Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Kona Hawaii manta ray night dive is very busy right now...

Untitled from Steve on Vimeo.

Just thought I'd throw in a little manta video from a year or so ago since the manta dive off the Kona airport is hopping right now. We've had numbers in the teens the last several nights - that'sa lot of manta rays in one spot! We've got 3 manta charters running next week, as well as a slate of pretty full day dives.

The next few weeks are looking pretty busy, it's that last of the summer crush I guess. Water temperature is still holding at 78/79. We've had a bit of a south swell this weeks, limits a few of the sites somewhat, but there's still plenty of great spots to dive that are free from the swell and have great viz. I'm hoping that swell has raised the water temp a degree or two. It'd be nice to see 80 degrees or more for a while this year, last year I only saw it once on a dive. Some years we get a few months in that range in the late summer through fall.



Keei Cafe. The best value nice dinner restaurant in Kona?

Looking for a good meal that won't necessarily bust your wallet? Pat and I went to our favorite nice restaurant on the island again last night for an early meal. I thought I'd give it a plug. Keei Cafe. We managed to pretty much open up the place last night, so seating was wide open and "Uncle Freddy" was just setting up to start performing (he apprently is there Thursday through Saturday at this time). Nice quiet jazz with singing, very pleasant.

When I first moved here I kept having people tell me about this great little roadside shack to eat at, it was the original location for Keei Cafe... I think it had 9 card tables with gingham fabric tablecloths at the time. Several years ago they moved into new digs... bigger, lots of tropical woods, full bar, very nice.

The Keei Cafe has a smallish menu... a fancy tostada, half a chicken, ribeye steak, rack of lamb, 2-3 fish items cooked 3 different ways, and a few other things I'm forgetting off the top of my head, as well as soups, salads and deserts. Everything we've ever had there is very tasty and cooked properly. Entree prices start in the 12-13 buck range and top out at $25.99 for the rack of lamb. My pan seared ribeye steak was $22.99 and Pat's pan seared lemon caper butter sauce Ono plate was $21.99. We also had a nice greek salad at $7.99. Everything's great, the portions are good, the photos don't do them justice as far as size goes, and we can't recall them having raised prices at all in several years. We haven't found a meal this good for this price anywhere else on the west side of the island in a long time.Pat and I are not big desert eaters, but Bob (my employee) loves their mango cobbler and every desert I've tried over the years has been great. Located in Kealakekua on the mauka side of the highway, it's a bit of a trip for some vacationers, but it's worth it in our opinion. One note: They've been cash only, no credit cards, for years. Nowadays with even fast food places taking credit cards I thought I'd better mention it.

Oh, and did I mention the maitais are delicious? Very interesting, have a bit of li heng mui powder mixed in... you'll either love it or hate it I guess.

Good meal.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Kahalu'u Beach Park Kailua / Keauhou Kona Hawaii. Great snorkeling spot on Alii drive...

It was nice and sunny the other morning and I was in the area so I stopped at Kahalu'u beach and took a short video. I need to learn the Olympus Pen camera still, next time I'll try manual focus, the automatic focus in video mode tends to drift.

Kahalu'u is a little public park on the south end of Alii drive in the Keauhou area.
It's technically outside of the town of Kailua, but I consider it all to be Kailua - there's ancient family names for all sorts of villages here. Kailua is now the business hub of Kona (which extends from the south end of Anaehoomalu Beach up north to the south end of Manuka Bay to the south). It wasn't all that long ago that Captain Cook, up in coffee country, was the center of commercial and governmental activity on the west side of the island. I went to a traffic meeting back in about '04 or so and the Mayor said many of the problems here stem from the fact that in 1970, Kailua had a population of 291 (under 300, I may be off by 6 or so in either direction) and there's been not all that much time to effect major changes to keep up with the population boom. I came here with family as a kid back in 1972' or so... the town pretty much ended at Hualalai road, the Hilton (now the Royal Kona) was practically out of town, the King Kamehameha hotel was a grocery, and there was a long barely 2 lane road from town that, from what I can remember as a kid, ended at the little blue church on north end of what is now Kahalu'u park. We went down there nearly every day to body surf next to the church - I had no idea how good the snorkeling was here at that time.

Back to the beach... it's got a bit of a beach for sunning, but you kind of need to get there early to find space. The highlight here is snorkeling. Resident turtles, lots of fish, some reef (please do not stand on it, try to stand only on sand, best not to stand at all... just snorkel to your heart's content) and shallow water makes for good beginner to intermediate level snorkeling. When Pat and I came out here on our first visit, we hit the park and snorkeled in the late afternoon (actually, not the best time of day) and loved it.



Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Giant Sea Monster Eats Jimmy Kimmel....

Last night we did another manta dive off the Kona airport. Water conditions were awesome... flat and clear... Our divers saw one manta in the distance on the first dive, then while we were taking our surface interval five or six mantas swam by the boat. There apparently were 11 or so mantas at the site on the night dive according to one of the videographers.

I went home after the night dive and turned on Jimmy Kimmel and straight up at midnight... the cable went out. It was still out this morning. The story I'm hearing is that somehow an undersea cable was severed and we won't have cable 'til it's repaired. Severed undersea cable? Gotta be the act of some giant sea monster surely.

Suposedly much or all of the Big Island is out of cable service. No TV, and internet options are limited. I've got service through the phone company here at the shop so I can still play on the internet. Major cable outages can effect things here, from what I understand the hospital and Kaiser both have their patient records based on Oahu and have no access to them right now 'til the cable's back up. There are notices on the radio station recommending people reschedule all but urgent care visits. My e-mail is routed through my cable connection, if I don't have cable service tomorrow I'll need to configure the shop laptop to check my mail. I can let it slide for a day, some days I'm running double charters and I just don't have time to spend on the computer, but I hate not answering e-mail reasonably promptly.

Here's a shot of a Sargassum Frogfish that Cathy took some time ago.

No charter today, too bad, it's wonderful outside. Sunny, little to no vog, mild breeze and very flat seas. Great diving conditions!



EDIT NOTE: I arrived home mid-afternoon and it appears the giant sea monster was no match for Time Warner/Oceanic Cablesystems. TV and computer are working.

LATER EDIT NOTE: The news just came on (5pm here) and said it was more or less a statewide outing of cable TV/internet/cable phones. Wow. Oahu and Kauai were restored early in the day, Maui and the Big Island had longer outages. It apparently was a single cable compromised between Maui and Oahu at about 3000 feet of depth... still might have been a sea monster that caused all of this after all. they figure it'll be weeks before they can pull up the cable and check it out, in the meanwhile everything's been re-routed.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Scuba diving operator review websites....

The past couple of weeks I had a couple different sets of customers say they've read some nice reviews of us on Undercurrent is sort of the bible for travel divers. It's a pay site and members review operators from all over the world, so it's a handy spot to look up reviews from fairly frequent experienced dive travelers. I hadn't been on there in ages so I thought I'd take a peek at the reviews in the Hawaii section. It's nice to see that I must be doing something OK, from 2008 through today (2008 was about the time I started getting to where I was going out at least 4 days a week) I've got about as many or more positive reviews on the site as any of the operators here in Kona, and I'm small potatoes (as far as the actual number of divers I service) compared to several of the big well established operators. I'm done patting myself on the back now.

Anyway, that got me to thinking about review sites where people can go to at least check on potential operators when visiting a new dive location. A good one I like to check out is Scubaboard. It's a busy forum website with forums covering pretty much all things scuba, it has a travel forum section broken down into regions (states, countries and such) and is a great source for picking up some info on operators. is another message board that has a number of followers, although it doesn't seem to be as busy as the previous one I mentioned. Over the past couple of months I've found Yelp and Tripadvisor have review spots for businesses of all types, including dive operators.

With most of the non-pay sites it seems the big operators get the bulk of the comments, it makes sense. For instance, being a 6 pack operator I'll probably never get the kind of comment activity that larger established companies receive. My best month ever (so far) was March of this year, I had 34 total individuals come on the boat, most for multiple outings... some companies here can, and do, put that many customers or more on their boats in a day. Word of mouth takes time... so on that note, I'll do a one time solicitation... if you've been on my boat in the past and had a great time, feel free to visit or and post something nice some day, it can't hurt. Thanks in advance to anyone who posts something.

Anyway, there are sites that you can research to find out a little more infomation about operators so you're not going in completely blind when looking at a new operator to try out.



Saturday, July 24, 2010

Great scuba diving this summer in Kona Hawaii...

We've been real busy diving the last little bit. I've been Captaining for the last 3+ weeks, picked up a cold that went straight to my chest... I'm getting itchy to get back in the water.

Current water temperature in Kona is still sitting at 78/79, we're waiting for the next little bump in temperatures we usually see in late summer through fall.

The manta ray night dive has been hopping up off the Kona airport for about a couple months now. Last night we had 4 (mantas, and passengers) on our dive. We've been going out on the manta dive pretty much twice a week most of the summer, and the day dives have been 6-7 days a week for the most part. This week is looking as it'll be a bit slower so far, that could change. August is shaping up to be quite busy with bookings.

Here's a photo of a diver I took a few months back that is giving a good sized antler coral a once over. These corals occasionally house some interesting rare critters... leaf scorpionfish, harlequin shrimp, reticulated frogfish and such... we always take a moment to check them out when we see them.



Saturday, July 17, 2010

Ed Sullivan is driving me nutz..

OK, hadn't looked at the blog in a bit. Apparently that Octopuss's garden link starts automatically and Ed starts talking right away... a bit overpowering. If you get it, scroll down to the post and click on the play button enough and it'll eventually pause. Guess I gotta post a bunch to run that post off the page.

The Place of Refuge at Honaunau Kona... Hawaii's best scuba diving shore dive location?

I went down to the dive site just outside the Place of Refuge National Park today and shot a quick video of the entry spot. This is probably one of the best overall shoredives in the state.... ease of access, easy entry, very nice reef right close in, deep water and shallow reef, lots of life. It's tough to top, although there are a number shore dives here in Kona and Kohala that are in the running for competition as the State's best shore dive.

One of these days I'll get the camera housed and get some clean video and pictures of it underwater. At the end of the clip there should be video links to old stuff of mine and other videos done by others of the location.



Friday, July 09, 2010

Just picked up an Olympus Pen e-pl1, no underwater housing yet...

Well after 10 months without a camera, the one I've been lusting after came on sale. Bill me later had 6 months same as cash and I figured it was time. I mentioned this camera several posts ago. It's a smallish interchangeable lens camera. It's bigger than my old Canon G9, but a fair bit smaller than my old Olympus 8080, just a tad bit larger than the old 3030/3040/4040 series cameras. Olympus has a housing for it right now, rumors have it that Ikelite and 10 Bar are working on housings for it as well. We're coming into our busy season (last half of summer, and to some extent the early fall) and I won't be taking cameras down on most dives, so there's no reason to rush for a housing... gotta learn the new camera and pay it off.

Yesterday I did something I rarely do... I read the owner's manual. About the only thing I've read the owners manual before using first in the past have been our chainsaws - they scare me. I'm typcially in the habit of just using the camera for 6-12 months then trying to read the manual, I had 3 hours to kill while the battery charged so I got ahead of the game this time.

Initial impressions. Neat camera. I read a lot of comments about it being slow, but coming from the point and shoot world with Canon and Olympus cameras, it seems blazing fast to me. I took a little walk at Old Airport Park in Kailua and shot some quick snapshots. It was windy and I put it in macro... focused practically instantaneously in my book. My previous cameras had a tough time locking in macro on windy days and gently moving subjects. The macro was actually a bit better than I expected, not having a devoted macro lens on, possibly a bit "closer" than the Canon G9 I'd used for a couple of years. All in all, it looks as though it'll be a very nice underwater camera once I get a housing for it down the line. For now I'll learn what it can do.

The pic at the top was of some plumeria flowers. They are probably the most common flowers you see in the leis sold to visitors. The small shot at the bottom is nothing special, just the coast on a sunny-ish day in Kailua. Notice the flat water... scuba diving conditions have been excellent now that summer's in full swing.



Wednesday, July 07, 2010

I'd like to be, under the sea, in an octopus's garden in the shade... Ringo turns 70...

One of my favorite "ocean" songs. Saw Dianne Sawyer interviewing Ringo on "skype" or some other internet connection... he looked good. Hopefully those of us who aren't there yet will look that good at 70. By the way, the muppets did 3 versions of this song, they apparently really liked it. This one is slow to download, you may have to drag the cursor on the bottom backward and hit pause 'til it gets ahead of itself.