Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01 Image 01

By the time I arrived in Hawaii I was so desperate to be back in the water it was a feeling akin to homesickness. I hadn’t been diving in four months, which suddenly felt like four years. I couldn’t wait to strap on a tank and descend below the surface.

On my previous trips to the islands I dived Oahu, Lana’i, and The Big Island, but Maui eluded me. This time, that would change. Pulling in to the Kihei boat launch, I was warmly waved over by my dive guide Warren and boat captain Andy. I had heard rave reviews of Mike Severns Diving from friends on the island and hoped they’d live up to the hype. As the boat was lowered into the water I chatted to my two fellow divers, who I liked immediately. We loaded onto the boat and with hopes high, I asked where we were headed (dive sites are decided on the day and depend on the conditions and experience levels and preferences of the divers).

Mike Severns Diving Maui

Diving Molokini Crater

I was holding my breath for a certain answer — the back side of Molokini Crater. Unfortunately, that site is fairly advanced and my two fellow divers for the day were recently certified. Instead, we’d check out the calmer and more sheltered waters of the inside of the crater, or more specifically, Mid Reef Molokini.

While Warren assisted the other two divers in descending, he gave me the ok to drop to the bottom and wait for them there. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted a familiar fin flicking not far away. Curious, I approached the small cave and found a pair of beady eyes staring back at me — a white tip reef shark. As I peered in the cave. I sensed movement behind me and dodged just in time to allow another white tip to swerve past me into the cave. Though I know white tips are totally harmless, my heart beat a bit faster.

Diving in Maui

Diving with Sharks in Maui

Soon after, my heart sunk as I realized every underwater photographer’s worst nightmare — camera malfunction. I wasn’t sure what exactly was going wrong but my camera was going a bit haywire. It shot video every time I tried to release the shutter, half my shots were out of focus, and the color balance was wildly off and appeared to be uncorrectable.

Having just replaced the camera in my underwater setup, I was not pleased, but I tried to focus on enjoying the dive nonetheless.

Diving Molokini Crater

Diving Molokini Crater

Diving in Hawaii

Not long into the dive, one of the divers in our group ran low on air, not surprising considering it was one of his first open water dives. Fully expecting to have to ascend as a group, I was beyond pleased when Warren brought the other two divers up the line for  a safety stop and then rejoined me so we could complete our dive.

And those were the best fifteen minutes of the whole thing. The highlight was an interaction I unfortunately didn’t capture with my camera. I watched intrigued as a large jack appeared to be attacking an eel, and then my regulator almost fell out of my mouth as the eel appeared to chase the jack away, free swimming out of its hole! Later Warren explained the behavior, which I had wildly misinterpreted, was the jack and the eel hunting together. That was an even cooler explanation than I could have imagined, and I was so glad I had a guide switched on enough to explain the mysteries of Maui diving.

Mike Severns Diving Maui

Diving Maui_10scuba selfie!

With our last few moments in Molokini, I returned to where I had began: in the shark cove. I took as many photos as I dared before considering that maybe shoving my lens into a shark’s hangout wasn’t the brightest idea I’ve ever had and retracted my outstretched arm.

Diving in Maui

Mike Severns Diving Maui

Diving with Sharks in Maui

Having maxed out at just 75 feet, we still decided to move to slightly shallower waters for our second dive. This one was to a site I had never heard of, Pu’u Olai, though when I repeated the name later to another diving enthusiast she clapped her hands in excitement for me. It was easy to see why. Pu’u Olai blew me away.

During the surface interval I had taken my camera out of its housing and messed around with it, unable to find what had caused it to malfunction throughout the first dive. It too must have sensed that the second dive was not to be missed, because from the first photo, it cooperated completely.

Diving in Maui

This would be one to remember. Oversized jacks, a giant frogfish, and a stately sea turtle all graced us with their presence moments into the dive.

Diving Maui_16

Diving in Hawaii

With a maximum depth of 55ft, the dive site had fabulous visibility and great light, resulting in bright and bold colors everywhere we turned our masks.

Diving Maui_18

Diving in Maui

Diving Maui_19

On this dive, I was treated to several first time sightings of species I had to file away to ask Warren about back on the boat. The first, he would later identify as a juvenile rock mover, shown below left. It was just about two inches long and the way it anxiously darted around the reef won my affections immediately.

Another underwater discovery that had me scratching my head? A pulsing pile of sea hares, a sight so strange I wondered if I was hallucinating.

Pu'uOlai Dive Site, Maui

I also delighted in finding a new variety of an old friend — a gold lace nudibranch. Or as I like to refer to them, underwater aliens.

Mike Severns Diving Maui

Nudibranch in Maui

And along with all the amazing new attention getters were the familiar favorites — wide-mouthed eels, colorful sea stars, and intricately patterned shells.

Diving in Hawaii

Starfish in Maui

And diving in Hawaii wouldn’t be diving in Hawaii without a turtle or two. Or in our case, I think up to five in this one little dive.

Pu'uOlai Dive Site, Maui

Mike Severns Diving Maui

Diving in Maui

Don’t worry — the above is only an optical illusion. No turtles were smooched in the making of those images.

Turtle in Maui

Diving in Hawaiia poor turtle suffering from a serious fungus

Pu'uOlai Dive Site, Maui

Pu'uOlai Dive Site, Maui

I just marveled over and over at how many exotic creatures we managed to meet on one tank. The icing on the cake? Our final find of the dive, a baby frog fish no longer than an inch.

Diving Maui_35

Tell me that isn’t a morning worth throwing up a shaka for. Scuba enthusiasts, do not miss Pu’u Olai when you come to Maui.

Diving in Maui

Pu'uOlai Dive Site, Maui

My Maui friends were right — I couldn’t have been happier with Mike Severns. Thus far I have a perfect record of adoring every single dive operator I’ve used in the Hawaiian islands, and I’ve noticed something several have in common: baked goods on the boat. Yes, these guys have fresh baked cinnamon rolls and cookies on board for us. A+, Captain Andy, A+.

And I really can’t say enough about my dive guide Warren. He handled the different experience levels in our group effortlessly and truly impressed with me with his breadth of knowledge about the creatures calling Maui home.

Mike Severns Diving Maui

Which of these amazing creatures would you be most excited to see under the sea?

. . . . . . . .

Many thanks to the Maui Visitors Bureau and to Mike Severns for hosting me and showing me so much aloha. As always, you receive my honest opinions regardless of who is footing the bill.

. . . . . . . .

Curious about my underwater photography setup? Check out my Obsessions page for information on my camera gear, editing programs and more.

3-devide-lines
YOU MIGHT ALSO ENJOY
95 Comments...
  • Bethany Dickey
    July 22 2014

    These pictures are incredible! I’d love to try scuba diving but I’m TERRIFIED of water – I’ve managed to snorkel a ton down south but it’s still so so scary…not sure if I could ever dive!
    Bethany Dickey recently posted..How to pay for university – all on your own

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      I believe in you, Bethany! 🙂 I used to be terrified of the ocean as well, and look at me now! All you need is the right instructor.

  • how big are those sharks? it’s hard to tell. I always love your underwater photos!
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted..My Best Friend Got Married: Rachel & Ian

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      They are little guys! Probably just 3 feet? Cuties! 🙂

  • Kristin Addis
    July 22 2014

    I’ve been wanting to check out the diving in Hawaii for a while now. I’ve only dived in SE Asia and Belize so far. Looks like you got a really good sampling of awesome sightings! That nudibranch is incredible. Those are always my favorite things to see, which some of my dive masters laugh at, but I always think they’re the one thing that changes the most.
    Kristin Addis recently posted..Having Fun at Hadrian’s Wall

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      I love them too! There are so many varieties and I always get so excited to see a new one.

  • Bonnie Toth
    July 22 2014

    If I’d known you were going diving with Mike Severns, I’d have put you in touch with Pauline Fiene, a member of the Women Divers Hall of Fame!

    Pauline Fiene, 2009
    Pauline Fiene, a marine biologist with over 8,700 dives, has studied Hawaiian marine life for twenty-seven years, discovering over 60 new species of opisthobranchs, two of which have been named for her. Through detailed annual monitoring she discovered the spawning pattern of Hawaii’s most abundant species of coral – the first time spawning had been determined for this species worldwide – and now offers trips for divers to see this rare daylight spawning event. She is coauthor of several books including Molokini – Hawaii’s Island Marine Sanctuary; and Diving Hawaii and Midway; and with Cory Pittman published the comprehensive Hawaiian nudibranch website, http://www.seaslugsofhawaii.com covering over 500 species of Hawaiian sea slugs.

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      I have heard of Pauline, but I didn’t realize she was a WDHOF member! Okay, I’ve learned my lesson — I’m going to email you before I dive anywhere 🙂

    • Pauline Fiene
      July 24 2014

      That’s OK, Bonnie. Mike Severns Diving is the company that I own and operate! 🙂 And although I’m on the boat 3 days a week, I wasn’t on the boat that day unfortunately….

      • Alex
        July 28 2014

        Hi Pauline! I knew you owned the company because both Kyle and Wendy raved about you 🙂 I thought from Bonnie’s comment that she knew as well. I would love to meet you on my inevitable return to Hawaii!

  • Maddy
    July 22 2014

    The little frog fish is so kuhhyeeewwwwtttt!

    I’m still a little too nervy to try full on diving but I definitely plan on snorkeling when I go to the big H-I! 🙂 Your pictures always inspire me to want to do more water things!
    Maddy recently posted..Cauliflower & Chickpea Salad | TCC

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      The snorkeling in Hawaii is phenomenal! I bet you’ll leave looking into PADI courses 🙂

  • Rekha Devarapalli
    July 22 2014

    Hey Alex,

    I have never heard of gold lace nudibranch before, but it looks so exotic and so very pretty and I would love to see it some day! Even frogfishes are fascinating creatures 🙂

    Cheers,
    Rekha
    Rekha Devarapalli recently posted..Mesa Verde National Park – A glimpse into North America’s pre-historic past

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      I love them all! I look at those crazy creatures and just think… who made these?! They are wild!

  • Amanda
    July 22 2014

    Alex these photos are GORGEOUS! Great job 🙂 Love the first shot from the second dive; totally jealous of that awesome nudibranch; yay so many turtles! I’m assuming it’s way way more expensive than SE Asia, but how much does diving cost in Hawaii?

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      Thank you Amanda! A two tank dive with Mike Severns is $139, not including gear. If I recall correctly diving in the Big Island was $116 for two dives but we had our own gear and a professional discount, so probably around the same. It’s pricey for sure, but I think the quality of the companies and dive sites is accordingly high.

  • becky hutner
    July 22 2014

    ok, you might be winning me over on this diving thing. hmmm…gonna do a few more rounds of snorkeling in the med this fall & see how i feel.
    becky hutner recently posted..READ This/WATCH That: Creative Travel Inspiration for LOS ANGELES

  • Fiona
    July 22 2014

    Damn you. I read this post and have lost 90mins to googling diving in Europe and in Ireland (was contemplating braving the cold water because I can’t get away anytime soon:( )And now googling Divemaster courses and buying dive equipment and underwater housings.

    Note to self, do not read Alex’s diving posts, will induce bouts of envy
    Fiona recently posted..How was it? Marking 2 years since I left for the Warm Heart of Africa.

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      Will induce bouts of wanderlust, more like 🙂 I love to hear it!

  • Shaun
    July 22 2014

    Excellent pics on this dive! That camera learned its lesson somehow. Crazy eel picture! The baby frogfish looks like it was coloured in with a highlighter! The black and white shell looks like it has a palm tree on it.

    Diving and cookies sounds like an awesome combo!
    Shaun recently posted..Dublin – Solo

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      Seriously. And on my dive boat on the Big Island they had brownies, goldfish crackers, hot chocolate and cup noodle! (It was a night dive.) YUM!

  • Katie
    July 22 2014

    That first frog fish is huge! But the that little baby – how freaking cute! I’m still holding out for seeing a sea turtle in the wild – why do they hate me? I love your nudibranch shots too – whenever I try to get closeups they always blurs. Fingers crossed my new toy (a gopro) will do better! Awesome shots, as always!
    Katie recently posted..Diving Menjangan Island Indonesia

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      Ha, they don’t hate you — they are just waiting for the right moment! Good luck with the GoPro, and consider investing in a red filter!

  • Shaz Lake
    July 22 2014

    I love the colours! I’ve always been terrified of diving, but I’m thinking I’m going to face my fear and get my PADI while I’m in the Galapagos. Everyone says its the best place to dive so I figure I might as well give it a go. I love the water and sea creatures, it’s just the whole breathing under water thing that gets me. Maybe once I understand what’s happening and feel in control I’ll be more comfortable with it.
    Shaz Lake recently posted..Canoa: Montañita’s Little Brother to the North

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      Hmmm… I don’t want to discourage you but from what I have heard the diving in the Galapagos is super advanced — I’m not sure it’s the best place to learn! Maybe I’m misinformed but do look into it, I would hate for someone to be turned off diving because they got started in the wrong place!

  • You’re such a great underwater photographer. Absolutely amazing shots!

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      Thanks Miriam! I truly treasure that compliment 🙂

  • Thanks for the diving fix! I loved reading this post and felt like I was right there along with you.
    Danielle @ The-Lifestyle-Project recently posted..It’s a Good Day When…

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      Thanks Danielle! That’s a great compliment for a writer to hear. Hope I can bring you all along on more dives soon…

  • Justine
    July 22 2014

    Where do I start!? The white tip reef sharks would have startled me but given that they are harmless I think it would have been so cool to see them in their little cove! I’ve never seen anything like that little frog fish. What an odd creature! And of course, turtles always take my breath away. How harmful is that fungus? Will it ever go away naturally or will it just get worse?
    Justine recently posted..Welcome to Cartagena: Colombia’s Caribbean Gem

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      I know that Warren told me all about the fungus situation…. and I also know that I promptly forgot it 🙁 From what I recall it was very harmful and there was sadly no hope of recovery.

  • Petra
    July 22 2014

    Wow… this is incredible!!! The visibility is so amazing. I definitely have Hawaii on my diving bucket list now! I’m going diving in Cozumel for the first time soon, can’t wait!
    Petra recently posted..NZ campervan road trips: South Island #1

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      Nice! I haven’t been to Mexico yet, but it is very much on my list, mostly because of the diving (and the food). Enjoy!

  • Ashley
    July 22 2014

    Love the turtle photos! And that baby frog fish is so cute!
    Ashley recently posted..Tranquility in Thailand: Khao Sok National Park

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      I adored him! Unfortunately I was not able to take him home as a pet…

  • Ayngelina
    July 22 2014

    I’ve been to Maui twice but never scuba diving, I guess it means I have to go back!
    Ayngelina recently posted..A Day at the Abattoir

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      As if you needed an excuse!

  • Scott
    July 22 2014

    Do you bring all of your dive gear when you travel, or just certain items? What items are “must brings” when you go to a place like Maui, Indonesia, Malta, etc as far as diving goes if you don’t bring everything?

    • Scott
      July 22 2014

      And pS – gorgeous photos as always!

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      It depends on the trip! Have you read this post? I pretty much always bring my mask, snorkel, and fins if I’m going somewhere with water and try to throw in a wetsuit/rashie too. If I’m diving, I always bring my dive computer. The rest depends on how much diving I’ll do and how light I’m trying to pack! Hope that helps 🙂

  • Janice Stringer
    July 22 2014

    The sharks I would love to encounter but that baby frog fish – well who wouldn’t want to give him a big underwater kiss! He was adorable…
    Janice Stringer recently posted..The Simplicity of Sharing

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      It’s funny how something so cute grows up to be something so… not cute. Kind of like some humans, I guess! 😉

  • Leah
    July 22 2014

    Glad your camera didn’t quit on you…beautiful! I’m going to scour your archives for Central America diving recs, I’m planning to make those waters my bitch! It’s been too long! xx
    Leah recently posted..My Favorite (Free) Language Resources

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      Hit up Bocas and the Bay Islands for sure! And Coiba if you want a challenge 🙂 If only our Central America travels were overlapping, argh!

  • Karlijn Travels
    July 22 2014

    OK, scuba diving in Hawaii goes on the list! And there I was, thinking four weeks on the Hawaiian Islands next year would be enough 😉
    Karlijn Travels recently posted..INSPIRATIE – vind je droomtrip met de gidsen van Favoroute

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      No amount of time in Hawaii is ever enough!

  • Miquel
    July 22 2014

    Wow! Those pictures have me convinced I need to try diving sometime soon.
    Miquel recently posted..Napa Valley: A Love Story

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      That’s what I love to hear, Miquel! Good luck!

  • Jello
    July 22 2014

    Amazeballs ;))
    Jello recently posted..Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi

  • Diana Edelman
    July 22 2014

    These photos are absolutely magnificent. I know I say over and over again I don’t think I could ever dive, but you are slowly chipping away at that idea. This looks like such an incredible experience!!
    Diana Edelman recently posted..Getting to Slovenia from Italy

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      You are living in the perfect place to learn, girlfriend! Go for it!

  • Yayyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy! The best! I died at the frogfish. I just went to Utila for a week and there were many promises of a frogfish but no delivery 🙁 Also, super cute nudi! This looks like some awesome diving…but… what is the water temp? Everyone is in full suits in summer? Eeeep!
    Rika | Cubicle Throwdown recently posted..How to Become a PADI Scuba Diving Instructor

    • Alex
      July 23 2014

      Okay I had to Google this because I never pay attention to numbers (I seriously sometimes still ask people when looking at the weather app, “So… 70 means like jeans and a t-shirt, right? Or no? Shorts? Sweater?”) But this is what the search engines tell me: Water temperatures on Maui range from about 74 in the winter-82 in the summer. Boom 🙂 Last time I was there I dove in my shortie Swish with a 1mm top layered under and was fine too.

  • Ugh! Beyond jealous of this experience! If you thought being out of the water for 4 months was bad, try 12… that’s pretty much the case for me at this point and I am super depressed, especially as I have no idea when I’ll have the chance to dive again.

    I have to admit, I’m not really interested in visiting Hawaii except, you’ve totally convinced me that a trip would be worth it even if all we did was dive! 🙂
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted..Gorgeous Galle in Photos