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Review Date       AVG       ShoreDiving Site
07/15/2016        4.19      Alua Beach The Big Island, Hawaiian Islands
I did four dives here, the second week of July 2016. I thought this site was exceptional, but challenging. Over the course of four dives, I saw a 10 foot tiger shark, half a dozen eagle rays, several large turtles, and innumerable eels. There were also a lot of spinner dolphins around, though I did not see them underwater. I thought the reef was very healthy and alive. There were few shore divers around, and the ones around but they tended to be experienced, knowledgeable, and helpful. The challenges are several. First, the obvious: you have to lug your gear over a lava field. A lot of people seem to prefer to suit up fully and walk over the field with everything on. I tried that, and found it exhausting and dangerous. If you slip, you are toast. I found it much better to carry the tank first, by my side, and to use the tank as an aid in balancing on the rocks. If I had slipped, I would have just let go of the tank. And by carrying the tank by my side, I was able to take frequent breaks, so that I never got tired. Just went slow and steady. It was even better carrying two tanks at a time, because it gave me more balance, and I was able to use one for balance while moving the other. Again, slow but steady. The approach I used does mean making a second trip to get the rest of your gear, but I thought it was a good trade off. The other challenge is that you are going to be diving under a very busy channel out of the marina, and that makes it dangerous to come up to the surface for visual reference if you get disoriented. On several occasions I got turned around after spotting something interesting (eagle rays and turtles especially), and I was pretty sure that I was not returning the way I had gone out. On one dive, which I did solo, I got disoriented enough that I ended up on the other side of the channel (across the marina), and with only 500 psi left I felt I didn't have enough air left to try to chance getting across underwater, and I certainly was not going to try to snorkel across the active channel. So I just climbed out the rocks on the other side of the marina, and walked over to a local dive operator and asked for help. They were kind enough to give me a ride to my car on the other side of the marina, rather than making me take a walk of shame with all my gear on. (Thank you, Kona Diving Company!). Yes, I was an idiot for getting disoriented that much, but it happened very easily. In talking to other local divers, they told me that it was a fairly common occurrence, even among divers who do that site all the time. Another caution is that it is very tempting to try to head out to look for specific 'big things' -- namely the tiger sharks or the dolphins -- which tend to hang out around the drop off at 70 feet. I found that when I did that, I burned a lot of air trying to get to the drop off quickly, and when I got there, I didn't find what I was looking for. But on the dives where I moved slowly and appreciated everything else along the way, I enjoyed myself much more, and the big things tended to find me. So, I would suggest taking it easy, and enjoying the incredible diversity of life at this site. One final word: you are supposed to use a dive flag at this site, and I was told that the cops occasionally come out and fine divers who are not using one. I used a flag on my first dive, and it seemed to me that boats did not slow down one bit around the flag. If you were going to surface in the channel, it would have to be no more than a foot from the flag, and even that would be no guarantee of safety. Generally, I observed that local divers did not use flags, and only out of towners did. I also found that a lot of dive operators bring divers to this site on their boats -- rather sheepishly, I imagine, because it's less than a one minute ride from the marina, and they are charging $135 for a two tank dive. I didn't see the boat traffic slowing down much around the dive boats either. So, in summary, it's world class diving, but please be careful.

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