Three weeks ago, I made the trek out from Maryland, across the body of the U.S., and all the way to the beautiful island of Maui. The gorgeous factor here is incredible. Every day there is a new sight just waiting to be seen. Diving is no exception.
When choosing a dive shop to dive with, you want to find a place that is unique. There are thousands of dive shops all over the world, all boasting beautiful views and friendly service. Often, it can be very difficult to choose which company to dive with because of this.
After a good bit of searching, I came across a family owned and operated dive shop named Extended Horizons located in Lahaina on the West side of Maui.
The first thing that stood out to me were the green initiatives that they had put into place, something that is seldom heard about in the world of diving. The Extended Horizons charter boat (pictured above) is powered by 100% biodiesel which is sourced on the island of Maui (it’s also the only commercial marine tour boat on Maui running on 100% biodiesel). They also use solar power to power both their dive shop as well as to pump fuel into their boat, which is pretty incredible.
The Extended Horizons team took me out for their morning session, which meets at 6:30am at Mala Wharf at the northern part of Front Street in Lahaina. There is free parking right at the dock as well as a restroom. We boarded their vessel, named “Extended Horizons II”and left the harbor, passing a small group of green turtles along the way – a bit of foreshadowing for what was ahead. We powered across the ocean towards the distant island of Lanai to our first dive spot, Fish Rock.
As we approached the island, our two guides Noe and James gave us a rundown of the expected sights, hand signals, and other necessary pre-dive information. Myself and the other divers were split into two smaller groups, each being led by one dive guide. The first group got their gear on and entered the water, which even from the boat was crystal clear. As they descended, the second group, which I was a part of, prepared for entry. As we did, I heard Erik, the captain and owner of Extended Horizons yell from the cockpit, “A pod of spinners! Get in the water!” I couldn’t believe it.
As fast as possible, I got my regulator ready and jumped right in, threw the boat the O.K and headed down with the group. We got about 20 feet down or so when about 50 Hawaiian spinner dolphins swam right through us. It was breathtaking to say the least. The water clarity at Fish Rock was excellent – 100 feet plus. Shortly after, we were visited by a green turtle named Stumpy, as he sadly was the owner of a damaged front flipper.
Fish rock was a great dive with a wide array of underwater life, including porcupine pufferfish, white mouth moray eels, and big scale soldierfish. We spent about 45 minutes on the bottom and had a 3 minute safety stop near the surface on our ascent.
After the dive at Fish Rock, we spent some surface time on board the boat with the crew, learning about the different types of fish that we saw. Both Noe and James were incredibly friendly and warm, answering any questions that we had completely and with detail that only someone with great experience with diving in Maui could have. We were also greeted with juice, fresh bagels and fruit upon exiting the water, which was a real treat.
After about 45 minutes on the surface, it was time for tank number two. The second dive spot was named First Cathedral . This is one of the more famous dives in Maui, for good reason. Our groups once again got their gear ready and jumped in.
Noe and James had shown us a picture of the cave-like structures that we would be seeing before we entered the water, but it definitely didn’t do this place justice. Huge masses of coral sprung up from the bottom floor, creating vast, colorful horseshoes to lead us to the cathedral.
First Cathedral gets its name from the church like shapes on the ceiling of the caves. Technically, First Cathedral isn’t an actual cave dive, so there is no further certification level needed than basic, but it really felt like an authentic cave to me. There were strobes of light coming through the gaps in the ceiling, illuminating the wide eyed squirrel fish. It was quite dark for the first minute or two in the Cathedral, but after our eyes adjusted it was plenty bright. Noe would shine her strobe into the crevices of the cave, bringing light to the fish that were hiding from us in the shadows.
The sights weren’t just in the Cathedral on this dive, either. The exterior of the cave walls were just as gorgeous as the inside. We saw hundreds of different fish including, raccoon butterfly fish, crown of thorns starfish, and regal parrotfish.
After the Cathedral, we boarded the dive boat and headed back towards Mala Harbour. On the way back, our two dive guides went through the species’of fish and other creatures that we saw while down there and answered our questions.
There was a very unique feel while diving with Extended Horizons that their operations manager and Erik’s wife, Victoria shed some light on while headed back to shore. She mentioned that they really try to do more than just show their divers fish while on dives. They want to help their customers explore the ocean’s ecology and marine life behavior. She mentioned that the only way to truly respect something as vast as the ocean was to understand it. I really did feel this forward way of thinking while on the dive. The pace was slower than other dives that I had been on. Often, Noe would stop us while diving and use her underwater sketch board to show us the names and characteristics of many of the organisms that we saw. This was a really great service that both felt like the right way to dive as well as a unique learning experience for their customers.
If you plan on traveling to the beautiful island of Maui, I highly recommend that you take the opportunity to visit the Extended Horizons dive shop and take a look around. If you’re lucky, you’ll run into Erik and he’ll share one of his many diving stories from over 35 years of diving experience. Ω
Words and photos by James Hoot
Drop James an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
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