Day 8 on South Maui: Dante’s Bluewater Inferno

Caves created by Mother Nature as seen on our little boat

Caves created by Mother Nature as seen on our little boat

The ad worked. On Saturday morning we saw a simple brochure with a dozen people on slightly more than a raft in a cave…and we were in. Fast forward to this morning at 5:30 and we were preparing for our day embracing the Blue Water Rafting experience. (NOTE: if the trip details don’t interest you, skip to the bottom for specific tips)  Okay, this is what we did…

Started the early morning with a trip back to Kihei Caffe with the exact same delicious breakfast burrito (and even better fresh made salsa) I wrote about here. By 6:30 we’d found our way to the Kihei Boat Launch (just south of Kam III park and a large open grass field). It wasn’t immediately clear where our sign up was, as a number of other adventurers were stirring on the ramp area. It all worked out, but a big blue sign or one with “Blue Water Rafting” on it would be fantastic. This was my last complaint of a great 5-hour adventure.

The ride out
The first portion of our trip involved our dry-humored guide Dante telling jokes (more on him below), running through waves like we were on jet skis, and lots of oohing and ahhing by all. I took a perch at one of the two front “seats”‘on the boat. I’m mad at myself for not getting a photo of the craft, here’s a link to the site where I snagged this photo.  For our trip, I rode up by the little red floaty thing in the front that probably has an official name but looking it up just isn’t in the cards right now.

This is a photo of the type of boat we rode out on for the trip

This is a photo of the type of boat we rode out on for the trip

I couldn’t take any more photos because it was a bumpy ride and I’d have lost my camera. But this brings me to tip #1: bring a ziplock bag! I got mine from the nice woman at Kihei Caffe, but you really should have one. On the one hand, you can have a disposable waterproof camera (we had two), but if you want good pictures like my super cool 13Mp phone takes, you need to protect it. So when the boat was relatively still I took this
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And even got this next one on our way to stop number one, which was this

Yes, that's a dolphin.  Took this by sticking my camera under the water while riding

Yes, that’s a dolphin. Took this by sticking my camera under the water while riding

Yes, if you see spinner dolphins above, you are correct.  What you can’t tell from the above photo is this

A few dolphins swimming nearby

A few dolphins swimming nearby

Or this

Within a few moments of the one above, there were many, many more dolphins

Within a few moments of the one above, there were many, many more dolphins

Yep. We swam with dolphins! What made it even more cool is it was both not planned and not advertised as part of the tour. It just kinda happened. One of those really great total accidents. I don’t have any shocking revelations about the experience, except to say it was extremely cool and swimming with wild animals is much less dangerous than perhaps it ought to be. I’d never run with wild dogs or climb trees with wild apes, not even small ones. Still, a very cool part of the trip.

A few words about Dante (and Eli)
Trip Advisor, Yelp and probably a blog or two out there have undoubtedly sung the praises of our ship’s captain (pictured below). You know that friend who is always ready with the witty retort, has a dry sense of humor and maybe shouldn’t always be so funny but is? This was Dante.

Our dry-humored New England transplant tour guide Dante

Our dry-humored New England transplant tour guide Dante

We learned a lot about our intrepid leader, his 8 years on “the blue boat”–the name he’d (apparently affectionately) given the Blue Water Raft–and, sadly for everyone else, his upcoming departure from the island. All the rave reviews about Dante will be but a memory in South Maui lore, as by end of March 2013 Dante will have moved back to the Cape to charm New England’s tourists and spend some quality time at home. If our experience was any indication, it’s a big loss for the industry, but hopefully a fun new challenge for him.

We were also fortunate enough to connect with Eli, kind of the Robin to Dante’s Batman on our boat. Eli was also very good, if not quite as naturally funny. He knew a ton about the island, was super helpful and willing to share tips and even worked in a couple quality zingers of his own along the way. As of this writing, Eli is off Thursdays and Fridays, so if you want to do this tour, try to get it on a day he’s around. And if you want to save off the $130/person sticker price, check out the easygoing southerner named Yasir up in Napili (wrote about HERE in the Ono Kau Kau section), watch some timeshare presentation for 90 minutes and get the price knocked back to $25-50/person. Back to the tour

Snorkeling – a big ol aquarium

One of many fish that rolled up on me like it was natural for me to be in the water

One of many fish that rolled up on me like it was natural for me to be in the water

Ever been to Sea World (or some other attraction) that had a large aquarium and wondered what it’d be like to swim with the fish? No, not like Luca Brasi sleeping with them, I mean really swim. Well, that’s what this was. First stop for true snorkeling was a quick stop on the backside of Molokini, a small crescent shaped tufa ash cone type volcanic crater off the coast of South Maui. First up, we drift up to this spot where Eli’d said the last time out was pretty awesome, throw the boat in park, and hop in the water. About that aquarium reference…

Random aquarium-like shot of fish doing their thing

Random aquarium-like shot of fish doing their thing

Okay, well that was cool.  This tour has definitely delivered. I could’ve cruised back to Kihei and gone about my merry way at this point. But it wasn’t over.

The boat motors along around to the protected inside of the island, then pulls up slowly to a coral reef we can see clear as day below. Just slightly in the distance the reef below disappeared into a much deeper, darker expanse of midnight blue. Dante, somehow thinking this would be enticing, says “that over there is what we call ‘the Abyss’, go ahead and jump in, it’s great.”  Umm, WTF?!? You want me to willingly jump into something called The Abyss? Perhaps he never saw the movie. Actually, I’m not sure I ever saw the movie, but I’m pretty damn sure the premise involved some bottomless ocean pit not unlike this one that was called the abyss and  also pretty sure fun things didnt happen to the snorkelers. Still, the chance to swim at basically an underwater coral cliff was too much to pass up, so over the side I went, and this is what I saw

Not immediate clear, the ledge on the right seemed to go on forever

Not immediate clear, the ledge on the right seemed to go on forever

Oh, this thing is a mooring for the ships who aren’t allowed to drop an anchor into the reef. Not something you see everyday. Another very cool experience swimming amongst nature in a way that just feels different than hiking for some reason. Still, I’d reached my fill, run out of waterproof photos, and was ready to sit on the side of the raft for a bit. As it was, Dante and Eli had one more treat in store.

Wife’s surprise
I wish I could say I planned this next bit as part of our anniversary trip. But it was just good luck at play. We’d pushed along back towards the waters off the Makena Surf Beach Condos in south Maui to a place Dante affectionately referred to as ‘turtle town.’ A couple years ago we looked into Makena Surf Condos, where an old boss of mine likes to stay. Lets just say that old boss is apparently doing quite well financially, as the condos retail around $600-700/night. So this was as close as we’d be getting for awhile. But turns out it was plenty close enough. As mentioned, I’d run out of photos, so I’ll have to describe the experience.

I had hit the snorkeling wall by this point. The thought of jumping back over the side of the raft, swimming around with an increasingly large crowd of tourists (this was the only crowded spot on our trip), and drinking more saltwater all on the chance I might see a sea turtle in the distance didn’t exactly move me. Wife, on the other hand, was all for it and she plunged in with the two extremely well-behaved teenage twin girls on board and their chaperone. As they started to swim, Dante yells out “hey *twin girl #1*, there’s a turtle right behind you!” Sure enough, a medium sized turtle had swam up to within 10 feet of the twins and about 5 feet from my wife. Excited to share the thrill of seeing a turtle so close, Wife goes to tell the snorkeler whose presence she feels immediately behind her to look down. Only when she turns to gesture she realizes she’s quite literally arm’s length from another bigger sea turtle! A very cool surprise, indeed.

Thrilled with the exhilaration of the affair, everyone climbed back on board and we headed off to set up for a little lunch. Lunch consisted of this

Lunch on the trip

Lunch on the trip

Which Wife turned into this

Fairly certain my wife can make anything taste good.

Fairly certain my wife can make anything taste good.

By this time, I was ready to wrap up my adventure, so I didn’t eat much, but it was a fine enough sandwich. And lets face it, almost any picnic lunch you eat on the water on Maui is going to taste a bit better than it might otherwise. This was, essentially, the end of the tour, other than a few more Dukes of Hazard-esque water peel outs by Dante on the way in.

Tips for your trip (applicable to mid-March, 75 degree weather)

  1. Eat before you go. Breakfast is a muffin and juice/water and comes 45 min-1 hour into the trip
  2. There are no bathrooms along the tour and it’s against the law to use the ocean (no, I have no idea how they might enforce that one). Go before you get there and again at the somewhat gross public bathrooms at the boat ramp.
  3. If you are a coffee person, you should be drinking it by 6:00am so that you can, umm, get moving before the trip rolls out at 7:00am
  4. If you bring your “real” camera or your phone, bring a ziplock bag. There is a dry storage that works, but better to be safe than damage something expensive
  5. Bring an underwater camera, which I imagine is a self explanatory tip.
  6. **If you choose to sit along the sides of the raft in the front, two things are true. One, your ride is a little more bumpy/fun, so not for the easily queasy. Two, your hands and arms will get a workout from the death grip on the ropes that serve as your handles. I am typing this the morning after and my triceps and lats are a bit sore from the affair. Still well worth it, but something to note.
  7. I have a mildly bad back that got sore while riding, they warn you ahead of time it could be trouble. The only portions of the trip that are a challenge if you have low back pain, in my opinion, are the two longer, choppier ones. Those also are two of the most fun, so just suck it up and do some child’s pose or pigeon when the raft stops and you should be fine. Or, more correctly, I was fine. You DO need to watch ahead of you to brace yourself, though. The couple times I got caught checking out my wife when the raft was in a jump the landing was toughest on my back.
  8. You can bring your own snorkel stuff (we brought our rental gear) but they have perfectly acceptable equipment and I didn’t hear anyone complain that the equipment was loose or didn’t work properly.
  9. Don’t forget to tip! Seriously, no matter how much you think your fare should cover it, it doesn’t. Not tipping on principle only screws the tour guides, not the company. For 5 hours, if you had a good time, my guess is $20-50 is reasonable, but do what works for you.
  10. Bring a set of mini-binoculars. I didn’t do this, but suspect it would’ve made the whale watching part of the tour more interesting. I’m not a big watcher of whales to begin with, but seeing dark masses in the distance that are barely discernible really doesn’t move me. Maybe that part’d be better with a better view.

This tour was worth the full price fare we paid and its one of the few touristy things I suspect we’ll do again next time. We did one of the large boat Molokini tours on our honeymoon and this one blew that out of the water. The smaller craft with fewer people and more flexibility was way, way better than the well advertised cattle herding one, hands down.  I hope you enjoyed the recap, if you stumbled onto this page randomly, I did a whole series related to (what else) food, drink and adventure on Maui, click HERE to go to the index of our March 2013 10-days on Maui.  I’ll be writing about our dinner at Monkeypod Kitchen with server extraordinaire Kevin in a separate post, so our farm-to-table dinner will have to wait. Click here to go to the next part of Day 8.

Thanks for dropping by, there’s also a ton of stuff about the San Diego tour books don’t show you, including nationally renowned 30th Street, the more than 60 craft breweries in San Diego county and the joys of biking, walking and spending time outside in my hometown. Have a great day

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