It's about diving. And cats.

Me diving

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Maui, January 2007

We took a quick jaunt to Maui for four nights over a three-day weekend. Here are our favorite pictures (also available as a slideshow). Here's a list of all of the pictures.

Getting There

We booked our flight and hotel as a package from Pleasant Holidays. The good thing about Maui is that it is so convenient to get there from here. We took an early morning flight on United and were there and ready to dive (well, in theory anyway) that afternoon. Other than airport checkin being mobbed on both flights (making the $2 per bag at curbside checkin well worth it), the flights were uneventful.


We stayed in Kihei, which is a pretty rundown town filled with strip malls and tourist activity stands, at the Mana Kai Maui, which is also pretty rundown. Actually the lobby looks newly renovated and is very attractive, so I wonder if some of the rooms have been renovated as well. The room was very clean, though, so it was fine. The room was small, but for four days, it was fine. There was also a lot of noise at night, when people walked by the room, because the outer wall is basically all windows. One big plus is that it is right on a very nice beach.


We ate a lot of Hawaiian food while we were there. Here are some places that are worth mentioning:
  • Aloha Mixed Plate (Lahaina). We sort of happened upon this place but I'd also read about it somewhere. The food was good, and reasonably priced, and the location was nice. I really loved their haupia (Hawaiian coconut custard).

  • Da Kitchen (Kihei). Hawaiian fast-ish food. It's not actually fast, but it has a fast food feel to it. They give you ridiculous quantities of food for cheap. We had teriyaki chicken and kalua pork, which we liked.
  • Ashley's Cafe (Kihei). I really liked this place. They had the same sort of lunch stuff as Da Kitchen (but a more extensive selection). And their breakfast is excellent. They also have free wireless network, so we could send email and pictures to people while we were waiting for our food.
  • Fred's Mexican Cafe (Kihei). Standard Mexican restaurant. There are a bunch of Fred's in San Diego, which we have been to as well (but we didn't realize it was the same place until we went there). There margaritas could put a hippo to sleep.
  • Maui Tacos. We went to the one in Kihei, but they are everywhere. Mmm, tacos.

We mostly did shore diving, and just did one boat trip. We used B & B Scuba. The first day, we went over there to get some tanks and weights. They told us the conditions were very bad that day and they strongly recommended we not dive. The surface conditions were a bit choppier than I expected, so I figured we should listen to them. I later learned that their definition of bad conditions is very different than ours. I don't blame them, they had no idea if we had surf entry skills, etc. So I'm sure we could have dived that day, but oh well.

Since we didn't do that much diving, I will give a brief report of each dive.

Jan 14, Makena Landing. Rob really wanted to see turtles, and I assured him that it would not be a problem. But he was skeptical, and put me in charge of finding sites where we could see turtles. He kept fretting about the possibility that we might not see any turtles. Ha! On this dive, we saw at least six or seven turtles. And they weren't just sitings. We watched several of them for quite a while. We didn't end up finding any of the "five caves" on this dive, but we found some cool swim-throughs. We could hear whales singing throughout the dive (which we ended up hearing on most dives throughout the trip). We saw one enormous turtle with some strange tumor-looking growths on its head. One of the guys at B & B knew of this turtle, and said it was caused by some sort of herpes virus. 32 feet, 98 minutes, 74 degrees.

Jan 14, Old Airport Beach. We met up with Tim (kidspot) from Scubaboard. He lives in Lahaina, so we went to a site up near him. This site has a pretty flat low-lying reef. But there are all these little nooks in it with lots of little stuff growing in it. Various encrusting sponges, eels, one octopus. Definitely a site that you should bring a light for, so you can shine it into the little nooks to find stuff. 41 feet, 62 minutes, 76 degrees.

Jan 14, Mala Wharf. This was a night dive. This is an awesome site, but you have to work for it. There is a long walk (at least 50 yards) through shallow water over broken coral. Great way to twist an ankle, especially at night, when you can't see where you are stepping. But it turned out to be well worth it. We saw a dancing Spanish dancer, several kinds of eels, some turtles, porcupinefish, and a pair of Imperial nudibranchs. Tim saw a whitetip, but it swam away before Rob and I saw it. There were many cool swimthroughs at this site. 28 feet, 54 minutes, 75 degrees.

Jan 15, Reef's End, Molokini. We went on a boat dive with B&B. We saw lots of eels, various fish, a blue dragon nudibranch, and two small whitetips (the first "real" sharks we've ever seen). We also saw two whales on the surface from the boat (one breaching). 74 feet, 50 minutes, 69 degrees.

Jan 15, Red Hill. Turtles, a frogfish, Spanish dancer, many eels, an eel cleaning station, another Imperial nudibranch. We did it as a drift dive, though there was not much of a current. 48 feet, 68 minutes, 75 degrees.

Jan 15, Ulua Beach. Lots of eels and other usual stuff. My light wasn't working (turns out the battery was not plugged in), which was a bummer. 30 feet, 65 minutes, 75 degrees.

Jan 16, Makena Landing/Five Caves. This time we actually found the caves (got some advice at the dive shop). One cave had four or five whitetips (one "big" one) in it, and the herpes turtle. It was pretty cool being in the cave with the sharks circling. Of course, they were little sharks, otherwise it would have been scary. Then we found the bubble cave, with a monk seal in it! He was very playful, rubbing me with his whiskers, headbutting me and various pieces of gear. We surfaced in the bubble and chatted with some other divers about the seal. We also found a cool tunnel with some sleeping turtles and some really bright encrusting sponges. It reminded me of Carmel! I also spotted a cool nudibranch (a gold lace nudibranch) right outside of the bubble cave. What a great final dive! 28 feet, 102 minutes, 73 degrees.

A few comments on the diving in general. The reef scenes are not really spectacular, because the coral just isn't that colorful. But there are lots of neat little things to see (nudibranchs, for instance), and many different kinds of eels. Plus I loved the turtles. Most people seem to think that Maui isn't the type of place you'd go just to dive, but given how easy it is to get there, I think it's a pretty good place to go for a long weekend dive trip. Boat diving is ridiculously expensive, but the shore diving accessibility is pretty good.

The water temps were mostly in the mid-70s (except for the Molokini dive, I can't believe it was that cold, but Rob's computer said 70, so I guess it was). I wore a 3mm full suit plus a 3/5 hooded vest. I was a little chilly at the end of some of the longer dives/days (and after the Molokini dive), but I think this combination was just right for me, given the number/depth/length of dives we were doing. Rob was getting too hot in his hood on one dive... in the middle of the dive I see him pull his mask off so he can pull the hood back to cool off :)

One of our first stops on the island was to get a painter's dropcloth to cover the trunk of the rental car with. This actually worked out pretty well, and we'll have to remember this for future trips. We pretty much had 4-6 Al80's plus 2 sets of (wet) gear in the trunk at all times and the dropcloth pretty much caught all of the drip. The $3 purchase probably saved us a lot of trouble.

My thoughts on the boat. There were 8 divers on the boat, plus 3 dive masters and the captain. There was plenty of room on the boat, I think it holds up to 12 divers. The boat crew had some attitude about our gear (which is DIR). Tim knows them, and he actually warned us that they like to make fun of his DIR configuration. I think they were mostly joking because they knew we were friends with Tim. (This was the first time I met anyone in real life who was anti-DIR, I thought maybe they only existed on the Internet.) One of the crew made a crack about "what do you need all this gear for?" when I was setting up my gear (I gather he was referring to the long hose and carrying two lights). Then on the first dive, our DM's light was dead from the start, so I whipped out my backup light and give it to her. So I felt a little vindicated about "all this gear". Other than the anti-DIRness, I liked the boat and the crew. They fed us tasty snacks between and after the dives. Also, since there were so many DMs, we were split into groups by level of experience. There were 4 couples on the boat, and we were paired up with another couple and a DM. The other two couples each had their own DM. This was good, since we didn't have to turn the dive on someone's air. Both dives were ended based on the time limit they set before the dive, not turn pressure. The boat leaves at 6 AM, which is ridiculously early in my book. But we got back at 10, and still had the whole day left.


We drove up the coast to Napili and checked out the views one day. We stopped and walked around Lahaina (and had Hawaiian ice, mmm). We went to a luau at the Maui Prince Hotel. It was pretty entertaining, and worth doing once I think. Other than that, we just walked around on the beach next to our hotel.

Maui isn't exactly my picture of paradise. Paradise definitely does not have a Kmart next to the airport. But it's a nice place to go for a short vacation.