Lānaʻi, Hawaii: Scuba Diving the Cathedrals with Trilogy Ocean Sports

Before yesterday, I’d last donned a scuba tank 11 years ago, on my honeymoon off the coast of Tortola in the Caribbean. But then I got pregnant and got busy raising small children. On our vacations with the kiddos, I didn’t really want to take a lot of time away from them while at a tropical resort — no matter how great the diving was. Plus, I lost my dive buddy. My husband, Quent, had trouble equalizing pressure in his ears on a dive in 1997, and lost a little bit of his hearing. He gave up the sport… and I thought I had, too.

Gal on the Go Lana'i ScubaBut when I read that Lānaʻi had some amazing dive sites — and that as a part of the Lānaʻi Visitors Bureau New Media Artist-in-Residence program, I might be able to do a two-tank dive with Trilogy Ocean Sports — I leapt at the opportunity. That is, I wanted to try it even though I had a history of always getting quite anxious before dives. (Okay, I’d been known to do some serious hyperventilating.) To say I was nervous going into these dives on Lanai is a gross understatement. I was totally freaked out.

Thankfully, the crew with Trilogy Ocean Sports was top notch. Our instructor Shigeki (“You can call me Bubba”), didn’t flinch when I told him it had been more than a decade since I’d dived. Everyone else in our small group of five was much more experienced — including travel blogger Gary Arndt of Everything Everywhere (also a Lānaʻi New Media Artist), who said he might have been on his 100th dive.

Lana'i Scuba Diving with Trilogy Ocean Sports

Smiley Captain Ricky has lived on Lānaʻi his whole life.

Shigeki was just no nonsense about the whole scene; there was never any talk about my not being able to do it. There was never any assumption about my bailing and not trying (even though I felt like I was going to throw up from nerves from the moment I signed a liability waiver and flashed my PADI certification card).

On our small boat, instructor Shigeki reminded me how to put on a BCD (buoyancy control device), work its inflator/deflator, and read a pressure gauge. Within minutes of leaving Manele Harbor, I was zipped in my wetsuit, with a regulator in my mouth, and I followed Shigeki into the water — via a back roll entry off the side of the inflatable jet boat — and I was making my way to a mooring line… breathing underwater!

In fact, I felt like I was breathing like maniac, sucking down my entire tank’s worth of air on my first dive — to the world-renowned First Cathedral site, a huge lava tube at about 60 feet underwater, just a 10 minute jet-boat ride from Manele Bay. Yes, I was nervous. Yes, it felt totally foreign. Yes, I was cold. But I did it.

Scuba Diving through Lana'i Lava Tubes in Hawaii
And I loved it. I actually swam through narrow entrances into underwater caves. I admired sunlight streaming through holes in the “ceiling” of the volcanic chamber. I stared at giant eels. For 40 minutes I not only reveled in the incredible sea life off of the coast of Lānaʻi — and we did see an amazing array of colorful fish, all shapes and sizes — but I kept congratulating myself in my head, “You’re doing this! You’re actually doing this!”

Scuba Diving Adventure Travel in Hawaii

I am so grateful to patient instructor Shigeki Ichinose of Trilogy Ocean Sports.

Then, we did it again. Because our intended second dive site (Fish Rock) was reportedly a little murky, we decided as a group to go to Second Cathedral, after swapping out our air tanks back in the harbor. I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience these two amazing sites in one afternoon. We all agreed we actually liked Second Cathedral better — as it involved maneuvering through smaller spaces and tunnels. We’d exit from one section, only to have to ascend up over a ledge… then turn a corner and swim underneath an arch. Yep, even claustrophobic me thought it was absolutely cool.

I’m so grateful to instructor Shigeki, friendly Captain Ricky who expertly drove our jet boat, and my fellow divers who made the whole process as easy as pie. I’m thrilled I conquered my trepidation about the sport — at least for now. I hope my kids will want to try diving sometime; I’ll certainly encourage their taking a resort course or even going for their PADI certification. I’d love to dive with them on future tropical trips.

Here are a few photos I took with my GoPro underwater camera strapped to my wrist. Alas, the photos don’t do the underwater world justice at all — the colors of the coral and the tropical fish are so much more vibrant. I couldn’t get any marine life close up… but I hope this gives you a taste of what my super-cool diving experience was like at the world-famous Cathedrals.

Lana'i Scuba Diving for Fun Hawaii Vacation

Hawaii has Many Great Dive Spots for Scuba

Underwater Adventure in Hawaii!

Scuba Dive Through Hawaii Underwater Caves and Lava Tubes

Scuba Diving in Lana'i, Hawaii

Tropical Fish Offshore Lana'i

Parrotfish and More During Hawaii Scuba Travel Experience

I am one of seven New Media Artists visiting Lānaʻi courtesy of the Lānaʻi Visitors Bureau from January to May; following along on Twitter with the hashtag #visitlanai!

24 Comments on "Lānaʻi, Hawaii: Scuba Diving the Cathedrals with Trilogy Ocean Sports"

  1. Wow, wow, wow!! This is my new most favorite thing you’ve done, Kara, and the pictures are great. I’m completely impressed!

    And that photo of yourself mid-scuba? THAT’S a keeper. 🙂

    • Yeah the pictures are helpful, but I wish they’d have been more clear. Is this kind of blurriness the norm for GoPro underwater cameras?

      Anyway, awesome article! Congrats gals, this article is going to be included in the upcoming Byteful Travel blog carnival! Remember to retweet and stumble when it comes out. 🙂

  2. I love this – especially how honest you are. I’m EXTREMELY claustrophobic and the very thought of diving gets me a little worked up. But I have to say that this post makes me think twice about my attitude.

    Did it make you feel better to be in a group? I think I’d feel safer diving with a bunch of people.

    • ColoradoGal | March 9, 2011 at 10:12 am |

      When I went diving with my husband in mid-90s I felt much more comfortable knowing that someone had my back at all times, you know? So I felt very nervous when I dived with strangers on our honeymoon (Quent stopped diving in 1997). And was nervous on this dive in Hawaii – 11 years later. But was helpful to find out that Gary is a certified rescue diver (who knew?!) and I had a doctor in our group, too (he was an opthamologist, but whatever). Honestly, having others in the group for whom diving is “no big deal” actually made me feel better. My instructor flashed me the “Are you okay” sign regularly. Made me feel good.

      This was truly one of those experiences where I really wanted to conquer the fear, get WAY out of my comfort zone. So happy I did it! And really will encourage kids to learn, too. You need to be 12 to be PADI certified. A couple years off for my oldest!

  3. The diving looks absolutely amazing. I didn’t know that a GoPro camera could go that deep. I thought it was just water resistant. I can’t wait to see the cathedrials for myself.

  4. That looks just incredible, Kara! I’ve never been diving- water sports really aren’t my thing- but I love that you shared your adventure!

  5. You are a brave and intrepid soul — and not just because of those fabulous ponytails. 🙂 I’m so happy that you got past your fear so that you could share this experience, both with Gary and with all of us!

  6. These pics are great 😀 this really reminded me on my last diving adventure, i had a great instructor. I’ll never forget my vacation in Croatia. But I have to say, altough diving is really fun you have to be really carefull

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Dalmatia-on-my-Mind/181325658576018

  7. Those pictures are great…especially the one of you mid dive! Did you see any sharks?!? I would love to learn how to dive, but I have a huge fear of sharks!

  8. Kara – I absolutely love this post! It makes me wish that I would have gotten certified before going to Lana’i so I could try it. Good on you for conquering your fears and going for it. The photos are amazing! I

    • ColoradoGal | March 10, 2011 at 9:59 pm |

      Thanks, Chris. I thought of you lots. I hope you do get certified to go out into the big blue ocean via scuba soon!!

  9. I’m so proud of you, Kara! Can you imagine now, that you might’ve missed it, had you allowed fear to get in the way? WAY TO GO!

  10. I looovveee the pix Kara!!! I’m glad you had a great time seeing the underwater beauty of Lana’i!!!!!

  11. Amazing photos! I really love spending a great beach vacation at Hawaii 🙂 I hope it will recover soon.. There are a lot of major calamities happening this year and its scary.

  12. Kara, this is an awesome post. Your candid writing of your fears is much appreciated, as it makes us more aware that it is beneficial to leave our comfort zone and try something new once in awhile.

    You go, girl!

  13. Roxanne Darling | March 12, 2011 at 7:07 pm | Reply

    I actually used to be a SCUBA instructor many years (actually, decades) ago and I am really wowed that you did a few caves. As I said on Twitter, Seriously Cool! For you, of you, by you.

    @Bocas Chick – Hawaii was hardly touched by the tsunami wave! Lots of us did this: #thinkcalmthoughts – and the result was just some minor flooding on the Big Island and manini (that means tiny or small) on a few streets on Maui.

    @Jen – I used to say to people you would be *lucky* to see sharks. 🙂 The Hawaiian people consider them ʻaumakua or “personal gods”. And, they are so rarely seen that chances are you won’t see one either no matter how much you dive. 🙂

    You can follow the dive tour fols on Twitter @Scuba_Lanai (http://twitter.com/#!/Scuba_Lanai)

  14. Wow! I got nervous just reading this wonderful account. I’m so impressed that you got past your nervousness and did it! So cool. And your post, along with the photos, was wonderful. Felt like I was there!

  15. Ahhh I’m dying to go to Lanai for the cathedral diving! Scott and I are huge divers–the kind who plan all our vacations around diving–and we’ll be in Hawaii next month, but sadly not Lanai. Still, we’re going to do the famous night dive with manta rays in Kona, so I’m stoked for that!

  16. Wow! What a great story! The experience you describe of your first dive in years is exactly how I picture my first dive. Plunging into the deep is a fear of mine, even though I know that the experience of scuba diving will be wonderful. So thank you for sharing your fears! It makes me feel less scared to read a story about someone who pushed themselves to scuba dive and was glad they did. The photos look amazing! On your next trip, it could be fun to connect with local divers. Did you know the PADI Travel Network now offers an easy way to connect with local divers on one’s travels? https://www.tripping.com/network/padi-travel-network. Depending on how soon your kids get PADI certified, it could also be useful to find a dive buddy. Have a great time on your future scuba adventures!

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