Today I was heading back to Lahaina Diver for some Molokini Back wall Diving. One of my favorite Dives in Maui and in fact one of my favorite dives anywhere. Being in Whale season I was really hoping for some Humpback whale encounters.
Lahaina Divers are our Go-To outfit when Diving on Maui and we spoke about them in our blog on Monday when I dived with them on Lanai two days ago. You can read about that dive trip here along with our opinion of Lahaina Divers. But one of the reasons I like them so much is they offer dives most other companies do not. The last time I dived with them I did their Hammerhead trip to Molokai and swam with large numbers of large hammerhead sharks which were utterly incredible. The Swells were making the crossing to Molokai pretty uncomfortable and a lot of trips were being canceled so I opted for their other “top gun” dive. The Molokini Backwall.
Molokini Back Wall
Plunging into the Abyss
Molokini is a Volcanic Islet rising up in the Channel between Maui and Kaho’olawe. The sunken crater now contains a pristine Coral reef and is used for multiple snorkeling and diving tours. During the day the crater is filled with tour boats. We were here ourselves last Sunday for a Snorkel tour and it was wonderful. One of the key pieces of information, when diving or snorkelling the crater, is DO NOT HEAD AROUND THE BACKWALL!
The Wall plunges 100m+ down into the deep abyss. With strong currents sheer walls and Patrolling sharks. It’s not a place you want to be. This is our dive site for the day!
Ride out – Whales
On the ride out the divers are split into groups and assigned our divemasters/guides who then carry out our dive briefings. The steam to Molokini takes around 45-50 mins where there are muffins available for breakfast. During the briefing which was up on the top deck, a humpback whale surfaces only 5-10 meters from the boat! It is normally impossible to get this close to whales as there are restrictions on how close captains can get. As the Whale first broke surface this close and behind the boat, the captain had no choice in the matter. It was fantastic to see the whale this close and fingers crossed it was a sign of things to come. There were a few more sightings on the rest of the sail. With 10 mins to go, we were given the cue to gear up ready for the Wall.
Dive 1 Back Wall
Scroll down for the Video of the Dive…
Diving here is a bit different from most dives as the boat needs to get in a position close to the wall in fairly rough conditions and currents and can’t simply anchor up to allow a steady drop off of divers. The system in place makes for an exciting drop-off.
As the Boat gets in position we are all lined up at the back of the boat fully geared up, A 30-seconds warning is given then 10-seconds and finally a “Dive Dive Dive!”. All divers disembark at once into the blue and the boat then powers away leaving us alone in the water. It all feels very military and is great fun. We then Begin the descent and head down to our dive depth.
The Wall plunges straight down to well over 100m (330ft) and if you know anything about diving you will know that sort of depth is a no-no. If not then let’s just say if you dive to 100m it will probably be the last thing you do. The best life is also found much higher enjoying the Hawaiin sun. This means we level off at around 20-30 meters and then just cruise along the wall this height.
The big draw of diving the back wall is that it faces NOTHING. It’s rock wall vs pure blue ocean and this means anything can come cruising by. The wall is also home to a huge amount of life. Octopus, Moray eel, Reef sharks, rare nudibranchs, and a whole host of reef fish, many endemic to Hawaii. The topography is also stunning the Giant rock cliff face just plunges away into the blue. It is incredibly exhilarating.
The current is strong and the dive is done as a drift and you just hold your level and drift along the wall taking in the life. All though today there was a big distraction. The Whalesong was deafeningly loud. They felt really close and our instructor spent most of the dive looking out into the blue mentally willing them to come in and say hi. Unfortunately, this was not to be and we just had their incredible song to accompany our dive.
At the end of our Dive with my air getting towards the reserve limit we kicked away from the wall. This makes the boat extraction easier as we are not right next to the wall, with all its boat sinking abilities. As we hung in the water doing our safety stop the song continued but alas no whales appeared.
During our surface interval, we had our usual lunch of ham or chicken salad sandwiches, which are really good along with Maui chips and fresh fruit. We were also treated to an incredible display from the whales that had been singing to us. There was a pod of 3/4 Adults all accompanying a newly born calf. The Captain reckoned it was hours old and it played on the surface while the adults protected it. It was incredible to witness and probably the reason they hadn’t come to say hi.
Baby Humpback on the surface
Large Adult Humpback
Dive 2 – Reefs End
The second dive is at Reefs End. This is a little different but still covers the back wall. We are dropped off in the same fashion as before but this time right on the edge of the Molokini inner reef. This gives a quick taste of diving the inner reef but we are inserted in the exact location where snorkelers or divers are told NOT to be as they will be swept away. Which we duly were.
This is, of course, our intention and the current pulls us round to the backside of the reef and along the wall back towards where the last dive terminated. On the reef the fish life is incredible. Molokini’s reef is teeming with fish and there is abundant healthy coral. We saw some very large Bluefin Trevally, a white-mouthed Moray, and a (Harmless) White-Tip reef shark which was resting in his cave.
Whitetip Reef Shark
As we rounded the reef the Whalesong went up another notch it was definitely at 11 now! I couldn’t believe the song could be this loud and us not see them. We waited in awe at the sound expecting them to appear any second…Then finally out of the blue, I saw something…Something large…um…err…That’s not a whale…
We Watched as the large Galapagos shark cruised by. We knew there were sharks in these waters and were half expecting/hoping we would see them and really they are no threat and just spectacular to see. The shark just sailed by paying us very little attention.
That was about the end of the dive the Whales continued to sing, yet stayed away and I was getting very close to my Decompression Limit so it was time to head on up. No dive at the back wall disappoints but the teasing of the Whales and the lack of many bigger pelagic species or any giant Javanese Moray eels that often frequent the back way left me slightly disappointed, but the overall dive and the Shark appearances made for pretty damn good dive really.
Back up on the surface and the sun was really coming out for our trip home and we enjoyed a fantastic bumpy ride back to Lahaina while enjoying the fresh baked cookies and taking in the sun.
Full Video of the Dives here, Check out the Galapagos shark at the End and the incredible Whalesong.
Back to the Condo
Back at the Condo, the sun was out and the temperatures high. It was a beautiful day and one with an incredible twist. Kate had spent the morning busily doing nothing by the ocean. And ocean that had completely changed character…
The bay was now being pounded by huge breakers. The wind and surf had changed direction and now large waves rolled into our usually placid little bay and were smashing against the rocks and shore. We ordered take-out from the Gazebo and then spent the afternoon just relaxing with drinks while watching the ocean’s fury.
There is a man in there somewhere!
There were several Surfers out enjoying the surf but other than that the ocean was a scary place to be today but We could just sit and watch it for hours…and we did. Helped along by copious Mai Tais. We would love to have had one last snorkel with the turtles but it would have been very dangerous today.
Final BBQ – Hot Tub Cocktails
We ended our day with another BBQ. We cooked outside almost every night and find it’s a great way to enjoy the Hawaiian lifestyle without breaking the bank. We get such limited opportunity to cook outside at home we really took advantage.
After enjoying the BEST sunset of the trip we loaded up with cocktails and headed to the hot tub to finish off our stay in our favorite place in the world. It was odd we still had 4/5 days left of the trip but it was already feeling over. By the end of tomorrow, we would need another break!
Fantastic Sendoff from Napili Bay