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I’m not a certified scuba diver so I’ve never been able to delve into deep seas — not in the unreal waters of Bora Bora and not in the “world’s aquarium,” Jacques Costeau’s nickname for the Sea of Cortez. On my recent trip to Hawaii Island, I added Kona to my scuba missed-opportunities list but, fortunately, not all was lost. For the first time, I was swimming, breathing and exploring at depths far lower than usual. The barriers had disappeared, and I was discovering that subterranean spectacle elusive to snorkelers — sans PADI-certification. I wasn’t breaking any rules nor had I transformed into a mermaid. I was trying out snuba.
Snuba is a system of underwater breathing offered in many tropical tourist destinations, including Kailua-Kona. I was onboard Body Glove Cruises’ Kanoa II — a 65-inch, $2 million luxury catamaran — which replaced the Kanoa I in 2007. Body Glove is known for its private charters and its seasonal Whale Watching Excursions, Historical Sunset Dinner Cruise to Kealakekua Bay and the cruise I was on — the Deluxe Snorkel and Dolphin Adventure. This year, Body Glove began offering snuba onboard its vessel via the independent operator Shoreline Snuba. The operator is easily accessible on Maui, where it offers snuba onboard Teralani Sailing Charters and Maui Classic Charters and at six resort locations in the Kaanapali area, including Honua Kai Resort & Spa which launched on Oct. 1. With Fair Wind Cruises and Body Glove Cruises, Shoreline Snuba is spreading to Hawaii Island — steadily.
“Most of our guests are coming out to enjoy snorkeling and water play,” said Margie Park, sales and marketing manager for Body Glove Hawaii. “Although snuba is well loved by those who try it, only about 5 percent of our cruisers are ready to experience the 3-D aspect of snuba.”
On my Body Glove cruise, one other passenger and I joined the cruise’s Shoreline Snuba onboard representative. After I enjoyed our breakfast bounty of fresh island fruit, coffee, pastries and juices and cavorted with the cruise staff — a collection of energetic and outgoing nature lovers — the onboard snuba representative explained snuba best practices. During the quick training, the most important things I learned were how to get water out of my mask without surfacing, how to adjust for pressure changes in my ears and how to communicate with my guide under water. Unlike scuba certification, snuba training was very short. This might make some clients uneasy, particularly if they have never done more than a snorkel, so it may be helpful to go over the experience. Also different than scuba, in which an air tank is strapped to the diver’s back, air comes through a hose that is attached to an air tank on a raft above water. The bulkiness of scuba gear has always been a deterrent for me, so I was pleased with the near weightlessness of the snuba experience. Also, I felt extremely safe and secure. The hose connecting me to the air supply above water is 20 feet so I always had a rough estimate of my underwater depth. I knew that if I needed to go above water and take a break from swimming or relieve my ears of the impact of pressure changes, I could do so quickly and comfortably against the raft.
After our 30-minute session was over, my companion didn’t think twice before signing up for a second go-around. I decided to return to the scene onboard, where staffers were facilitating a good time and cruisers were soaking up the sun on the top deck over cocktails and fresh barbecue; coming back from snorkeling or going for another float; or jumping from the deck into the water below. I enjoyed a freshly barbecued black bean veggie burger, the sun’s rays and views of Kona’s Red Hill provided on the top deck. After all, what goes down must come up.
Body Glove Cruiseswww.bodyglovehawaii.com
The snuba upgrade is available to cruisers ages 8 and older at $69 for a 30-minute guided session in a group no larger than six people. The 4½-hour Deluxe Morning Snorkel Cruise is $128.60 for adults, $83.59 for children ages 6-17 and free for children under age 5.