Diving in Lanai
The island of Lanai lies a few miles off the Maui coast, east of Lahaina. It is the smallest publicly accessible, inhabited island in all of Hawaii. More importantly to divers, Lanai is fringed by a lush and diverse reef ecosystem with many species that don’t live anywhere else.
Divers that dip into Lanai’s clear, warm water experience topography that varies greatly as the dive progresses. A little under 80 species of coral form expansive reefs that feed, shelter and provide habitat for hundreds of species of fish and countless marine invertebrates. Fringing rubble zones and sand channels exist between and around the large coral formations.
Rubble zones provide hiding places for octopus species as well as ideal feeding grounds for starfish and sea cucumbers. These areas are characterized by accumulations of broken coral fragments. Often overlooked, divers should swim slowly over rubble zones keeping a sharp eye out for some of Hawaii’s best-camouflaged creatures that might be hiding in plain sight.
Like rubble zones, sand channels set the stage for a surprising amount of activity. Divers can observe garden eels, various rays, schooling goatfish digging for worms and much more. Many of these sand dwellers are wary of divers, so focus from a distance and approach slowly.
Planning for Lanai Diving
Lanai is the surface remnant of the now-extinct Palawai Volcano. Rising from the depths, much of the topography is steep. Dive profiles on Lanai typically range from 15-100 ft. The widely varying depths make Lanai ideal for planning multilevel dives. Multilevel dive profiles include two or more planned depths, beginning with the deepest and moving shallower depths after a predetermined number of minutes.
Your dive computer provides an excellent tool for executing multilevel dives. Most dive computers indicate the number of minutes remaining at your current depth before mandatory decompression stops will be required. Usually, this is expressed as NDL, short for no decompression limit. Manufacturers vary, however, so be sure to read and understand the instruction manual for your particular model.
Always begin your dive at your deepest planned depth, be conservative and practice discipline with all your dives. Most multilevel dives are planned with 20-30 feet between depts. Extended Horizons staff can help you plan the best profile for a given dive. Finally, remember to monitor your tank pressure. There is a lot to keep track of during a dive, so it can be helpful to establish a routine for checking your depth, time and tank pressure at regular intervals.
Dealing with Surge
Surge is back and forth water movement caused by surface wave action. It is expressed in units of measure. For example, in a 6ft/2M surge, water (and everything suspended in it) will move that distance before changing direction back to where it was at the start of the cycle. In general, surge dissipates with increasing depth, so expect the most water movement in shallow water.
The best way for dealing with surge is not to fight it. Recognize that the surge will return you to the same spot in the next half of the cycle. As with almost everything in diving, good buoyancy control is the key to dealing with surge. If you struggle with buoyancy control, you’ll have a difficult time finding the best body position to maintain control. Consider taking one of our Peak Performance Buoyancy classes. You’ll learn about the critical factors related to buoyancy control, and enjoy some great diving at the same time.
The best body position for dealing with surge depends on the direction of the surge relative to your path. It also depends on your surroundings. Most often, you’ll want to be horizontal, possible with your fin tips slightly up relative to your body plane. This helps ensure that your fins won’t make contact with delicate coral. Staying clear of the bottom and keeping some distance from obstacles — especially living ones — will help you discover how the surge is moving before getting closer to creatures or points of interest.
Neutral Buoyancy and Conservation
Buoyancy skills are the most direct way every diver can practice conservation on their dives. By maintaining neutral buoyancy, you’ll avoid potential harm to the marine environment and keep yourself safe at the same time.
Strive to know what neutral buoyancy feels like. To many divers, especially those who are new to diving, neutral buoyancy can feel like positive buoyancy. Remember, breath control has a major effect on your buoyancy. Never hold your breath, but be aware of your change in body position as you inhale and exhale. Use that to make fine adjustments before adding or venting air from your BCD.
There is a tendency for some to want to “anchor” to something solid to maintain control. This is especially true when surge or visibility is a factor. As a rule, it isn’t okay to touch anything underwater that you didn’t bring with you. In aviation, pilots use what they call the “sight picture” to determine their position and attitude relative to topography, airport structures or other aircraft. Similarly, divers can develop a sight picture to help them quickly detect position changes in the water column.
Descent and Ascent
As you learned in your Open Water Diver class, trapped air spaces in your equipment, especially your wetsuit, compress on descent as the surrounding pressure increases. The decrease in air volume means you become more negatively buoyant the deeper you go. As the name buoyancy compensating device suggests, adding air to your BCD is the correct action to remain neutral. Experienced divers develop a sense for how much air to add and when.
One mistake new divers often make is to dump all the air from their BCD’s to begin the descent. Even a properly weighted diver will accelerate toward the bottom requiring a large volume of air to compensate. The more air you add or vent at once, the more difficult buoyancy control becomes.
Instead of dumping all the air in your BCD, try venting very little. If you don’t begin to descend, vent a little more. The idea is to vent just enough to start your descent. After that, you’ll only need to add air until you arrive at your planned depth. With experience, you’ll arrive at depth already neutrally buoyant.
When you begin your ascent, the concept is largely the same but you’ll be venting small amounts of air, rather than adding it. However, you won’t use your BCD to begin your ascent. Simply kick once or twice to start moving toward the surface. After that vent small amounts to control your rate of ascent. Many dive computers have audible or visible alarms to indicate when you’ve exceeded your maximum safe ascent rate. Pay close attention to what your computer is telling you. Also, never begin your ascent by adding air to your BCD, as this can lead to a rapid, out of control ascent.
Once you’ve arrived safely back at the surface, signal that you’re okay, and follow the instructions of the Extended Horizons dive staff.
Taking a Dive Boat to Lanai
Diving trips to Lanai are almost always by boat. Extended Horizons offers Lanai scuba charters throughout the week, so there’s surely a dive trip to fit in with your plans. Many times the boat trip to Lanai is as exciting as the dive (well, almost). Depending on the season dolphin and whale encounters are not unusual, many of them quite close.
To sign up for a Lanai dive charter, contact at (808) 667-0611, or visit /reservations/.