Hawaiian Monk Seal!!!

Dive No.: 1996
Dive Site: China Walls, Oahu, Hawaii
Max Depth: 51ft/15m
Total Time: 45 mins

Air: 200bar – 130 bar
Mix: EANx36
Tank: 80cu
Weight: 8lbs

Visibility: 130ft/40m
Water: 75F/24C
Exposure: rash guard, 5mm full wet suit (busted zipper), 3mm shorty, 3mm skull cap


Easily one of the top ten diving experiences in my life—and I have nearly 2000 dives!

The gentle current from the previous dive had picked up quite a bit. As descended down the gradual slope of the urchin-covered volcanic stone wall, it was evident that we were in for one heck of a ride.

A trio of chill turtles was the first to greet us. They hung with the group for a while, cruising with us as we flew past giant boulders covered in coral splotches, each serving as micro-ecosystems for a host of small fish. The cautious eyes of moray eels and an octopus peered out from between the boulders. Odd-shaped variation of sea urchins lined to stone bottom, interrupted briefly by colorful undulation of divided flatworms. A bulbous frogfish the size of a grapefruit sat carefully concealed between the clumps of coral.

As we continued along the wave-beaten east Oahu walls, the turtles continued to dive bomb the group. I counted eight of everyone’s favorite reptile. Hawaii’s myriad endemic fish were abundant and active. Floating in the steady current, it was like watching a slideshow of “Best of Oahu.”

There are those rare times in a diver’s life when you encounter something so fantastic for the first time that you know—instantly!—that you will never, ever forget that moment. I have been working on an article for my blog called “The Top 10 Of My 2000” in which I describe the ten most mind-blowing moments of my scuba diving career: diving a World War II submarine; doing a no-lights, no-moon night dive; a deep encounter with a hammerhead shark; seeing my first manta ray; finding megalodon shark fossils in low-viz; surviving the most insane drift dive of my life; exploring a sunken oil rig; being stuck inside a wreck with a sand tiger shark; and The Moment when I fell in love with diving.

Well, the next moment on this dive officially made the list.

As we begin heading towards blue water for the safety stop and boat pick-up, I noticed part of the group intensely huddled around a shallow overhang. As I swam towards my divers, they suddenly scurried away. A strange shape slinked out from beneath the ledge, smoothly swimming with slow strokes of its flippers. It was unmistakable what I was seeing: the six-foot silhouette of a Hawaiian monk seal.

I gave out a huge shout in my regulator. I couldn’t believe my luck. An extremely endangered species, there are estimated to be only 150 Hawaiian monk seals left in the Hawaiian islands—and one of them was swimming with me!

The shouts of excitement were the first thing I heard when the group broke the surface. What an amazing dive!!

One Response to “Hawaiian Monk Seal!!!”

  • #1

    Awesome isn’t it? My wife and I had almost the exact same experience diving Sharaton Caverns on Kauai a few years ago with a Monk Seal. He was hiding under a little overhang and come swimming out past as I descended. Cool as hell.

    Sounds like you’re liking Hawaii. I just sent an email declining an opportunity to be considered for an IT job in Honolulu. It was tough saying no, since I live in the midwest. Just not sure about the 79% increase in cost of living.

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