By Kevin Stewart Padi Instructor #188980
Dolphins, dolphins, dolphins, if you love dolphins then you will love coming to Kona Hawaii to experience them and if lucky you might even get to dive with the dolphins of Kona Hawaii! I have been very fortunate to have been able to travel and dive all over the world and I would say if your goal is to see dolphins up close in the wild and to has a chance to possibly dive with the dolphins then Kona Hawaii gives you one of the best opportunities to do that in the world! On both my dive travels and the fact that I am a Padi instructor who has also worked in many exotic locals I have had incredible interactions with dolphins both above and below the water. In most of those cases dolphins showed up really by chance and even the tour operators were very surprised that our group was lucky that trip to have dolphins show up. Yes, there are other places in the world that offer tours to go out and see dolphins generally by boat to watch them play on the surface of the water which is great but if your goal is to actually have a real chance to scuba dive with dolphins then I think Kona Hawaii gives you one of the best chances in the world to do so.
Before getting into some of the reasons why I would like to address that this blog is centering itself on the possibility to be able to scuba dive with dolphins in Kona Hawaii and not swim/snorkel with them as some of you have may have heard? There are quite a few tour operators who will take you out by boat in Kona Hawaii to search out pods of dolphins close to shore and then after locating them they will zoom up past the pod and drop their guests in the water in hopes that the dolphins will come by them while in the water. After the dolphins have passed, they will get their guests back on the boat and follow the pod again repeating the process sometimes multiple time and quite often with more than a few boats following the same pod. I am not saying whether this is right or wrong and will not pretend to be an expert on dolphins and like all humans I cannot ask them if this bothers them or not? I will say that I do not believe this encounter to be a truly wild interaction as the boats are chasing after the pods but diving with the dolphins of Kona Hawaii is! The reason for this is that there is no guarantee that I am applying that you will see dolphins on a scuba dive in Kona Hawaii as no dive operators on the island offer a scuba dive with the dolphins’ tour nor is there a dive site that a dive operator could say the dolphins would be always at. There is no feeding of the dolphins to get them to show up like some shark dives you may have heard about in other parts of the world. If you have noticed I keep stating in this blog that you have a chance to dive with dolphins’ in Kona Hawaii but a better chance than anywhere else I have ever been in the world or know of? This makes diving with the dolphins of Kona Hawaii one of the wildest and most exceptional scuba dives in the world if you’re lucky enough to be able to do it?
One of the reasons you have a better chance of diving with dolphins in Kona Hawaii as compared to other locations in the world is due to the fact that Kona Hawaii has large number of resident dolphins both off shore and more importantly near shore to be able to scuba dive with them. Some of the off shore dolphins you could see by boat are the spotted and rough tooth dolphins and though termed as false killer and pilot whales they are actually part of the dolphin family and are just amazing to see cruising on top of the surface of water. The most common near shore dolphins and the ones who you would have the best chance of diving with in Kona Hawaii are the spinner dolphins and possibly the bottle nose dolphins. The spinner dolphins are definitely the most common of the dolphins to be seen close to shore and travel in what is termed “pods” together in the hundreds. What also gives you a better chance of scuba diving with the spinner dolphins in Kona Hawaii is that dolphins will hunt during the night farther off shore and then spend most of the day resting near shore and will spend a good amount of time in calm bays. Dolphins do not sleep like we do as they need to keep moving constantly in the water but when they are in these bays it is their way of getting some shut eye though it may not seem restful to you watching them play by jump high out of the water in a spinning motion which is how they were given their name. The bottle nose dolphins can be seen on scuba dives in Kona Hawaii but a lot less often as there are fewer pods of them and they travel in far smaller numbers such as six in a pod.
Because of the number of dolphins Kona Hawaii has close to it shores it is possible to have an encounter with them on any scuba dive you do here at one of our many incredible sites. I have been on many a scuba dive in Kona Hawaii when out of the blue a pod of dolphins shows up and the lucky divers who I was guiding that day were surrounded by these beautiful and playful creatures. This was by chance and though again it can happen on any dive in Kona Hawaii you might do if you really want to increase your odds of diving with dolphins in Kona Hawaii, I highly suggest diving at a dive site known as “Nai’a” which actually means “Dolphin” in Hawaiian.
Nai’a is a very well-known dive site favored by locals and visitors alike for its hard corals and abundance of fish life such as possibly the spinner dolphins. It is very easy to get to as it is located directly in front of the boat harbor that most the local dive/tour operators go out from “Honokohau”. You can do it both from boat or shore though I recommend doing it from a boat as not only is it easier but they moor a little farther off the shore which puts you closer to possibly diving with the dolphins. The reason Nai’a gives you a good chance of diving with the dolphins in Kona Hawaii is that Nai’a is in one of those bays I was mentioning earlier that the dolphins like to spend time in during the day and you can quite often see them swimming and jumping around the dive site. They’re not there every day but more often than not and I would say that if you see them on the surface and go for a scuba dive you have a very good chance of seeing them on the dive. When I guide a group of divers during this time for my dive shop “Kona Honu Divers” I tell my group before we go that they might be in for a treat and to look up often during the dive and to listen for “clicking” and “squealing” noises which are a signal that the dolphins are close by. You will most often see them up above you first and then if you’re lucky the dolphins will dive down to check you out and if you want a better chance of them staying around be more animate by spinning around yourself as the dolphins like to play and find your actions as being curious as compared to staying still! The dolphins move around quite a lot but I have guided many a dive at Nai’a where the dolphins kept diving down onto my dive group over and over again quite often with their babies tagging along and the experience of seeing this has always been magical!
Nothing is guaranteed in the wild but if your dream is to one day scuba dive with dolphins then I think Kona Hawaii gives you one of your best shots and you should contact Kona Honu Divers to help you achieve your dream as we are a full service dive center in Kona Hawaii.