Few people who visit the islands of Hawaii would argue against their reputation as one of the truly beautiful places on earth. Dramatically rising up from the deep, blue Pacific Ocean, their craggy, volcanic peaks, in places reaching over 10,000 feet in elevation, are covered with thick, jungle forests of shocking green, shrouded with tattered plumes of wind-swept mist and decorated with scattered rainbows of the richest hues. It's a place simply too lovely to escape notice; and with its near perfect climate-the tropics cooled slightly by the trade winds-a place too pleasant not to enjoy.
Of course, Hawaii has long been one of the world's most famous vacation destinations, for both Americans and Asians alike, and its famous landmarks of Waikiki and Diamond Head have been renowned for decades. As befits a beautiful place filled with lovely people, it has been visited by millions.
With all that, however, there's a big part of Hawaii that, to some extent, has escaped the notice it deserves-that's the thousands of miles of reefs and divable shoreline that surround the mountainous isles.
The fourth leading dive destination in the world, Hawaii offers an abundance of marine delights. Of course the right scuba equipment is a must for the traveling diver. The volcanic origins that formed the Hawaiian islands above the ocean's surface left a legacy of cavernous formations beneath-ridges, pinnacles, archways, overhangs, caves, lava tubes and caverns. The lava foundations serve as a substrata for coral growth, a habitat for a rainbow of tropical fish and unusual invertebrates, and a limitless source of exploration. Pockmarked with pukas (holes), they can yield a treasure trove of discoveries.
The islands are surrounded by an underwater shelf less than 600 feet deep extending two to three miles from shore. From there, the bottom plummets to the abyssal depths of 6,000 plus feet. Cooler water temperatures and rough seas inhibit the profuse coral and sponge formations normally found in the Caribbean. Nevertheless, a veritable palette of tropical fish color the otherwise monochromatic backdrop of alluring lava formations. The ubiquitous tropicals are at every site. Some school in abundance; others are solitary, alert and curious. Seen on practically every dive are parrotfish, snapper, surgeonfish, wrasse, innumerable butterflyfish and trailing a long streaming dorsal fin, the yellow, black and white striped Moorish Idol. Daily encounters with octopus, Green Sea Turtles, moray eels and Whitetip Reef Sharks, both charm and excite, while "blue water" sightings of Humpback Whales, Manta Rays, Whale Sharks, dolphins and other pelagics offer what are usually once in a lifetime memories on a regular basis.
Each of the islands has its own flavor and distinctive dive offering, but all share common traits as well. Because of the remote location, far from pollutant and silting sources, the waters tend to be extremely clear. And because of the isolation from other island groups, marine life developed here that isn't found in other places. To date, more than 450 species have been identified in Hawaii with 90 to 135 believed to be endemic-found nowhere else in the world. Critters considered rare treats to encounter in other parts of the diving world are experienced here on a daily basis.
Much of the text for this site was taken from Rod Canham's Hawai'i Below: An Island by Island Guide and Al Hornsby's August 1998 Skin Diver article The Hawaiian Islands: Pacific Paradise.
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