At the Ali’i Adventure Shack we offer multiple varieties of kona snorkel tours. Did you know that “Kona” means leeward, or dry side, of the island? That means that any snorkeling you do on the leeward side of the island is a Kona Snorkel tour! Today we are going to talk about a few of the areas we reach on our vessel named the Orca. The Orca is a rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB). We accommodate up to sixteen passengers on the Orca but will operate with as few as four guests. It is also available for private charter, please call the Ali’i Adventure Shack for pricing. Due to the fact that the Orca is a smaller vessel we can reach places that some of the larger boats cannot access. The Orca itself has shade on half of the vessel, a large cooler that we fill with light snacks, water and juices, and anything else you would like to bring. We have plenty of space. Entry is made by sliding off of the sponson (better known as the pontoon) directly into the water, but we do have a ladder at the stern of the boat to make re-entry easier.
The first stop on this kona snorkel tour will be Pawai. This is an area just a couple of miles north of Kailua Bay and the departure point. Pawai has multiple areas to snorkel depending on conditions. It can be hazardous at times but the Captain and Charter Director will evaluate condition before and during the trip. At Pawai we offer multiple areas to snorkel. Here we will see an abundance of reef fish throughout the trip. One of my favorites is the Parrotfish. Parrotfish come in multiple colors ranging from bright green, blue and yellow to purple white and black. Parrotfish are also essential to the reef. You will see them constantly nibbling on the coral during any kona snorkel tour. They are eating and ridding the coral reef of the dead and dying pieces of coral. Did you know that without Parrotfish you would not have nice white sand in Hawaii? A large parrotfish can churn out (poop) up to 840 pounds of eroded coral, better known as white sand, per year. Parrotfish “sand” can account for as much as 85 percent of white sand in Hawaii!!! For the novice snorkeler Pawai offers many nice, calm and easy areas to float and observe all the yellow tang, parrotfish, black surgeonfish, boxfish and others. It also offers the more adventurous snorkeler a chance to dive down along the little canyons and pukas that hold some of the bigger sea life. There are areas that hold white tip reef sharks (the Labradors of the ocean), green sea turtles and larger squirrelfish and bigeyes. While snorkeling at Pawai also keep an eye on the deep areas above the drop off for the larger Kona coastal manta rays and spotted eagle rays.
From here the next area to explore on your kona snorkel tour is Kailua Bay itself. This kona snorkel tour is great for the beginner in the mornings. Calm waters along the north side of the bay offer an easy way to see and take pictures of your favorite reef fish. From the side of the bay head out towards the middle of the bay and look for the Hawaiian spinner dolphins. Did you know that the Hawaiian spinner dolphin is actually sleeping for most of the day? They literally turn off one half of their brain and swim and recover while sleeping so they will be ready to hunt and feed throughout the night. The mother dolphin actually has to nudge the baby to the surface to remember to breathe! When you see a few dolphins lazily swimming along the surface, remember that there are usually three more underwater for every one you see at the surface. A few tips to maximize your kona snorkel tour with dolphins: 1) slide into the water as gently as possible. Remember they are sleeping and if you startle them they will just swim away. 2) Do not chase the dolphins – again, they will just swim away. Often times if you can get in the water near them they will become curious and swim towards and around you. 3) Stay calm and relatively quiet when swimming. As with all aquatic life interactions, let the animals come to you and initiate the “close” encounter. We cannot touch them, or go to near to them but if they come to us, and they often will if you are calm and relaxed, that is alright.
From here on the kona snorkel tour we will head south along the coast towards Keauhou. Along the way we will look for more dolphins to swim with and take pictures of. Along the way we will pass Magic Sands, the Little Stone Church and Kahalu’u. We never know what we will find along the way. From the months of January to April we often find Humpback whales slowly cruising the shallow areas of the coast. Sometimes we see single whales and sometime we see groups. A common group is an adult female with her calf and a male escort for protection (he’s hoping to father the next calf!)
When we get to Keauhou we will restart the kona snorkel tour specifically looking for kona coastal manta rays. This is one of the major sites for the night manta snorkels and often times mantas can be found here during the day. Just south of the point, off of the Sheraton hotel, is a “cleaning station” that can often attract mantas and green sea turtles for cleaning. It is amazing to see these large animals hovering with the tangs and surgeonfish eat the algae off of their backs.
I mentioned Kahalu’u. This is a great place for a land based kona snorkel tour. It is great for kids and beginners because it is calm and protected and shallow. When the sun is shining it is a great place for underwater pictures. It also has on-duty lifeguards for safety.
We hope you enjoyed this brief kona snorkel tour update. Standby for more articles soon.