Scuba Shack Maui, Kihei
Wall dives beg a vexing question: What’s down there? Staring into the violet depths far below as I drift along the backside of Molokini Crater, that exact query comes to mind. It’s irresistible, especially here. Thanks to the islet’s fortunate location, rising from water more than 300 feet deep and washed by swift currents that rush all the way to Tahiti, it’s a hot spot for pelagic action.
Everything from humpback whales to giant manta rays and sharks — whale, hammerhead and tiger — have been spotted in the vicinity, so the chance for a chicken-skin encounter is ever present as divers swim along the wall. Thankfully, on this particular dive, I won’t need to worry about what is out of my reach, because with dazzling 100-foot visibility, there’s a great chance I’ll see whatever decides to visit. Besides, there’s so much going on right in front of my mask.
Giant striding off the back of Scuba Shack’s Double Scoop, it takes only minutes until I spot a large whitetip shark slinking below. I’m used to seeing the species tucked in a crevice, motionless, so it’s entertaining to watch its fluid movement. But my attention is quickly shifted back to the wall, where the guide has spotted a day octopus lurking in one of the long, vertical fissures. As we gather to inspect, the octopus bolts away in a cloud of dark ink. We give up the chase to continue our slow drift along the undersea cliff, inspecting every dark crack and crevice with our dive lights for species diverse and curious.
At 70 feet, I pass a large black coral tree thriving on an outcropping. All over the wall is a spectrum of sponges colored from soft pink to bright orange to deep red. Among them hides a variety of eels, Hawaiian spiny lobsters and colorful invertebrates, including a delicate blue dragon nudibranch that resembles Victorian lace — and fish everywhere.
It’s an abundance I credit to our early arrival. At spots this popular, it really pays to be on site first. And Scuba Shack is typically the early bird, thanks to the close proximity of its launch at Kihei Boat Ramp, and the speed of the swift Double Scoop, armed with propeller-free twin-jet drives that are not only powerful but also friendly to marine life that inhabits the channel.
“We can get to Molokini in five minutes,” says Scuba Shack owner Charley Neal, a veteran of 13 years in the Maui dive business. “We’ve got one of the newest, fastest dive boats in the state of Hawaii, so there’s less motoring and more dive time.”
Like other top operators on the island, Scuba Shack offers valet-style service, which means the only time guests have to wrangle their gear is when they hand it over to the crew in the morning and pick it up, fully rinsed, when the charter is done. For those who travel without their own equipment, the Scuba Shack boat charter includes free rental gear, which Neal is proud to use for no more than a month before replacing.
“We like to think we do everything top shelf,” he says. “Our stock and trade is repeat customers, and that’s how we treat everybody who comes on our boat.”
Scuba Shack Maui
» PADI Dive Center with PADI instruction to divemaster
» Boats Double Scoop, max 13 divers
» Guided dives dive master or instructor on all dives, max six divers per guide
» Max dive time one hour, or by air consumption
» Gas mix nitrox support to 36 percent
» Gear rental included with boat dives, available for a fee for shore dives. Computers are available for boat dives only and are included in the cost.
» Nearest Airport Kahului (OGG)
» Amenities custom, eco-friendly 710-hp twin jet dive boat has a top speed of 45 mph. Scuba Shack operators offer valet diving with top-of-the-line, brand-new gear that is changed out bimonthly, on average. Scuba Shack also offers accommodations, with a choice of either of Scuba Shack’s two-bedroom, two-bath condos or its one-bedroom-plus-loft guest cottage.
To see the individual write-ups of the other dive operators, click on "Related Articles" below.