During my many years of snorkeling, I have gazed upon
spectacular sunken landscapes but always with a sense of
detachment. Restricted by lung capacity, I felt like I was merely
scratching the surface of the sea. Ready to take the underwater
experience to the next level, I signed up for a session with Snuba
Tours of Kauai.
A cross between snorkeling and scuba, snuba is the perfect
alternative for people who don’t want to spend the time and money
getting certified for a sport they might not even like. With snuba,
there’s no bulky equipment strapped to your client’s back, so they
can swim freely underwater. An air tank floating in a little raft
follows them around. Clients breathe courtesy of a mouthpiece
attached to the tank by a 20-foot line, allowing them to stay down
for a long time without running out of air.
Despite the sport’s impressive safety record, I was a little
nervous about taking the plunge.
“That’s completely understandable,” said Kevin Cram, owner of
Snuba Tours of Kauai. “All your life you’ve been told that you
can’t breathe underwater. Now, I’m saying it’s okay to do so.”
Cram outfitted four of us in masks, fins and regulators and
wrapped weights around our waists to help us stay below the
surface. Then he and his assistant led us across the street to
Lawai Beach, on Kauai’s south shore. Standing in four feet of
water, Cram demonstrated the various hand signals that we would use
to communicate with each other while diving. He split us into teams
of two, each sharing a tank, and helped us feel comfortable
breathing in and out of our mouthpieces.
“The amount of time we spend in the water depends on how long we
have air in the tanks,” he said. “The more relaxed your breathing
is, the longer the air supply will last.”
Cram’s broad smile and ready sense of humor relaxed my jitters.
Wearing scuba gear, he brought along an underwater video camera to
record our adventure. The first time he handed me some fish food I
started to panic as black-and-yellow Moorish idols swarmed me,
tickling my fingers as they nibbled away. Once I realized they were
after the food, not me, I calmed down and felt like the most
popular creature under the sea at least until the food ran out.
As I paddled 20 feet below the surface, the raft followed me
above like a guardian angel. The only sound I heard was my
breathing, but the sights were a whole different story. Tiny
pufferfish darted in and out of cauliflower-shaped coral.
Shimmering blue parrotfish swam by me, just inches away. I mingled
with an elongated wrasse, a unicorn fish with its distinctive horn
and a humuhumunukunukuapuaa, the state fish. We passed around a
small safe-to-the-touch urchin and watched a sea cucumber shoot
water from its body.
Sometimes Cram’s snuba groups see crabs, lobsters, octopi,
turtles, eels and starfish in Poipu’s waters. During one trip, they
even encountered a monk seal.
“He wasn’t shy at all,” Cram said. “He just swam right up to the
After what seemed like mere minutes, Cram led us back to
“We were actually underwater for well over a half-hour,” he
said. “It’s amazing how the time flies.”
Our group posed for a farewell scene on Cram’s video, which
participants could buy as a keepsake.
Cram and his wife started the snuba franchise on Kauai 16 years
ago, and after leading 15,000 dives, he still loves it.
“The groups are always different, which keeps it interesting for
me,” he said.
Every year his business has increased, he said, as more people
hear about the sport.
“Part of snuba’s appeal is that it’s accessible to anyone from
ages 8 and up I’ve taken out an 86-year-old,” he said. “It’s a
great family activity and good for all types of clients, because
they can go at their own pace. It takes people a little time to get
used to the apparatus, but if clients are willing to try it,
they’ll love it.”
Indeed, now that I’ve discovered snuba, I may never go
Snuba Tours of Kauai
1604 Papau Pl.
Kapaa, HI 96746
The tour cost of $65 per person is commissionable to travel
Tours take place Monday-Friday at 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m., noon and
Clients should bring a swimsuit and towel.
For more information about snuba in Hawaii and around the world,
visit www.snuba.com (Snuba International).