this one is giving me issues. At first glance with it settled in the coral and rocks very camouflaged I believed it to be a lizard fish but after looking through Hoover's guide to Hawaiian fish, no lizard fish came close. Then I looked up a blenny, nope, don't think it's that either. So now my best guess after reading about the stocky hawkfish I think I've found a winner! I just wish it was a more clear shot. I had to zoom in with the camera so as not to have the fish dart away.

NOW....moving on to my favorite fish to play with! and I do mean play with. This female yellowtail coris a type of wrasse loves to nibble on the algae that grow on rocks. When you pick up rocks and knock them together they will come up and nibble on the rock out of your hand. I dove down a couple of times to show Darby how close they can get and how fun these beautifully colored fish are. Next time we dive, I'll try to capture a video of that action because it is really fun to experience!

Here another wrasse and what is called a convict tang to the left.

This is a redlipped parrotfish (blue and above) being followed by a new wrasse I had never seen before called a Christmas wrasse. See it has Christmas lights all along it's side.

This is another colorful Christmas Wrasse on the move!

It's an Amelia Fish!!!! Watch out!!! It's a terrible self portrait!!!!

Can you spot the flounder? There he goes...

I hope you enjoyed our trip through Kahalu'u bay!

Forever Blowing Bubbles!

Austin's second day of class and pool instruction for his open water dives was a very long day. He has yet to perfect all of the exercises that they are required to now in the open ocean rather than the confinement of a pool. The great thing about where he is training for this aspect of PADI certification is that they have a Plexiglas enclosure that you can watch persons learning the joys of scuba. This picture is of Austin learning/trying to pivot with his flippers on the bottom and raising and lowering the rest of his body just by using buoyancy control with his lungs ideally but most likely by inflating and deflating his BCD.

He also turned to face me just in time to click the picture.
He looks like an underwater spaceman with all that gear on him!
But he his happy and comfortable in the water and with most of the gear. Check him out blowing bubbles in this clip! This is for DEAN!!!! He is taking after you! (His instructor slightly scolded him afterward just because in certain situations it isn't really safe. Although in the pool and showing off for mom and dad and Darby it was hilarious). I wish I were 10 again!

Monday, December 29, 2008

Who Says Working Backwards Isn't the Way to Go?

Austin's main goal when on island was to become PADI Scuba Certified. He has already finished four discovery scuba dives with our premier dive charter Big Island Divers. Typically you would begin by taking the PADI open water recreational diving course before doing this many open water dives. Timing of our vacation however prevented us from following the most logical and perhaps more practical approach.

Just three days ago we bought the PADI open water manual along with the electronic RDP or recreational dive planner and the DVD that corresponded with all of the material. With a whirlwind study regime he read all two hundred fifty pages of the manual, completed all of the quick multiple choice reviews, and finished the knowledge reviews at the end of each chapter. He also watched the video to help him visualize what he could expect with each of four confined water dives in a pool and he will also complete four open water dives in the ocean. Today was his first day of pool diving and as we left him in capable hands he was enthusiastic and didn't seem to mind that we were leaving him for eight hours to basically go to school while on vacation.
Dennis and I drove around Kona and went house hunting via driving through different neighborhoods and enjoying the aloha spirit that exists here. We then took Darby to eat lunch at Little Caesar's Pizza and then we went to watch the movie "Marley and Me." While we were able to keep her occupied while waiting for Austin we are going to go snorkeling tomorrow instead. The ocean and beach are much more fun than what we did today.

Upon returning to the pool I found Austin working learning to orally inflate his BCD or Buoyancy Control Device. I remember doing that myself and although it wasn't the easiest to do, you need to know how for one of those just in case moments.

He then dove to the bottom of the pool to practice an "out of air" simulation. The instructor turns off his oxygen cylinder so he can feel what it is like to be out of air, he then gives the instructor the out of air sign underwater and she immediately turned on the air again.
Although he did many other exercises while we were not there those were the ones that we were able to view, Darby from the outside of the fence line wishing she could join the fun.

After this first day one of the other students (she was a mother of two teenagers) commented to me on how polite and enjoyable my son was during the class. (She was very kind and I'm patting myself on my back)