Mike’s Big and Wet Underwater Adventure Activity Book
Horny Humpback Whales, life-saving turtles, sharks, and things that go ‘splash’ in the night.
How bad do you have to be at biting stuff that evolution gives you ‘endless teeth’? I’m speaking, of course, about our friends beneath the waves, the shark. Earlier today, I was reminiscing about the trip Jenn and I went on to Maui — which got me thinking about volcanoes, hula dancing, turtles, scuba diving, James Bond, and sharks; you can clearly see my thought process at play.
Getting to Hawaii was a life goal, so everything else that happened on the island of Maui was just a bonus, but while in ‘Bonus Mode’, I coloured in some pages of ‘Mike’s Big and Wet Underwater Adventure’ activity book.
Adventure number one was to snorkel in Molokini Crater.
It was a beautiful day, the boat ride out was glorious, and the water was calm and clear. When I snorkel, I like to dive as deep as I can and just hover in the water — I’m no free-diver, but I love the quiet and tranquillity of it. I love scuba diving, but scuba is a pretty noisy venture with all that breathing and bubbles and stuff. In snorkelling, you just hold your breath and hang suspended in the quiet, except for today. In today’s dive, it was WHALE-EXTRAVAGANZA-PARTY-TIME as the Humpback Whales were out there having the time of their lives; the whale-males were singing male-whale love songs; the chitter-and-clicks of dolphins echoed, and not one bar of the Jaws theme song could be heard.
It was one of the most extraordinary and magical experiences I’ve had underwater; the songs came from everywhere. I popped to the surface and looked for one of our hosts who brought us here; they saw the excitement in my eyes, nodded, and said, “Yep, the humpies are everywhere in Maui.”
Adventure number two was to swim with turtles.
Turtles are protected, so we didn’t ‘try’ to swim with turtles, but you couldn’t not swim with turtles. They were everywhere. I’m pretty sure we had some drinks with a turtle in disguise at Kahales ‘Dive Bar’ one night in the heart of Kihei’s BAR-muda Triangle. More on turtles later.
Adventure number three was to get my Diver Propulsion Vehicle PADI certification.
This is as cool and as ‘James Bond-esque’ as it sounds. It is an underwater scooter you either let pull you, or you can ride through the water while scuba diving. The benefit (besides being really cool and making me feel like a super spy) is you can travel further underwater on a single tank of air, but for me, it was just really cool — I’m never in a hurry when I’m diving, but I am now ‘Certified Rad!’
There are a couple of ways to use this vehicle; you either hold onto the handles and get pulled behind it or when you become comfortable with the idea, you can stick it between your thighs and ride it like you’re on the top of a missile. I know the fish are probably used to seeing weird things like this, but I’m sure I saw a little octopus give me a double-take as I bubbled past.
Adventure number four was to get my Underwater Naturalist PADI Certification with a specialty in diving with sharks.
“What other certifications would you like to focus on while on the island?” the Dive Master asked.
“What do you have that involves sharks? I’ve always wanted to dive with sharks,” I replied.
“Yeah, sharks. NomNomNom, sharks,” I said, pulling my teeth over my gums, my eyes doing a pretty good job of replicating a nictating membrane as I ‘air bit’ imaginary swimmers.
“Sounds like you want your Underwater Naturalist Certification.”
By this time I was already pretending I was a shark and was circling the parking lot looking for a seal. Jenn locked the car door.
We did shore dives off Mala Pier in Lahaina, and within the first five minutes, the Dive Master was making the underwater sign for a shark and pointing to part of the crumbled sunken pier 10 feet away. Then, from out of the shadows, swam a seven-foot white-tipped reef shark right towards me. I always wondered how I’d react if I ever met a real shark, face-to-face, and it was swimming towards me — I’m happy to report it was one of the calmest (and surrealist) moments I’ve had underwater. The shark was beautiful, curious (not in a bitey-I-have-endless-teeth sorta way), and was just out doing shark things.
For the next 10 minutes, I just watched it swim around and do its thing — more sharks showed up doing more shark things, a couple of turtles grooved past, tropical fish swooped and dipped around, and I just hung out in the middle of this miraculous never-ending aquarium and soaked it in.
During those dives, I met 15 sharks. One of the silliest moments for me was watching a lady SNUBA’ing, clearly not very adept at being in the water, while a shark swam within inches of her; she had no idea. Sharks just out and about doing shark things; they remind me of underwater-rocket-dogs.
Adventure number five was doing my first PADI Night Dive.
I have never done a night dive until this trip, and I may never do another night dive. So the jury is out for me. Night diving is very different from diving during the day (obviously) because you get to see some underwater life that doesn’t hang out during the day … like eels. Eels were the newest animals I met in my night-dive underwater adventure.
You’re in pitch-black water with a flashlight, so you can only see what your flashlight is pointing at; everything else is black. Like, fucking black, and here you are holding what amounts to a shiny lure, directing all hungry sea life directly to you. This felt like Natural Selection at work.
In this darkness, the only sounds were those of your bubbles and the sound of Humback’s scoring with their ladies, nothing else. Tranquil? Kinda. Until the Dive Master took a detour through a cave. I should note that on an earlier dive with the DPV scooters, it was a cave filled with sharks. Like a ‘Barrel of Monkeys’ but with sharks and in a cave.
As you know from Adventure Number Four, I like sharks so this wasn’t the problem. The problem was the cave. I didn’t realize it until that moment, but I don’t like diving in caves.
My immediate reaction was pure abject panic as I watched the Dive Master swim further and further into the cave. I gave the Universal Night Diver Signal for Distress and waved my flashlight back and forth. It took every ounce of my being to not shoot for the surface, which would have been dumb because I was in a cave; so I dumped the air from my BCD, sank the couple of feet to the ocean floor and tried to get my breathing under control.
Slowly I turned 180°, so I knew I was faced toward the cave entrance and had a clear path to open water. My heart was pounding, I was sucking air fast, the full-on panic was barely being held at bay when suddenly I felt a large shape just above my right shoulder. It wasn’t the Dive Master. Half expecting my face to get eaten by a shark, I looked over and instead saw a giant sea turtle just hovering there, calmly looking at me. My panic drifted away, everything became calm, my breathing slowed, my vision opened up, and I clearly saw the exit.
The turtle and I hung out there for five minutes or so, just two creatures on a spinning blue ball, hurtling through space sharing a moment. Fin. Noggin’. Duuuuuude.
Calmly I left the cave and made my way back to shore.
Would I night dive again? Maybe. Cave dive or wreck dive? Never.
I got to colour in a lot of ‘Mike’s Big and Wet Underwater Adventure’ activity book that trip and can’t wait for more adventures when we get back to travelling the world. One day I’ll tell you all about our adventures in Boracay, Philippines. Mahalo.