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DiverWire Destination: The Forbidden Isle of Ni’ihau, Hawaii

(DiverWire) The Forbidden Isle of Ni’ihau calls from Maui.  This desolate island rich with Hawaiian culture is the guardian to some of the best diving waters in Hawaii. I feel deeply fortunate to be living in such a beautiful part of the world and to be diving the waters of the Hawaiian chain of islands on a regular basis.  Each of the Hawaiian islands has a focal dive experience that the avid diver “must-do.” Maui has the underwater volcanic Molokini Crater. Hawaii has the Manta Ray night dive out of Kona. Oahu hosts the WW II Corsair plane wreck dive, and Kauai is the launch off for Ni’ihau, the remote private island unburdened by the influences of the outside world. I was able to visit this special place once again recently.

Leaving the Kukuiula boat harbor with the fiery sunrise peaking over the Wai’ale’ale mountain range makes for a stunning backdrop for our three-tank dive trip. The boat ride is just breathtaking with whales breaching and spouting both far and near with frigates, albatross and Tropic Birds swooping in for fish snacks as the beaches and mountains of Kauai fade away.  As we close in on Ni’ihau and the neighboring Lehua Island, the dive briefing begins with a history lesson about the sale of Ni’ihau for $10,000 in gold and a baby grand piano back in 1864. Since then, Niihau has been The Forbidden Island and exclusively lived on by full-blooded Hawaiians and select guests of the Robinson Family.  The family bought the island with the conditions to keep it traditionally old school Hawaiian without electricity, modern conveniences, motorized vehicles, cell phones or anything that compromised vintage Hawaii.  So no one can really go on Ni’ihau – but we are allowed to dive around it and Lehua.

Over the course of three dives, our group is wowed by 100+ foot visability, 76 degree water temperature, a few white tip reef sharks, one flying manta ray, a school of spinner dolphins, a variety of trevallies, including a giant 100 pound trevally, lots of uhu (Hawaiian parrotfish), a fat moray eel, several taco (Hawaiian octopus) and many schools of fish enjoying life under the sea.  The underwater seascape is drastic with steep walls, caverns, caves, arches and swim throughs everywhere your fins can kick you to. My dive buddy Hans Huber shared “Drift diving off of Ni’ihau was one of my best drift dives ever.  The deep shelf drop-off at over 90 feet showed a variety of fish without moving a muscle. I will do it again!”

We were diving with Seasport Divers. One of their instructors, James Begeman, shared with us his most memorable dive to date at Pyramid Point, right off Ni’ihau.  He told us, “A few minutes into the dive a Hawaiian monk seal curiously swam near me to have a peek. Then a 5 foot grey reef shark passed by and then a juvenile white tip crossed paths with him and swam within a few feet of me without a care in the world. As I made my way back to the boat a second monk seal swam up and blew some bubbles playfully toward me. And as I approached the end of the dive, I saw my first whale shark! It was about a 15 foot juvenile and he was super curious and swam right at me.  The whale shark got his little eye about 6” from my face to inspect me and made three passes while he swam within arms length of me for about 20 minutes. We were both completely mesmerized with each other.”

DiverWire's Jen Tempchin and her buddy, Hans Huber, in Hawaii

The Seasport Divers boat, Anela Kai (Sea Angel), is a custom fitted Pro48 that makes the four hour roundtrip channel crossing over and back comfortable as can be. She is equipped with a camera station and rinse bucket, television, stereo, two ladders for exiting the water, two hot water showers, washer/dryer for warm towels, and a large cab offering shade from the sun. Breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks are plentiful and the dive staff are friendly, experienced and humor the divers with colorful stories of life on the Kauai ocean.

Seasport Divers was recommended by three rows of Kauai residents I asked on the plane ride over from Maui. I’m pleased to also recommend this Kauai dive company.

Oh to live on Maui and holiday on Kauai, Life is good.

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