The Hawaiian Islands are truly enchanting. When I first saw them from the plane 13,000 feet in the air I could hardly believe they were real. We landed in a mist that seemed to follow us on the surreal drive from the Maui airport to the secluded Kaanapali resort, winding through green mountains and dipping into the sea. Lightning streaked across the distant dark sky but the sun still shined on us, burning deep red as it sank below the horizon. I couldn't have dreamed up a more perfect introduction to this haven for divers, and I could only imagine what lay beneath the surface.
In the morning we headed down to Lahaina Harbor, our gateway to the legendary Molokini Crater. I had seen this crescent-shaped sliver of land from a helicopter once, and I was boiling over with excitement. We boarded Lahaina Divers' 46-foot custom dive boat Dauntless and cruised over the glassy sea just as the sun rose.
I descended to a site aptly called Butterfly Rock and found myself surrounded by every kind of butterflyfish imaginable. About 33 percent of Hawaii's marine life, are found only in these waters and a nice chunk of it was on display before my eyes. The crater is a marine sanctuary, so its inhabitants are plentiful and brave inthe presence of divers.
At the eastern tip of the crater we came to a series of outcroppings called Sharks Ledge. I hung in the blue and waited; they came, as if via some magical encantation, straight from the blue: whitetip reef sharks, loads of them. It was thrilling. On the western edge of the crater we had a relaxing wall dive at Reef's End floating past pennant fish, and schools of moorish idols and snappers and racoon butterflyfish. In the blue edge just beyond this reef finger mantas pass in and out of view and dolphins pass in a clatter of clicks and sqeals. The weather was so cooperative we even had a chance to drift dive the back wall and listen to the soothing and almost ineffable songs of the humpback whales that visit the islands in the winter months.
|Visit the Tedeschi Winery for some of Maui's famous pineapple vino. The raspberry dessert wine is to die for.|
|1 Molokini Crater
2 Turtle Reef
Cathedrals of Lanai
There are so many mind-blowing dives off Maui it was hard to decide where to go next. We explored amazing lava formations at south Lanai, swam with endangered green sea turtles at Turtle Reef on west Maui and got a chance to see massive tiger cowries, squid and Spanish dancers on a night dive. I was overwhelmed by the primal beauty of this island and I still had a lot left to explore.
Driving along what has been called the most beautiful stretch of road in the world, the Hana Highway, I couldn't help but pull over every five minutes to admire a waterfall, a verdant stretch of jungle or the mystical bamboo forest. I even braved the 2 a.m. wakeup call to see the sunrise at the crater of Haleakala and bike down the volcano through the eucalyptus-scented air of the upcountry. From mountaintop to ocean floor, Maui is one of the most peaceful and calming destinations I have ever visited. Its primal lure has been calling me back since the moment I boarded the plane home.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Regular charters to Molokini, the Cathedrals of Lanai and Turtle Reef; nitrox; custom charters available; multi-dive discounts; specialty and instructor development courses; two custom 46-foot dive boats that hold up to 24 divers; discover scuba and snorkeling tours available. 800-998-3483 www.lahainadivers.com.