One hundred feet beneath the surface of Maunalua Bay, the Corsair⎯a World War II airplane—rests on a sandy floor. Its massive shell and magnetism for schools of soldier fish lures deep-sea explorers to the site every year. As divers propel themselves alongside the plane's wing and fuselage, they get an up-close look at the wreck's current residents, which range from colorful goatfish to reclusive moray eels.
With more than 30 years of experience, the scuba instructors at Waikiki Diving Center lead daily dives for certified divers to submerged sites such as the Cosair wreck. Earning a five-star Instructor Development Center designation from the Professional Association of Diving Instructors, the center's team coordinates parties of 12–14 people and takes them out on one of two customized dive boats—The Submariner or Snoopy V—for adventures ranging from snuggling sea turtles to earning PADI open-water certifications. To enhance visitors' experiences, Waikiki Diving Center's crew arranges complimentary shuttle service to and from Waikiki hotels.
Though he earned a Ph.D. in Biomedical Sciences from the University of California San Diego, Matt Zimmerman decided to pursue his love of the ocean instead of science and move to Oahu. He founded Island Divers Hawaii there as a way to share his enthusiasm for scuba diving as well as the discoveries it can share, from intricate coral to schools of fish locked in a never-ending struggle for tenure. Zimmerman and his knowledgeable staff teach dive courses for curious students and lead boat charters that give divers the chance to test their new skills in pristine waters.
When it comes to spearfishing, Westside Dive and Tackle founder Kris Tyler considers using scuba tanks as cheating. So when he suits up to spearfish, the seasoned outdoorsman plunges 20 feet below the water’s surface, holds his breath in the stillness, and waits: “You become a part of the reef or rock, and you wait for the perfect situation—for the one fish that might give you that really good shot.” A self-described “water baby,” Kris has been swimming and fishing in Hawaii and Florida since childhood. Most of all, he loves the way spearfishing enables him to connect with the underwater universe and partake in a tradition Hawaiians have enriched for generations.
In addition to his spearfishing expeditions, Mr. Tyler totes explorers to his favorite sunken wrecks and lava caverns off the coast of Oahu on scuba-diving charters, and equips them to chart their own expeditions or challenge blowfish to staring contests during scuba-diving certification.
Powered by twin Cummins engines, it's not a rare sight to see the good ship Kilikina skipping across Oahu's waves to speedily deliver divers to the best dive spots. Under the banner of Hawaiian Diving Adventures, LLC, she plies the waters to provide a luxurious diving experience for up to 13 passengers. Kilikina boasts a freshwater shower, rinse buckets for expensive camera equipment, and comfortable wide seating, thanks to a clever tank-storage system. She doesn’t cater only to experience divers, however; she also serves as the launch point for guided snorkeling tours, which provide close encounters with local wildlife and reefs.
Three miles off the coast, the guides hand over the snorkels, and then it's time. Tour members climb down into the floating cage and slip just beneath the water's surface. There they peer through large poly glass windows into the deep blue ocean as swimming shapes, perhaps hazy at first, pull into focus.
When the tour-goers finally glimpse the creatures, it might not exactly be love at first sight, but one thing is for sure: after spending time face-to-face with a Galapagos, sandbar, or tiger shark, they'll leave that protected cage with a whole new appreciation for these carnivores of the deep. That's of the utmost importance to Hawaii Shark Encounters, since the company hopes to turn each person they meet into a "shark ally," an advocate for the animals' global conservation.